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Rajapaksa swears in four Cabinet members amid Sri Lanka crisis

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (AP) – Sri Lanka’s president swore in four new Cabinet ministers on Saturday in an effort to ensure stability until a full Cabinet is formed in the island nation engulfed in a political and economic crisis.

The appointment of four ministers came two days after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reappointed five-time former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, after his predecessor – the president’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa – resigned last Monday following violent attacks by his supporters on peaceful anti-government protesters.

His resignation automatically dissolved the Cabinet, leaving an administrative vacuum. In an effort to bring back stability, the president reappointed Wickremesinghe on Thursday and swore in four Cabinet ministers on Saturday until a full Cabinet is appointed.

Rajapaksa swore in ministers of foreign affairs, public administration and home affairs, urban development and power and energy, said a statement on Saturday from the president’s office.

All four ministers belong to the president’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party. Lawmakers from the SLPP party held a meeting with the president on Saturday, after which the party’s spokesperson Sagara Kariyawasam told media that the SLPP lawmakers would extend their support to Wickremesinghe, who belongs to the United National Party. Rajapaksa sought a unity government in early April but the largest opposition political party, the United People’s Force, rejected the proposal.

So far, the president has resisted calls for his resignation.

Meanwhile, in his meetings with the envoys of 19 nations since taking office, Wickremesinghe has discussed the possibility of forming a consortium of nations to help Sri Lanka recover from the economic crisis, a spokesperson said on Saturday.

During his meetings with diplomats from countries including the Unites States, China, India, Japan, Germany and the European Union, Wickremesinghe briefed them on the country’s economic situation and the talks were used to “introduce the idea (of an aid consortium) officially”, said a spokesperson for the prime minister’s private staff.

In a short video statement after the meetings, Wickremesinghe said he has received “good responses” from his meetings but more discussions were needed before reaching agreements.

Wickremesinghe said the next two to three weeks are going to be the worst for the country economically, especially in terms of fuel and fertiliser shortages, but he hoped mid-term positive results may start to come in two to three months if international assistance is received.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa watches Ranil Wickremesinghe take the oath of office as the new prime minister. PHOTO: AP