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Sri Lanka crisis: President says 'will appoint new PM, cabinet this week'

A Sri Lankan woman watches a telecast speech of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at her house in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP)

"I am going to appoint the prime minister and the cabinet that has the trust of the people," Rajapaksa said in a televised address.

The Sri Lankan President also spoke on the recent violent clashes, and said he has ordered “relevent authorities" to take action against the perpetrators of the violence. “No one can justify the violent acts orchestrated on the May 9 and during the past few days," he also said, adding, “violence and hatred must be stop."

Key Developments

All times local:

Sri Lanka Will Lift Curfew For Seven Hours on Thursday (8:41 p.m.)

President Rajapaksa will lift the nationwide curfew for seven hours from 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, according to a government circular.

President Rajapaksa to Make Televised Statement Tonight (7:00 p.m.)

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will make a statement on television at 9:00 p.m. local time, his spokesman Sudewa Hettiarachchi said. He gave no other details.

Chinese Ambassador Meets With Opposition Leader (4:40pm)

Beijing’s embassy in Sri Lanka said the Chinese ambassador Qi Zhenhong met with opposition leader Sajith Premadasa to discuss the current situation.

Central Bank Head Says He Will Quit in Absence of Stability (3:20 p.m.)

Central Bank head Nandalal Weerasinghe said he had taken the job in April with expectations that political stability will be established within two weeks. Little has been achieved in the last month, he told reporters in capital Colombo, adding that he didn’t wish to continue if political stability is not achieved.

Central Bank Chief Calls For Political Stability (2:55pm)

Sri Lanka’s Central Bank head warned that the island nation’s deep economic woes could worsen further if a solution to end its current political crisis isn’t found “urgently."

Nandalal Weerasinghe’s comments follow the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister and the dissolution of the cabinet. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is currently without a finance minister as the country, on the brink of bankruptcy, looks to the International Monetary Fund for help.

Ruling Coalition Partner Willing to Accept Opposition Leader as Next PM (1:32 p.m.)

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party, a member of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ruling alliance, is prepared to support opposition leader Sajith Premadasa as prime minister should he be willing to take the role, Adaderana news website reported, citing party secretary-general Dayasiri Jayasekara.

Premadasa has rejected earlier overtures, saying that he wants Rajapaksa to resign first before an all-party government can be formed. The parliament speaker is holding a virtual meeting of leaders from all the parties at 3 p.m.

Sri Lanka May Lift Curfew on Thursday (1:23 p.m.)

Defense Ministry Secretary Kamal Gunaratne, an ally of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said he hopes to lift the curfew Thursday while denying that the state of emergency declared last week was a step toward military rule.

“We know people have difficulties. But we also have to protect people," Gunaratne said in press briefing in Colombo. “We are called to calm the situation. We are under civilian government. When the situation is calm we will stay back."

Gunaratne also confirmed that former premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president’s brother, was evacuated to Trincomalee naval base in the northeast after protesters stormed his residence in Colombo.

Rights Council Asks Army Chief, Police to Explain Violence (10:00 a.m.)

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has called Army Chief Gen. Shavendra Silva and Inspector-General of Police C.D. Wickramaratne Wednesday morning to explain why they failed to prevent the violence that erupted Monday, Adaderana news portal reported.

Stock Exchange Shut For a Second Day (9:22 a.m.)

The Colombo Stock Exchange “reluctantly" decided to keep the equity markets shut for a second day as banks will remain closed for customers, even though the real-time gross settlement and inter-bank payment systems will be operational.

CSE continues to monitor necessary conditions to enable smooth and fair stock market operations and remains committed to reopen markets as soon as conditions are favorable for smooth functioning of all activities, the circular said.

Army Denies Sri Lanka Preparing for Martial Law (8:25 a.m.)

The situation on the ground is peaceful for now, military spokesman Brigadier Nilantha Premaratne said by phone. The military has been deployed to help the police maintain law and order, and people have been advised to stay in their homes, he said.

The moves comes after at least eight people were killed in violence through 6 a.m. Tuesday, including two policemen, a ruling party lawmaker and a mayor. About 100 vehicles were burnt or damaged.

India Denies ‘Political Persons’ Fled to Country (8:21 a.m.)

India’s High Commission in Sri Lanka denied rumors and reports that certain unnamed “political persons and their families" have fled to India.

Industry Bodies Seek President’s Resignation (8:09 a.m.)

Sri Lanka’s so-called Joint Chambers, a body comprising the main industry bodies including the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and American Chamber of Commerce Sri Lanka, urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to urgently appoint a new interim prime minister and cabinet acceptable to all political parties. Following that, Rajapaksa should “respect the voice of the public and resign immediately," their statement said. It also appealed to the public to stay calm.

Sri Lanka President Calls For Unity Again (6:57 a.m.)

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took to Twitter for the third time in three days to appeal for calm and call for unity following the violent clashes between government supporters and protesters earlier this week.

Rajapaksa has resisted attempts to make him resign during the weekslong protests. He has in the past indicated that he would be willing to allow constitutional amendments to curb his sweeping executive powers.

IMF Says Talks with Sri Lanka Continue (5:32 a.m.)

The International Monetary Fund is closely following developments in Sri Lanka and “concerned about rising social tensions and violence," Masahiro Nozaki, the fund’s mission chief for the country, said in a statement.

“Technical level" discussions between IMF officials and Sri Lanka authorities have started, will continue in order to be ready for policy discussions once a new Sri Lanka government is formed, Nozaki said.

Sri Lanka Party Leaders Meeting Canceled on Security (10:45 p.m.)

The parliament speaker has canceled a party leaders meeting due to security concerns for the lawmakers, many of whom had their homes attacked, local media reported.

Earlier in the day the speaker had requested the president to convene parliament immediately to discuss the current situation in the country. Parliament had adjourned until May 17.

Curfew Extended Through Thursday Morning (9:38 p.m.)

Sri Lanka extended its nationwide curfew by a day to 7 a.m. on Thursday, as the country grapples with violent protests around mismanagement of government finances that resulted in shortages of food and fuel.

“No person shall be on any public road, railway, public park, public recreation ground or other public ground or the seashore," except with written government permission, the government said in the official gazette.

EU Condemns Attacks on Peaceful Protesters (9:11 p.m.)

The European Union condemned the “recent vicious attack against peaceful protesters in Colombo" and deplored the loss of life in the clashes, according to a statement. The bloc called on Sri Lankan authorities to investigate the violence and urged all parties to show restraint.

The statement followed television footage on Monday showing groups setting fire to tents put up by anti-government demonstrators outside the prime minister’s official residence and other sites in Colombo.

Army Ordered to Shoot Protesters (8:05 p.m.)

Sri Lanka’s military was ordered to shoot people damaging property, army spokesman Brigadier Nilantha Premaratne said by phone. The order came after a senior police official was attacked.

Exporters Call for Leaders to Restore Stability (7:30 p.m.)

The Joint Apparel Association Forum, a group representing Sri Lanka’s biggest export contributors, called upon leaders to immediately restore political stability. It’s critical that a new government be appointed urgently to fill the current political vacuum, the group said in a statement Tuesday.

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