COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president swore in four new cabinet ministers Saturday in an effort to ensure stability until a full cabinet is formed in the island nation mired in 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 on Monday following violent attacks. by his supporters over peaceful anti-government protesters.
His resignation automatically dissolved the Cabinet, leaving an administrative vacuum.
In a move to restore stability, President Rajapaksa reappointed Wickremesinghe on Thursday and swore in four cabinet ministers on Saturday until a full cabinet is appointed.
Rajapaksa swore in the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Public Administration and Home Affairs, Urban Development and Power and Energy, a statement from the president’s office said on Saturday.
All four ministers belong to the President’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party. The new prime minister 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, or SJB, immediately rejected the proposal..
The Indian Ocean island nation is on the verge of bankruptcy and has suspended payments on its foreign loans pending negotiations on a rescue package with the International Monetary Fund.
It needs to pay off $7 billion in foreign debt this year out of $25 billion due by 2026. Its total foreign debt is $51 billion. The Finance Ministry says the country currently has just $25 million in usable foreign exchange reserves.
For several months, Sri Lankans have endured long queues to buy fuel, cooking gas, food and medicine, most of which comes from abroad. Currency shortages have also hampered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and worsened inflation, which rose to 18.7% in March.
Sri Lanka’s economic problems have sparked 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. was considered to be participating in the violence, as sporadic acts of arson and vandalism continued despite a strict nationwide curfew that began Monday night.
The protesters demanded the resignation of the Rajapaksa brothers due to the debt crisis that has nearly bankrupted the country and caused severe shortages of fuel, food and other essentials.
So far, President Rajapaksa has resisted calls for his resignation.