President Maithripala’s first foreign visit will be to India

President Maithripala’s first foreign visit will be to India

January 10, 2015   11:53 pm

Newly-elected President Maithripala Sirisena’s first overseas visit is expected to be to India next month, following an invitation extended by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was among the first to congratulate the former, a spokesman said. 

Modi had extended an invitation to President Maithripala Sirisena to visit India at the earliest opportunity.

Senaratne, President Maithripala Sirisena’s top aide and spokesman, also spoke regarding the appointing of a new Cabinet.

“He will name some ministers next week and the balance after the pope’s visit,” from January 13 to 15, said the former minister, who is tipped to become the new health minister.

He further said that Sirisena has ordered the immediate lifting of censorship on dissident websites, an end to phone tapping, surveillance of journalists and politicians, and the establishment of a right to information law.

There was also an invitation to dozens of Sri Lankan journalists and other dissidents who have fled the country fearing attack from the previous administration to “come back immediately”.

“From now on, you have the freedom to criticise us. We will take strong action against anyone who tries to undermine media freedom,” Senaratne told reporters in Colombo.

Sirisena was declared the winner of the presidential polls while former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was widely praised for conceding defeat early on Friday, even before the last votes had been counted, when he realised that Sirisena had an unassailable lead.

But in his press conference, Senaratne claimed that Lt. Gen Daya Ratnayake, who is the head of the armed forces, had come under pressure to intervene shortly before the concession.

“The army chief was under pressure to deploy but he did not. He declined to do anything illegal,” Senaratne told reporters.

“Even in the last hour, he (Rajapakse) tried to remain in office. Only when he realised that he had no other option, he decided to go.”

Senaratne said the new Sri Lankan government had guaranteed the safety of Rajapaksa and his family after the vote, but vowed to pursue members of the former administration for misconduct.

“We don’t believe in revenge, but that does not mean we will not prosecute those accused of wrongdoing,” he said.

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