Colombo: United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was on Thursday evening sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
Wickremesinghe took oath before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the President’s House. Secretary to the President Gamini Senarath and Prof. Maithree Wickramasinghe were also present on the occasion.
Wickremesinghe has served as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka on five previous occasions. Soon after the swearing in, the new Prime Minister proceeded to the Walukarama Temple to seek blessings.
President Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe had held a round of discussions on Wednesday evening during which the new appointment for the premiership and the present political crisis in the country was discussed.
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s appointment comes after Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister on Monday, following weeks of protest calling for his ouster over the unprecedented food and fuel crisis that has paralysed the island nation.
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation also followed attacks by pro-government persons on Monday on peaceful protesters camped outside Temple Trees, the PM’s residence, and the ‘GotaGoGama’ protest site at Galle Face Green.
The events led to a nationwide public furore and triggered two days of violence and arson attacks on the properties of government ministers and top officials, leading to the death of at least eight persons, including a lawmaker.
The resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa was later notified in a Gazette Extraordinary published on May 9, under the directives of the President.
Soon after the swearing-in of Wickremesinghe this evening, former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been relocated to the Sri Lanka Navy Dockyard in Trincomalee due to security reasons, congratulated his successor.
“Congratulations to the newly appointed Prime Minister of #lka, @RW_UNP. I wish you all the best as you navigate these troubled times,” Rajapaksa tweeted.
Rajapaksa’s resignation as the Prime Minister came after several rounds of discussions among the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party (SLPP) and its constituent parties. The PM’s departure also resulted in the dissolution of the Cabinet.
The Sri Lankan government is currently struggling to meet basic requirements for its population of 22 million citizens amid an unprecedented economic crisis caused by mishandling of finances and ill-timed tax cuts.
The island nation is also currently facing a foreign exchange deficit, which has resulted in food, fuel, power, and gas shortages, and has sought economic assistance from friendly countries, including India.