Sri Lanka president takes over media portfolio

January 1, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday took the country’s influential media ministry under his wing ahead of a key mid-term election for his administration, officials said. The Ministry of Mass Media and Information was taken away from Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, who was instead given the Ministry of Investment Promotion post, a government spokesman said.

The surprise move came as the government prepared for a key local council election next month and amid speculation that the president may call early elections to test his popularity.

Rajapakse came to power in November 2005 for a six-year term. The parliament he inherited can go on till 2010, but he has the power to call an early election.

An opinion poll last month suggested that the government’s war on Tamil separatists had overwhelming support despite economic hardships. The country’s media ministry controls state-run media, which has the biggest reach across the country by far of any media outlet.