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Amid continued protests, SL Prez appoints new cabinet sans Rajapaksas

Amid the growing public agitation with protests continuing for the ninth day occupying the entrance to his office, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a new cabinet on Monday.

The President appointed a 17-member cabinet, dropping most of the old and senior MPs who were in the previous cabinet. No Rajapaksa family member was included in the new cabinet in contrast to five Rajapaksas, including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, his son, Namal, young brother Basil, and elder brother Chamal and his son Shashindara who held important ministries in the previous cabinet.

Amid a major financial crisis without some of the basic needs such as fuel, electricity, food, and medicine, Sri Lanka has been in agitation since March 31. A major protest started on April 2 blocking the entrance to the President’s office at the iconic city square facing the Indian Ocean continued for the ninth day and President Rajapaksa was forced to relocate his office. The apolitical protests demand all Rajapaksas, including the President and Prime Minister, to step down.

As anti-government protests spread defying the curfew and social media ban on April 3, the former cabinet with 26-ministers en masse resigned from their positions.

With shortages in forex reserves, Sri Lanka has been unable to pay for almost all imports, including fuel for power generation leading to hours-long daily power cuts and a major breakdown in the transport system.

On Tuesday (April 12) to save remaining foreign reserves for emergency supplies, Colombo announced that it would stop external debt payments pending a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). On Sunday, a team including the Finance Minister left for the IMF to secure at least $4 billion to import essentials and pay creditors.

Since January India has helped Sri Lanka with nearly $ 2.5 billion in financial assistance in food, fuel, and medicines. According to reports, the Indian Ocean island nation has requested for further $2 billion from its immediate neighbor, to which New Delhi has responded positively.

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