August 23, 2013 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s president has bowed to international pressure and relinquished the defence ministry’s authority over the police department, an official said Friday. President Mahinda Rajapakse has created a new ministry for law and order, and placed it in charge of the 80,000-strong police which had been overseen by the defence ministry for the past nine years.

“The president has issued a gazette notification creating the ministry of Law and Order which will be responsible for the police department,” the President’s spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said.

There was no government explanation for setting up the new ministry, but an official source who declined to be named said the move was in line with the recommendation of a panel to improve the island’s rights record.

The panel, which probed the final stages of the island’s decades-long Tamil separatist war, recommended in November 2011 that the police department be de-linked from the defence ministry. This was strongly backed by rights groups and the international community.

The latest government move comes ahead of a visit to the island by the United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay following t

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