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Sri Lankan President says he will appoint new PM this week

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Wednesday that he will appoint a new Prime Minister and a Cabinet this week which would introduce constitutional reforms, amid continuing widespread anti-government protests over the country’s worst economic crisis.

In an address to the nation, President Gotabaya also said that after appointing the new Prime Minister, and Government a constitutional amendment will be moved to enact the content of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which will vest more powers with the Parliament.

“I will appoint a young cabinet without any of the Rajapaksas,” Gotabaya said, as he started talks with political parties to stop the country from sliding into anarchy.

“The new government’s Prime Minister will be awarded the opportunity to produce a new program and take this country forward,” he added.

Sri Lanka has been without a government since the last two days after his President Gotabaya’s elder brother and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned, making way to form an all party interim government.

The President is constitutionally empowered to run the country without a cabinet.

Speaking on the violence that took place in the nation earlier this week, he said what happened on May 9 was very unfortunate.

“The murders, assaults, acts of intimidation, destruction of property, and the series of heinous acts that followed cannot be justified at all,” the President said.

Gotabaya said that the Inspector General of Police has been instructed to conduct investigations. He also said that Sri Lanka Police and Three-Armed Forces have been ordered to strictly enforce the law against those who cause violence.

“Steps will be taken to strictly enforce the law against those who planned, aided, promoted, and are connected to these events,” Gotabaya said while urging everyone to maintain calm.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.

The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 seeking the resignation of President Gotabaya and his brother Mahinda, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.