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Sri Lanka’s parliament sworn in after unity government formed

Sri-Lanka's-parliamentSri Lanka’s new parliament was sworn in on Tuesday following a general election that saw Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe form a broad-based unity government.

Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) emerged as the single largest party after the August 17 election, and is now expected to push through democratic and economic reforms.

The premier joined other lawmakers in pledging an oath of allegiance to mark the start of the first session.

The UNP failed to win an absolute majority in the 225-member parliament.

It formed a coalition with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) of former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse and committed itself to “ethnic reconciliation” following the Tamil separatist war.

Rajapakse, who oversaw the crushing of the decades-long insurgency and who refused to join the coalition, took his seat on the opposition benches along with a group of his supporters.

After a decade in power as president, Rajapakse was toppled in elections in January by former ally Maithripala Sirisena, who quickly appointed Wickremesinghe prime minister.

Sirisena is expected to outline the new government’s reform agenda when he addresses parliament later Tuesday.

Lawmakers from the Tamil party, the third largest in the poll, were also sworn in, demanding a new constitution to “restore democracy and justice”.

Tamil National Alliance leader R. Sampanthan said his party would push for justice for the ethnic minority following the war that ended in 2009.

“Among several issues that this parliament must deal with, is the framing of a new constitution so as to restore democracy, pluralism… equality and justice,” Sampanthan said.



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