Sri Lanka eases curfew as new PM seeks to form cabinet
Sri Lanka lifted a 12-hour nationwide curfew on Saturday, further easing tough restrictions as new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe seeks to form a government after clashes with anti-government groups killed nine people.
More than a month of mostly peaceful protests against the government turned violent this week after supporters of former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stormed an anti-government protest camp in the commercial capital Colombo, burning tents and clashing Some protestors. The first clashes and reprisals against government figures also left more than 300 injured.
The government lifted the curfew from 06:00 (00:30 GMT) on Saturday until 18:00. A 24-hour curfew imposed on Monday was lifted for a few hours on Thursday and Friday to allow essential supplies to be purchased. Rajapaksa resigned after violence erupted on Monday, leaving his younger brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa to rule as president.
Hit hard by the pandemic, rising oil prices and the populist government’s tax cuts, Sri Lanka is in the grip of its worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1948. Foreign exchange reserves usable dwindled, and runaway inflation and fuel shortages brought thousands to the streets in protest.
Wickremesinghe, five-time Prime Minister, was appointed Thursday evening for a new term. The 73-year-old was due to start appointing ministers before parliament resumes on Tuesday. Wickremesinghe is the only lawmaker from his United National Party to hold a seat in parliament and will depend on other parties to form a coalition government. Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna of the Rajapaksas has pledged to support Wickremesinghe.
The main opposition has ruled out backing him, but several smaller parties have said they would back the new prime minister’s policies to stabilize the economy.
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