Sri Lanka eases curfew as new PM begins to form cabinet


By Uditha Jayasinghe and Alasdair Pal

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka lifted a 12-hour nationwide curfew on Saturday, further easing tough restrictions as new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe made his first cabinet appointments after clashes between pro and anti-government groups erupted. killed nine people.

More than a month of mostly peaceful protests against the government turned violent this week after supporters of former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stormed an anti-government protest camp in the commercial capital Colombo, burning tents and clashing protesters and the police.

The first violence and reprisals against government figures also left more than 300 injured.

Hit hard by the pandemic, rising oil prices and populist government tax cuts, Sri Lanka is going through its worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1948.

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Usable foreign exchange reserves dwindled, and runaway inflation and fuel shortages brought thousands to the streets in protest.

The government lifted the curfew from 06:00 (00:30 GMT) on Saturday to 18:00. A 24-hour curfew imposed on Monday was lifted for a few hours on Thursday and Friday to allow essential supplies to be purchased.

Rajapaksa resigned after violence erupted on Monday, leaving his younger brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa as president.

Wickremesinghe, five-time Prime Minister, was appointed Thursday evening for a new term.

He appointed four Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) ministers from the Rajapaksas, a move unlikely to satisfy protesters demanding the party’s removal from power.

The appointments, announced by the president’s office, include GL Pereis, the SLPP president who had held the post before stepping down on Monday.

Wickremesinghe is the only lawmaker from his United National Party to hold a seat in parliament and is dependent on other parties to form a coalition government. The SLPP pledged to support it.

The main opposition has ruled out backing him, but several smaller parties have said they would back the new prime minister’s policies to stabilize the economy.

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Uditha Jayasinghe in Colombo; Editing by William Mallard)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.


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