Colombo, May 12 (EFE).- The President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on Thursday appointed opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the new prime minister as the country goes through an acute economic and political crisis.
Wickremesinghe, who has served as prime minister on several occasions earlier, replaces Mahinda Rajapaksa, who stepped down Monday amid spiralling violence in the context of anti-government protests in the island.
The President’s Media Division announced that opposition legislator and leader of the center-right United National Party, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was sworn in as the new prime minister.
“Congratulations to the newly appointed Prime Minister,” tweeted the president’s brother and former prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa. “I wish you all the best as you navigate these troubled times.”
This new appointment comes as President Rajapaksa attempts to bring an end to the severe political crisis in the island nation, with large scale protests since March calling for the resignation of the president and his government for mismanaging the economy.
Wickremasinghe’s experience in the ambit of economy and his pro-Western tendency are two strengths of the newly appointed prime minister, essential to making progress in Sri Lanka’s current negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to resolve the economic crisis.
His appointment comes a day after the president, in a televised address to the nation, announced he would form a new government this week and pass a constitutional amendment transferring more power to the parliament, following the resignation of the prime minister.
The resignation was prompted by a wave of violence unleashed by his followers, who beat up anti-government protesters that had been camped for weeks near the offices of the president and prime minister calling for their removal.
However, Wickremasinghe’s United National Party does not enjoy a majority in parliament, with just a single seat, prompting the head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, Malcolm Ranjith, to reject a government led by him.
Wickremasinghe, a lawyer by profession and member of a Sinhalese upper-class family with interests in the media industry, has formerly served as Prime Minister between 1993 and 1994, 2001-2004, 2015-2018, and 2018-2019.
The current political crisis in Sri Lanka started two months ago as protests erupted after the government failed to ensure the supply of essential commodities, including fuel, cooking gas, medicines, food, and milk powder.
People blame the government led by President Rajapaksa for their economic woes underlined by grave shortages of essentials and back-breaking inflation.
The boiling anti-government anger exploded Monday after ruling party supporters attacked the protest camp near the presidential palace, sparking deadly clashes, and plunging the island nation into an unprecedented social and political crisis. EFE