The president of Sri Lanka has appointed 17 new Cabinet ministers as he and his powerful family seek to resolve a political crisis resulting from the country’s dire economic situation.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Sri Lankan president appointed 17 new Cabinet ministers on Monday as he and his powerful family seek to resolve a political crisis resulting from the country’s grim state of the economy.
The president’s older brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, remains but several other relatives have been demoted in what is seen as an attempt to silence the protesters without relinquishing the family’s hold on power.
Many seniors and those faced with allegations of corruption were excluded from the Cabinet in line with calls for a younger administration, though finance and foreign affairs ministers maintained their positions to help the economy recover.
Speaking to the new ministers, President Rajapaksa asked for their support for a good, clean government.
“Today, most government institutions are under severe economic hardship and it is absolutely essential to correct this,” Rajapaksa said, calling the crisis “an opportunity to carry out the system change expected by the man. “
The Cabinet resigned on April 3 after protests erupted across the country and demonstrators stormed and destroyed the homes of several Cabinet ministers.
Thousands of protesters occupied the entrance to the president’s office for the 10th day on Monday.
Opposition parties have rejected an invitation by Rajapaksa to form a coalition unity government while he and his brother remain in power. Opposition parties have failed, meanwhile, to gain a parliamentary majority.
Sri Lanka is on the brink of bankruptcy, with nearly $ 7 billion of its total $ 25 billion in foreign debt due this year. The severe shortage of foreign exchange means that the country lacks money to buy imported products.
Last week, the government said it had suspended repayment of foreign loans pending talks with the International Monetary Fund. Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ali Sabry and officials left for talks with the IMF on Sunday. The IMF and World Bank are holding an annual meeting in Washington this week.
Sri Lanka turned to China and India for emergency loans to buy food and fuel.
Much public anger was directed at Rajapaksa and his older brother the prime minister. They led an influential clan that has held power for nearly the past two decades.