COLOMBO, Sri Lanka
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 Monday following violent attacks by his supporters on peaceful anti-government protesters.
His resignation automatically dissolved the Cabinet, leaving an administrative vacuum.
In a move bring back stability, president Rajapaksa reappointed Wickremesinghe on Thursday and swore in four cabinet ministers Saturday until a full cabinet is appointed.
Rajapaksa swore in ministers of foreign affairs, public administration and home affairs, urban development and power and energy, said a statement Saturday from president’s office.
All four ministers belong to the president’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party. The new prime minister belongs to the United National Party.
It needs to repay $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 only $25 million in usable foreign reserves.
For several months, Sri Lankans have endured long lines to buy fuel, cooking gas, food and medicine, most of which come from abroad. Shortages of hard currency have also hindered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and worsened inflation, which surged to 18.7% in March.
Authorities on Wednesday deployed armored vehicles and troops in the streets of the capital after attacks on protesters triggered a wave of violence across the country. Nine people died and more than 200 were injured.
Security forces have been ordered to shoot people deemed to be participating in the violence as sporadic acts of arson and vandalism continued despite a strict nationwide curfew that began Monday evening.
Saturday marks protesters’ 35th day occupying the entrance to the president’s office in the capital Colombo, demanding that Rajapaksa resign. Rajapaksa family members have been in power for most of the past two decades.
So far, president Rajapaksa has resisted calls for his resignation.