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TRINCOMALEE: The appointment of a new prime minister has failed to appease Sri Lankan protesters, who on Friday vowed to continue their campaign to topple President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whom they blame for causing the worst economic crisis of the country for decades.
Rajapaksa on Thursday appointed politician Ranil Wickremesinghe as the island nation’s prime minister after days of violent clashes that left at least nine people dead and hundreds injured.
The president’s older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, left his post as prime minister on Monday when the violence erupted and has been hiding at a naval base in Trincomalee, a port city on Sri Lanka’s northeast coast.
“Sri Lankans of different political backgrounds, opinions, races and religions stand together with one goal: ‘Go Home Gota’,” Methsara Benaragama, a longtime protester at the main protest site outside the presidential office in the capital, Colombo, Arab News said.
“Gota” is a popular reference to President Rajapaksa. For more than a month, protesters across the country have demanded that he leave office.
They see Wickremesinghe’s appointment as part of attempts by the president and his allies to “change heads in order to protect themselves”, Benaragama said.
Wickremesinghe, a lawyer, comes from a family of politicians and businessmen. Although he currently sits in the opposition ranks in the Sri Lankan Parliament, he is considered close to the Rajapaksa family.
This is the sixth time that Wickremesinghe has held the post of Prime Minister. He never completed a full term.
“Wickremesinghe’s appointment raises questions about whether there will be any changes as he is perceived to be close to the Rajapaksa family,” said Bhavani Fonseka, a constitutional lawyer and human rights activist attached to the Center. for Policy Alternatives in Colombo. , said Arab News.
“It also remains to be seen whether he can deliver the reforms and stability that Sri Lanka needs,” she said. “And there is also the question of whether he enjoys the confidence of parliament.”
A Rajapaksa-led alliance holds about 100 of the 225 parliamentary seats. The opposition has 58, while the others are independent.
A day before Wickremesinghe was nominated, the main opposition alliance, Samagi Jana Balawegaya, nominated opposition leader Sajith Premadasa to form a new government.
Premadasa is the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa, who served as the country’s president from 1989 to 1993. He contested the 2019 presidential election, in which he lost to Rajapaksa.
The Rajapaksas are Sri Lanka’s most influential political dynasty and are credited with ending the country’s 30-year civil war in 2009.
But their support has plummeted in recent months amid accusations of economic mismanagement and corruption as the country of 22 million faces soaring inflation, stalled fuel imports, to shortages of medicine, food and hours of power cuts a day, and is on the verge of defaulting on its external debts.