Colombo, April 4: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday fired his brother and Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa from his post and invited the Opposition parties to join a unity Cabinet to tackle the raging public anger against the hardships caused by the island nation's worst economic crisis. Basil had negotiated the Indian economic relief package to help Sri Lanka tackle the current foreign exchange crisis. He has been replaced by Ali Sabry, who was until Sunday night the Minister of Justice.
Basil was scheduled to leave for the US to meet with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a possible bailout package to get over the unprecedented economic crisis. He was at the center of anger within the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) coalition. Last month, at least two ministers were sacked from the Cabinet as they publicly criticised Basil. Sri Lanka Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal Resigns Amid Economic Crisis.
On Sunday night, all 26 Cabinet Ministers submitted letters of resignation.
After the resignation of the Cabinet Ministers, at least three other new ministers were sworn in. G L Peiris has been sworn in as the Foreign Minister while Dinesh Gunawardena is the new Education Minister. Johnston Fernando has been made the new Minister of Highways.
The new appointments came after President Gotabaya invited all political parties to join a unity Cabinet as part of the government's bid to tackle the raging public anger against the ongoing hardships caused by the island nation's worst economic crisis. There have been mass public agitations against the ruling Rajapaksa family for its mishandling of the economic situation triggered by the foreign exchange crisis and the balance of payment issues. Sri Lanka Unrest: 4 Ministers Sworn Into New Sri Lankan Cabinet.
The public thronged the streets asking the president to resign. The protests triggered the imposition of curfew after a state of emergency was declared by the President. When the protests intensified, the government clamped a social media ban for 15 hours on Sunday. The people defied the curfew to protest against long queues for fuel and gas and long hours without electricity.
Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal has also announced his resignation.
“In the context of all Cabinet ministers resigning, I have today submitted my resignation as Governor,” he said. Cabraal, 67, was blamed for his rigid stance on Sri Lanka seeking an economic bailout through an IMF structural adjustment facility. Despite his opposition, the government in the last fortnight approached the international lender for support.
During his governorship, the Central Bank was accused of printing large volumes of money, triggering inflation. He was blamed for his rigid stance on Sri Lanka seeking an economic bailout through an International Monetary Fund (IMF) structural adjustment facility. The country is grappling with what is said to be its worst economic crisis since independence from the UK in 1948. It is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which is used to pay for fuel imports.
People are languishing in long queues for fuel, cooking gas and endure power cuts lasting multiple hours. Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in history. With long lines for fuel, cooking gas, essentials in short supply and long hours of power cuts, the public has been suffering for weeks. India recently announced to extend a USD 1 billion line of credit to Sri Lanka as part of its financial assistance to the country to deal with the economic crisis following a previous USD 500 billion line of credit in February to help it purchase petroleum products.
During his recently-concluded visit to Colombo, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had assured India's continued support in Sri Lanka's economic recovery process. Rajapaksa has defended his government's actions, saying the foreign exchange crisis was not his making and the economic downturn was largely pandemic driven with the island nation's tourism revenue and inward remittances waning.