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the opposition supports an “economic warfare cabinet” to get out of the crisis

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While demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the two main opposition parties in Sri Lanka finally decided to support the new government to get the country out of the economic crisis in which it has been plunged for several months.

The new Sri Lankan Prime Minister obtained, Monday, May 16, the support of the two main opposition parties, who decided to make common cause to tackle the economic crisis overwhelming the island, reducing the pressure on the ruling Rajapaksa clan. A salutary announcement as the country is now running out of gas, unable to find dollars to finance essential imports.

According to official sources, the government swearing-in ceremony, which was originally scheduled to take place on Monday afternoon, has been postponed due to ongoing talks on the allocation of ministerial portfolios. “We will unconditionally support positive efforts to revive the economy, but we will not be part of the government,” the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) said in a brief statement.

The party thus seems to have abandoned its demand for the resignation of President Rajapaksa, on which it had insisted until then. “It is important to save the country from the serious economic crisis” which is hitting it, he said.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the second largest opposition party, has for its part backtracked, declaring to join the cabinet of Ranil Wickremesinghe, appointed Prime Minister on Thursday, for the sixth time since 1993. “We will support any decision taken by the new government to deal with our serious economic crisis,” SLFP leader Maithripala Sirisena pledged in a letter to the prime minister.

The two formations previously demanded that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa follow the same path as his brother Mahinda, who left his post as Prime Minister last Monday.

Four ministers had also already been sworn in on Saturday, all from President Rajapaksa’s party, Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP). The position of finance minister is however still not filled, but it is widely expected that the Prime Minister will retain this crucial portfolio to lead the ongoing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in view of obtaining a possible bailout.

>> To read: splendor and fall of a political dynasty in a Sri Lanka on its knees

State of emergency still in effect

The country of 22 million people is facing its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948, suffering for months from shortages of essential goods, long daily power cuts and record inflation.

Since Monday, the country has also run out of gas, the new Prime Minister announced in a speech. “We are running out of gas… At the moment we only have oil stocks for one day,” said Ranil Wickremesinghe. He added that the government was also unable to raise funds to pay for three shipments of oil, with ships waiting outside Colombo port to be paid before unloading.

“The next few months will be the most difficult of our lives,” he said. “I have no desire to hide the truth and lie to the public,” he continued. However, he urged people to “endure the next few months patiently” and vowed he could weather the crisis. He added that the government had also run out of money to pay salaries in May for 1.4 million civil servants, and would only turn to printing money as a last resort.

On Monday, the state of emergency was still in force in Sri Lanka and soldiers were patrolling the streets. At least nine people died in clashes last week. Police said more than 350 people had been arrested in connection with the violence.

The government announced that a six-hour night curfew would be reimposed from Monday. It was lifted on Sunday to celebrate the feast of Vesak, the anniversary of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.

With AFP

France 24-Trans

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