Sri Lanka: a new Prime Minister appointed in the midst of an economic crisis

The population is overwhelmed by months of widespread shortages that have sparked daily protests. This situation precipitated the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa from the post of Prime Minister.

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It is a position he has already held five times since 1993. Ranil Wickremesinghe was invested Thursday, May 12, as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, with the task of forming a unity government after clashes murderers during demonstrations. “We want to bring the nation back to a situation where our people will have three meals a day again.”73-year-old Ranil Wickremesinghe said shortly after. “Our youth must have a future”he added.

This country of 22 million inhabitants, in the grip of the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, lacks dollars to finance the import of basic necessities (foodstuffs, fuel, medicines). Widespread shortages as well as long power cuts have prompted daily protests across Sri Lanka. The assaults sparked clashes that left at least nine people dead and more than 225 injured, according to police.

On Wednesday evening, in his first address to his compatriots since the start of the protests, the country’s president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 72, promised to “appoint a prime minister who will lead a majority in parliament and inspire confidence in the people”. His brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister on Monday. A court has banned the latter, along with his son Namal and 15 of his allies, from traveling abroad because of the violence committed against anti-government protesters.

But forming a unity government promises to be difficult. Harsha de Silva, a prominent member of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) party, the largest opposition party in Parliament, refused the finance portfolio he was offering. He also announced that he would campaign for the resignation of the government. “People are not asking for games and political agreements, they want a new system that secures their future”, he pointed out. He warned that he was joining “people’s struggle” to overthrow President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, refusing to back any political deal that would keep the leader in office.

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