Curfew lifted for Buddhist festival in crisis-hit Sri Lanka, new PM picks cabinet
A nationwide curfew was fully lifted on Sunday to allow Sri Lankans to celebrate the Buddhist festival of Vesak, while new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe assembled a cabinet to resolve the island nation's economic and political crisis.
The curfew was imposed on May 9 after deadly clashes that forced Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign as premier, leaving his brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to rule on as president.
Many public and private buildings were flying the multi-coloured Buddhist flag, while residents visited temples dressed in all-white for Sunday's festival, which commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha.
More than a month of predominantly peaceful anti-government protests turned violent at the beginning of last week when supporters of the former prime minister stormed a protest camp in Colombo, torching tents and beating protestors. The clashes, and reprisals against government figures, left 9 dead and more than 300 injured.
New prime minister Wickremesinghe, who has led the country five times previously, made his first cabinet appointments on Saturday.
As the only lawmaker from his United National Party in the country's parliament, he is reliant on support from the Rajapaksas' Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna to form a government.
Saturday's four cabinet appointments, who were all from the Rajapaksas' party, have failed to satisfy protesters, who want the family removed from the nation's politics.
Hit hard by the pandemic, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by the Rajapaksa government, Sri Lanka is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, with rampant inflation and shortages of fuel and other essentials.
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Uditha Jayasinghe; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)