President of Sri Lanka to select new cabinet and prime minister as brother resigns

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said yesterday he would appoint a new prime minister and cabinet this week, after his elder brother and former premier Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned following deadly violence in the country.

he new prime minister and cabinet will command a majority in the 225-seat parliament, Mr Rajapaksa said, adding he will bring constitutional reforms to grant more power to the parliament.

“I am taking steps to form a new government to control the current situation, to prevent the country from falling into anarchy as well as to maintain the affairs of the government that have been halted.”

The president’s statement followed comments from Sri Lanka’s central bank governor earlier in the day, who said he would quit within weeks unless political stability was restored.

P Nandalal Weerasinghe, appointed central bank chief last month to help the island nation of 22 million people find a way out of its worst economic crisis in history, said a stable government was essential to stop the turmoil.

“Without political stability, it doesn’t matter who runs the central bank,” he said.

“There will be no way to stop the economic deterioration.”

Ordinary Sri Lankans blame the government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family for a meltdown in the Indian Ocean nation that reduced reserves to just about $50m (€48m), stalling most imports and bringing massive shortages of essentials including cooking gas, fuel and medicine.

After more than a month of mostly peaceful demonstrations, public anger exploded into violence this week.

Ruling party supporters stormed an anti-government protests camp, triggering clashes nationwide and pushing the prime minister to step down.

So far, at least nine people, including two policemen, have been killed in violence across the country, which has also left more than 200 people wounded and 136 houses damaged.

Protesters have also called on the president to go.

Analysts say the president can be impeached if he refuses to step down.

Though the opposition, which has rejected his calls for a unity government, lacks the necessary two-thirds majority in parliament.

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