COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – A Sri Lankan Cabinet member resigned Tuesday to protest President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s refusal to heed demands that he prune his virtually unlimited powers as president and carry out democratic reforms.
Technology and Research Minister Champika Ranawaka, who represents the National Sinhala Heritage party, said he decided to quit his post after Rajapaksa refused to agree to his party’s 35 demands, including making him answerable to Parliament and the courts.
Rajapaksa is campaigning for a third term in next year’s elections even though he had promised previously to abolish the presidency amid widespread criticism that the office lacked accountability. He was first elected in 2005 and won re-election in 2010 riding his popularity for defeating the Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war that ended in 2009.
Rajapaksa used his party’s overwhelming parliamentary victory in 2010 to scrap a two-term limit in office and retained powers to appoint judges and officials to the police, election and bribery commissions.
Athuraliye Rathana, a Buddhist monk and lawmaker from the Heritage party, is canvassing support from opposition parties to field a common candidate in an attempt to defeat Rajapaksa.