Embattled Sri Lanka president seeks unity government amid deepening crisis
Colombo, Apr 4 (EFE).- An embattled Sri Lankan president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Monday urged the opposition to join him for a unity government amid widespread public outrage over the worst economic crisis to have hit the island nation since independence.
The economic hardships have snowballed into a political crisis for the government after people across the country demanded the resignation of Rajapaksa and his cabinet over their alleged failure to ensure supplies of essentials like fuel, cooking gas, milk powder, and electricity.
“Considering this a national need, the time has come to work together for the sake of all the citizens and future generations,” a presidential statement said.
“The president invites all political parties representing in the parliament to come together to accept ministerial portfolios in order to find solutions to this national crisis.”
However, none of the opposition parties responded to the request, prompting him to appoint a temporary cabinet from his party.
“Rajapaksa today appointed four ministers to maintain the affairs of the parliament and other functions of the country legitimately and stably until a full cabinet is appointed,” the presidential office said in another statement.
The statement said the president had appointed the four ministers to ensure the parliament and the ministries of foreign and finance function.
The second statement reiterated that Rajapaksa had requested all political parties to extend their contribution to finding solutions for the current national challenge in the country.
“A permanent cabinet will be appointed following the discussions with them.”
The statement said the president had sought the support of all the people to overcome the economic challenge faced and stabilize the country.
Out of the four newly appointed ministers, Rajapaksa changed only the finance portfolio.
He appointed Justice minister Ali Sabry as the new finance minister, replacing the president’s brother Basil Rajapaksa.
All other three portfolios went to the same ministers who handled the ministries before the cabinet resigned on Sunday.
Sri Lanka central bank chief Ajith Nivard Cabraal said he had also quit.
“In the context of all cabinet ministers resigning, I have today submitted my resignation as Governor,” Cabraal said on Twitter.
The developments came after protesters defied Rajapaksa’s 36-hour curfew law amid a state of emergency.
Protests continued Monday as some demonstrators attempted to enter Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ancestral house in the southern town of Tangalle despite heavy security presence.
Protesters across the island nation of 22 million demanded the resignation of all Rajapaksa family members from the government.
These include the president, the prime minister, Irrigation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa, and Sports and Youth Minister Namal Rajapaksa, the prime minister’s son.
The opposition has criticized the president for using the military to crush the public demonstrations.