San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)

President swears in 4 Cabinet members amid crisis

- By Bharatha Mallawarac­hi Bharatha Mallawarac­hi is an Associated Press writer.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — 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 engulfed in a 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 Monday following violent attacks by his supporters on peaceful antigovern­ment 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.

Rajapaksa sought a unity government in early April but the largest opposition political party, the United People’s Force, or SJB, had immediatel­y rejected the proposal.

The Indian Ocean island nation is on the brink of bankruptcy and has suspended repayment of its foreign loans pending negotiatio­ns on a rescue package with the Internatio­nal Monetary Fund.

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.

Sri Lanka’s economic woes have brought on a political crisis, with the government facing widespread protests for several weeks.

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.

So far, president Rajapaksa has resisted calls for his resignatio­n.

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