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Sri Lanka forms new government, forcibly removes protesters

The new president of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, this Friday appointed (22) a new prime minister and completed the formation of a government to succeed that of Gotabaya Rajapaksa deposed.

The political scenario, however, remains troubled: authorities removed protesters who were taking part in a long protest at the Presidential Secretariat’s headquarters, in the country’s capital, Colombo, amid complaints of use excessive force.

Politician and former minister Dinesh Gunawardena was sworn in as new prime minister along with government cabinet ministers. Wickremesinghe, in turn, assumed the post of interim head of state on Thursday.

The government has ministers , 17 of which they were kept in the posts, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs portfolio, now under the command of Ali Sabry, former Finance Officer.

Sri Lankan member Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), the same party as Rajapaksa, Gunawardena entered politics in the 72 years and reached Parliament for the first time in 1983, according to the Sri Lankan newspaper Ada Derana, and has served as a minister in several governments.

The appointment of a new prime minister ends the power vacuum that has been created in Sri Lanka after Wickremesinghe was named interim president after the departure of his predecessor, Rajapaksa, last week.

The current president thus begins a term in the same vein as his predecessor, hoping to consolidate his power in order to resume the talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the aim of obtain a financial line of credit to help the country.

Forced withdrawal

The appointment of a new prime minister for the nation of 22 million people took place on the same day that the forced removal of protesters who had occupied the vicinity of the Secretariat of the Presidency for more than one hundred days was ordered.

Hundreds of police forcibly removed dozens of protesters and attempted to demobilize the main protest camp, known as Aldeia Gama, despite participants’ promise to leave the area within 72 hours.

Hours after Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the highest official in the country after winning the majority of votes in Parliament, he issued an order to all members of the Armed Forces to be ready to “maintain law and order” .

“The Armed Forces and police are en masse around the premises of Aldeia Gama, blocking the roads,” protesters said in a statement shortly before the start of the withdrawal.

The incidents put the future of the demonstrations in Colombo in jeopardy. Although several of the camps had begun to demobilize in recent days, many of their leaders were awaiting instructions to rally on the streets to demand Wickremesinghe’s resignation.

Sri Lanka has been suffering for months with the shortage of medicines, food and fuel, caused in part by heavy debt, misguided government policies and the impact, on tourism, of the Covid pandemic 19 and the attacks of the Easter Sunday 2019.

In April, the country defaulted on its external debt, and the new government should resume negotiations with the IMF to an urgent rescue program.

The economic crisis led to island-wide protests starting in late March, when thousands of people took to the streets to demand Rajapaksa’s resignation, culminating in the invasion of his and Wickremesinghe’s official residences on July 9, forcing the then president to leave office and the country s.

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