Sri Lankan President changing law to extend rule

Plans to amend legislation, which limits the country's leader to serving only two terms, have been approved by the government.

Officials in Colombo said the cabinet had effectively rubber-stamped the proposal; thereby allowing President Mahinda Rajapaksa to run for the presidency again and to push ahead with his wish to further cement his family within the country's establishment.

The reform will be brought before parliament, where the President's United People's Freedom Alliance believes it has enough support to secure the two-thirds majority required for constitutional change. "These proposals are to be brought before parliament as an urgent bill," a government spokesman told reporters, saying that the matter would also be put before the country's Supreme Court.

Mr Rajapaksa, 64, has steadily tightened his grip on the country's politics since he defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009. Many members of his family hold senior political positions, with three brothers filling the posts of Defence Minister, Speaker of the parliament and Economic Development Minister. His son was also elected to parliament earlier this year.

His opponents accuse him of cracking down on free speech and arresting dissidents and journalists. Mr Rajapaksa became prime minister in 2004, and President in 2005.

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