Sri Lanka: New Sri Lankan PM wins backing from ‘economic warfare cabinet’ – Times of India


COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s new prime minister won crucial backing from two main opposition parties on Monday, easing pressure on the ruling Rajapaksa clan amid the island’s deepening economic crisis.
The main opposition party, the SJB, appeared to drop demands for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign before backing a coalition to manage the crumbling economy.
The SJB, or Samagi Jana Balawegaya, refused to join a unity government led by new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, but said it would “unconditionally support positive efforts to revive the economy”.
“It is important to save the country from the severe economic crisis,” he said in a brief statement.
And the second opposition party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), said it would join the cabinet.
Despite this, thousands of protesters remained camped outside the waterfront office of 73-year-old President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose brother Mahinda quit as prime minister last week, demanding his resignation in turn.
Shortages of food, fuel and medicine, along with record inflation and long power outages, have caused severe hardship for the country’s 22 million people, in the worst financial crisis since independence from the Britain in 1948.
Wickremesinghe’s appointment last week – his sixth term as prime minister – has so far failed to quell public anger at the government for bringing Sri Lanka to the brink of economic collapse.
Troops patrolled the streets as shoppers queued for scarce supplies and the government announced a six-hour nighttime curfew would be reimposed from Monday after a 24-hour break.
The curfew was eased on Sunday, the first day of a two-day festival for Vesak, the anniversary of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.
– Dollar shortage – Wickremesinghe struggled to form a “unity government” and the cabinet swearing-in scheduled for Monday afternoon was pushed back as talks continued over the sharing of portfolios.
Four ministers were sworn in on Saturday, all from the Sri Lankan Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP) party of Rajapaksa.
But there is no finance minister yet, and Wickremesinghe is expected to retain the crucial portfolio to lead ongoing negotiations with the IMF for an urgent bailout.
The new prime minister appealed for international support and was due to address the nation later on Monday to outline his economic recovery plan, his office said.
He spoke on Sunday with representatives of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in Colombo on supplies of medicine, food, fuel and fertilizer, his office said in a statement.
“The government faces the immediate challenge of securing funds to pay for fuel requirements for the coming week,” he said, adding that the government was “exploring other options” in the face of the dollar shortage. in banks.
Long queues stretched outside the few gas stations still open on Monday as motorists waited for rationed gasoline.
Heavily armed troops patrolled the streets with a state of emergency still in place after at least nine people were killed in violence last week.
Police said more than 350 people have been arrested in connection with the mob violence over the past week.


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