Asia Pacific

Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa family tightens grip with ministerial picks

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Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother, and Sri Lanka's President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa are seen during his during the swearing in ceremony as the new Prime Minister, at Kelaniya Buddhist temple in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 9, 2020. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/File Photo

COLOMBO, July 8 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday appointed his younger brother Basil Rajapaksa as finance minister, in a move that further tightened the family's grip over the island nation.

Basil took over as minister of finance from Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, also his older brother. Mahinda was also given an additional role as minister of economic policies and plan implementation, according to presidential media division.

In addition to the latest changes, another of Gotabaya's brothers, Chamal, is minister of irrigation and a junior minister for defence. Mahinda's son, Namal, is minister for youth and sports.

Gotabaya and his older brother Mahinda won an overwhelming majority in parliamentary elections last year, giving the family the power to enact sweeping changes to the island nation's constitution.

Tourism-dependent Sri Lanka is battling the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, total confirmed COVID-19 infections in the country increased to 268,676 and the death toll was 3,351, according to health ministry data.

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Reporting by Waruna Karunatilake in Colombo; Writing by Neha Arora; Editing by Rupam Jain and Mike Collett-White

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