Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Sri Lanka appoints new prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe amid growing crisis

Sri Lanka has appointed a new prime minister in a move President Gotabaya Rajapaksa hopes will quell weeks of worsening civil unrest that has left at least nine people dead and more than 300 injured this week.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, a political veteran who has served as the country’s prime minister five times, faces the daunting task of leading his country through its worst economic crisis since independence.

Economic mismanagement, the COVID-19 pandemic and rising energy costs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have drained the state coffers, meaning Sri Lanka is running out of fuel and essential medicines and faces daily blackouts.

Mr Rajapaksa’s older brother, Mr Wickremesinghe, who succeeded him as prime minister, called for a nationwide curfew and full powers for security forces to shoot anyone involved in looting or endangering people’s lives.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned on Monday, took refuge in a naval base as the president warned of the risk of total anarchy.

Ordinary people are increasingly frustrated by the disruption of normal life.

“Our economy has bottomed out,” said Nimal Jayantha, an auto-rickshaw driver who was lining up to refuel early Thursday after the curfew was lifted.

“I don’t have time to do my job. There will be a curfew by the time I stand in line and get gas. I will have to go home without any money.”

In addition to dealing with the mass protests, Wickremesinghe must unite a divided parliament and agree on how to emerge from a crisis of soaring inflation and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

“He has said from the start that parliament needs to come together to provide a solution to the crisis,” Dinouk Colombage, media secretary for Mr Wickremesinghe’s opposition United National party, told Reuters.

“He is no stranger to dealing with economic and political challenges, having done so many times before.”

– Reuters

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