Rajapaksa swears 4 cabinet members during Sri Lanka crisis

Sri Lanka’s president on Saturday sworn in four new ministers in a bid to ensure stability until a full cabinet is formed in the island engulfed by a political and economic crisis

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s president on Saturday sworn in four new ministers in a bid to ensure stability until a full cabinet is formed in the island engulfed by a political and economic crisis.

The appointment of four ministers came two days after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reappointed five-time former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe after his predecessor, the president’s brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned Monday following violent attacks by his supporters on peaceful anti-government protesters.

Due to his resignation, the cabinet was automatically dissolved, creating an administrative vacuum.

In an effort to restore stability, President Wickremesinghe reappointed on Thursday and swore four ministers in the cabinet on Saturday until a full cabinet is appointed.

Rajapaksa has sworn in on the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Public Administration and Home Affairs, Urban Development and Power and Energy, a statement from the president’s office said Saturday.

All four ministers belong to the president’s Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna party.

SLPP party lawmakers met with the president on Saturday, after which party spokesman Sagara Kariyawasam told media that SLPP lawmakers would lend their support to Wickremesinghe, who belongs to the United National Party.

Rajapaksa sought a unity government in early April, but the largest opposition political party, the United People’s Force, rejected the proposal.

The Indian Ocean island nation is on the brink of bankruptcy and has suspended repayment of its foreign loans pending negotiations on a rescue package with the International Monetary Fund.

It must repay $7 billion in foreign debt this year of the $25 billion due in 2026. Total foreign debt is $51 billion. The Treasury Department says the country currently has only $25 million in usable foreign reserves.

For several months now, Sri Lankans have had to endure long lines to buy fuel, cooking gas, food and medicines, most of which come from abroad. Hard currency shortages have also hampered industrial commodity imports and exacerbated inflation, which rose to 18.7% in March.

Sri Lanka’s economic problems have led to a political crisis, with the government facing widespread protests for several weeks.

Authorities deployed armored vehicles and troops on the streets of the capital on Wednesday after attacks on protesters sparked a wave of violence across the country. Nine people died and more than 200 were injured.

Security forces have been ordered to shoot people believed to have taken part in the violence as sporadic arson and vandalism continued despite a strict nationwide curfew that went into effect Monday night.

Protesters have been occupying the entrance to the president’s office in the capital Colombo for more than 30 days, demanding that Rajapaksa resign. Rajapaksa relatives have been in power for most of the past two decades.

So far, the president has resisted calls for his resignation.

In his meetings with envoys from 19 countries since taking office, Wickremesinghe has discussed the possibility of forming a consortium of countries to help Sri Lanka recover from the economic crisis, a spokesman said on Saturday.

During his meetings with diplomats from, among others, the United States, China, India, Japan, Germany and the European Union, Wickremesinghe briefed them on the economic situation of the country and the talks were used to “officially promote the idea (of an aid consortium) to introduce,” said Dinouk Colambage, a spokesman for the prime minister’s private staff.

In a short video statement after the meetings, Wickremesinghe said he had received “good response” from his meetings, but more discussions were needed before an agreement was reached.

Wickremesinghe said the next two to three weeks will be the worst economically for the country, especially in terms of fuel and fertilizer shortages, but he hoped the positive medium-term results could start in two to three months if international aid is delivered. receive .

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