Crisis-hit Sri Lanka begins to form ‘unity’ government amid opposition boycott – Times of India

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Saturday named the prime ministers of a “unity” government tasked with rescuing the country from its crippling economic crisis but which has failed to garner support from the opposition.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, appointed on Thursday, has tried to build a cross-party coalition that could begin to repair the island nation’s decimated finances. But opposition parties have called his post as prime minister illegitimate and some lawmakers have demanded new polls. Wickremesinghe has instead been forced to rely on support from lawmakers allied to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose administration is blamed by many for driving Sri Lanka’s economy to the brink of collapse.
Rajapaksa’s office on Saturday announced the appointment of four ministers, including Gamini Peiris, who returns to the foreign ministry just days after losing his job when the previous cabinet dissolved. Peiris and the other 3 appointees – for public administration, urban development and energy – are all members of Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party (SLPP). The all-important Finance Ministry post remains vacant at a time when Sri Lanka is in negotiations for a much-needed IMF bailout.
Earlier on Saturday, SLPP lawmakers held a closed-door meeting where they decided to back the new prime minister. “We have doubts about Wickremesinghe, but in the national interest of getting the country out of economic trouble, we have decided to support the prime minister,” a party MP told AFP. The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and four other parties have refused to support the government while Rajapaksa remains president.
For weeks, huge public protests condemned the president for his administration’s mismanagement and alleged corruption. Hundreds of people remain outside his seaside office in the capital Colombo in a protest camp which for a month has been calling for the leader to step down.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president’s older brother, resigned as prime minister on Monday after his supporters attacked peaceful protesters. At least nine people were killed and more than 200 injured in the ensuing clashes, with dozens of Rajapaksa loyalist homes torched by angry mobs. AFP

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