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Sri Lanka: Economic crisis going to get worse…, says new PM Wickremesinghe

By Livemint
The 73-year-old veteran politician, who is currently on his sixth stint as prime minister, warned that the worst economic crisis that has brought misery and unrest in the country is going to get worse before it gets better. (AFP)

Due to the economic crisis, Sri Lanka is facing acute fuel shortages and soaring food prices that are forcing many to skip a meal. The issues related to it have led to the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime minister on Monday.

Appealing to the world for more financial help, Wickremesinghe told BBC in an interview that "there won't be a hunger crisis, we will find food". The 73-year-old veteran politician, who is currently on his sixth stint as prime minister, warned that the worst economic crisis that has brought misery and unrest in the country is "going to get worse before it gets better."

He described the Sri Lankan economy as "broken", but he said his message to Sri Lankans was to "be patient, I will bring things back."

The United National Party (UNP) leader was sworn-in by embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday, but his appointment has largely been met with dismay, as he is seen as too close to the politically dominant Rajapaksa clan.

Wickremesinghe said he agreed with the sentiment of protestors who have been calling for President Rajapaksa to resign, but said that would not happen. "Blaming won't lead to action, I'm here to see people nourished," he said.

Anti-government protests flared up in early April in the capital, Colombo, and have grown in size and spread across the country. People are furious because the cost of living has become unaffordable, and nine people have lost their lives in the unrest.

However, Wickremesinghe may face a tough time in Parliament as he is the only member of his party in the 225-member House. The Opposition parties on Friday questioned President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's decision to appoint Wickremesinghe as the prime minister. The Opposition parties have also decided not to join the interim government but support Wickremesinghe's efforts to revive the battered economy.

Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis has provoked widespread protests calling for political reform and the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. On April 1, President Rajapaksa imposed a state of emergency, lifting it five days later.

Although the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, the police fatally shot a protester on April 19, and on several occasions have used teargas and water cannons against protesters.

The authorities have made numerous arrests and repeatedly imposed curfews. The political crisis was triggered in late March when people hurt by long hours of power cuts and essential shortages took to the streets demanding the resignation of the government.

Wickremesinghe took over as prime minister on Thursday as the country was without a government since Monday when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's elder brother and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after violence erupted following an attack on the anti-government protesters by his supporters. The attack triggered widespread violence against Rajapaksa loyalists, leaving nine people dead and wounding over 200 others.

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Dive Deeper:
Ranil Wickremesinghe sworn in as PM of crisis-hit Sri Lanka
Five-time former leader is being appointed in an effort to bring stability to the island nation, says a party official.
I want to thank PM Narendra Modi, says Sri Lanka's new PM Ranil Wickremesinghe
COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said he looks forward to closer ties with India during his…
Crisis-hit Sri Lanka names Ranil Wickremesinghe as new PM: Who is he?
Wickremesinghe, a contentious choice by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, took his oath in a ceremony at the president’s residence. Protesters have…
India-Sri Lanka relations to get ‘much better’, says Ranil Wickremesinghe
During his previous stints as the PM, Wickremesinghe visited India on four occasions – October 2016, April 2017, November 2017…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Crisis-hit Sri Lanka appoints new PM to replace president's brother
Colombo (AFP) - Sri Lanka's embattled president swore in a new prime minister Thursday to replace his brother, who was banned…
Sri Lanka lifts curfew for 12 hours as PM Wickremesinghe begins forming new govt
Wickremesinghe is the sole lawmaker from his United National Party to hold a seat in parliament and is reliant on…
Get all your news in one place