Thursday May 12, 2022

Sri Lanka president set to name new prime minister

Sri Lanka president set to name new prime minister

Ranil Wickremesinghe waves to supporters during the party's campaign rally in Colombo. File/AFP

Rlixa Report

Beleaguered President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was set to name a new prime minister on Thursday to try to steer Sri Lanka out of its dire economic crisis after days of violence, officials said.

Respected five-time former premier Ranil Wickremesinghe was the frontrunner to head a "unity government" with cross-party support in the 225-member parliament and replace Rajapaksa's elder brother Mahinda who stepped down on Monday.


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In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday night, Rajapaksa stopped short of yielding to weeks of nationwide protests calling for him to resign.

"A swearing-in is likely today unless there is a last-minute hiccup," a senior official close to the president told the media.

Sri Lanka president set to name new prime minister
A Sri Lankan woman watches a telecast speech of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo, Sri Lanka. AP

"I am taking steps to appoint within this week a new prime minister who has the trust of a majority in Parliament, who can win over the confidence of the people and a new Cabinet to control the current situation, to stop the country from falling into anarchy and to continue the government's functions that are at a standstill,” Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.

"I will make way for the new prime minister to present a new program of work and implement it."

Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he will also give away much of his powers to Parliament and when some normalcy returns, take steps to abolish the country's powerful executive presidential system.

Sri Lanka president set to name new prime minister
Gotabaya Rajapaksa (right) and Mahinda Rajapaksa pose for a photograph in Colombo. File/AFP

The country of 22 million people is in its worst economic crisis since independence with severe shortages of food, fuel and medicines and long power cuts.

But in a bid to win over the opposition who wanted Rajapaksa to quit, the 72-year-old pledged to give up most of his executive powers and set up a new cabinet this week.

Security forces patrolling in armoured personnel carriers with orders to shoot on sight anyone engaged in looting or violence have since cracked down on public disorder.

A curfew was lifted on Thursday morning only to be reimposed after a six-hour break allowing people to stock up on essentials.



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