rajapaksa: President Rajapaksa swears 8 more ministers amid Sri Lanka crisis, finance minister yet to be appointed – Times of India


COLOMBO: Embattled Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday expanded cabinet to appoint eight more ministers, but he failed to reappoint a finance minister to deal with the worst economic crisis facing the island. The new ministers belong to the ruling Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and its allies – the SLFP and EPDP, a minority Tamil party in the north.
Rajapaksa has now reshuffled his cabinet five times since public protests began to rage against him over his resignation, including the resignation of his older brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The ministers will serve in Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s interim cabinet created to deal with the ongoing economic crisis.
The new ministers to be sworn in include Douglas Devananda – Minister of Fisheries; Keheliya Rambukwella – Minister of Health, Water Supply; Ramesh Pathirana – Minister of Industry; and Mahinda Amaraweera – Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Conservation, tweeted the Economy Next news portal.
While Vidura Wickramanayaka was appointed as the Minister of Buddhasasana, Religion and Culture; Naseer Ahamed was given the portfolio of the Ministry of Environment.
Bandula Gunawardana has been awarded the portfolios of both the Ministries of Transport and Highways and the Ministries of Mass Media. Roshan Ranasinghe has been appointed as Minister of Irrigation. He will also hold the portfolio of the Ministry of Sports and Youth.
President Rajapaksa on Friday expanded his cabinet to include a further nine ministers, including those from the opposition, in a bid to ensure stability until a full cabinet is formed in the debt-ridden island engulfed by the worst economic crisis since independence.
The ministers were sworn in after a delay of more than a week since the president appointed new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Rajapaksa reappointed five-time former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Wickremesinghe after his predecessor, the president’s brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned following violent attacks by his supporters on peaceful anti-government protesters.
Due to his resignation, the cabinet was automatically dissolved, creating an administrative vacuum.
The post of finance minister has remained unstable since President Gotabaya fired his younger brother Basil Rajapaksa in April, who has been at the center of outrage within Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) over its mishandling of the economic crisis.
On April 4, Gotabaya appointed Ali Sabry as finance minister, but he submitted his letter of resignation to the president within 24 hours amid massive protests against the government over alleged economic mismanagement.
He later returned to the post after no one came forward to accept the position and led the government’s negotiating team at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the island nation struggles to combat the unprecedented shortage of foreign reserves.
However, his position was automatically invalidated after the dissolution of the cabinet.
On May 3, Sri Lanka appointed its first new cabinet under Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.
GL Peiris was sworn in as Secretary of State; Dinesh Gunawardena as Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial and Local Government; Prasanna Ranatunga as Minister of Urban Development and Housing; and Kanchana Wijesekera and Minister of Power and Energy.
At Friday’s swearing in, two ministers were from the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), while the rest were from Rajapaksa’s own Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and from the group that had resigned from the ruling coalition.
The cabinet will be limited to 25 members, including the president and prime minister.
Former minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, representing the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), independent MPs Susil Premajayantha, Wijayadasa Rajapaksha and Tiran Alles were among the new nine ministers sworn in on Friday.
Nimal Siripala De Silva Ports has been appointed as Minister of Marine and Aviation Services, Susil Premajayantha as Minister of Education, Keheliya Rambukwella has been sworn in as Minister of Health, while Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has been appointed as Minister of Justice, Prison Affairs and Constitutional Reforms.
The other appointed ministers include Harin Fernando as Minister of Tourism and Land, Ramesh Pathirana as Minister of Plantation Industries, Manusha Nanayakkara as Minister of Labor and Foreign Employment, Nalin Fernando as Minister of Commerce, Trade and Food Security and Tiran Everything as Minister of Public safety.
The appointments came as Sri Lanka grappled with its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.
The crisis is partly caused by a lack of foreign currency, which prevents the country from paying for imports of basic food and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Last month, the country declared it unable to repay its $51 billion debt. In 2022, foreign debt obligations totaled $6 billion.
India’s economic aid package since January had propped up Sri Lanka in its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. India extended credit lines for the purchase of fuel and essential goods as Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves became depleted. New Delhi has pledged more than $3 billion since January this year to debt-ridden Sri Lanka in loans, lines of credit and credit swaps.
The political crisis emerged in late March as people were injured by hours of power cuts and critical shortages who took to the streets demanding the government resign.
President Rajapaksa fired his cabinet and appointed a younger cabinet in response to demands to resign. An ongoing protest against his secretariat has been going on for over a month now.
The president’s brother resigned as prime minister to make way for the president to appoint an interim government of all political parties.

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