Sri Lankan president sacks brother as prime minister

Country is going through its worst economic crisis in decades

Mahinda Rajapaksa, left, and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa at a 2019 party convention in Colombo. AP Photo

Sri Lanka’s president will sack his older brother as prime minister under an interim government proposal intended to end a political stalemate as the country endures its worst economic crisis in years, a politician said on Friday.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has given his approval for the national council to appoint a new prime minister and Cabinet made up of members of all parliamentary parties, Maithripala Sirisena said after a meeting with the president.

Mr Sirisena, who was Sri Lanka's seventh president, was part of the ruling party before defecting with 40 others earlier this month, amid widespread protests.

The country is close to bankruptcy and said it will halt payments on foreign loans of which it has $7 billion this year alone and will have $25 billion in 2026.

Its foreign reserves stand at less than $1 billion, but the country needs anywhere between $3bn and $4bn to pull itself out of the economic crisis. It has approached the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, India and others for funds.

Empty shelves at a supermarket in Colombo. Bloomberg

Mr Rajapaksa and his family, including his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, have dominated nearly every aspect of life in the country for the past two decades, with the public holding the ruling family largely responsible for the economic turmoil.

On Thursday, businesses were closed, teachers absent and public transport interrupted as Sri Lankans heeded a call for a general strike to pressure the president to step down.

With additional reporting from AP

Updated: April 29, 2022, 12:18 PM
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