Six-time PM Wickremesinghe sworn in as Sri Lanka president

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Sri Lanka’s six-time prime minister Ranil Wick-remesinghe was sworn in Thursday as president of the crisis-hit South Asian nation, as officials said he was looking to form a unity government to manage the turmoil.

The 73-year-old veteran politician, who was overwhelmingly elected as head of state in a parlia-mentary vote Wednesday, took his oath of office before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya, his office said.

Live coverage of the swearing-in at the tightly-guarded parliament complex was cut off just as Wickremesinghe and his wife Maithree walked into the building after reviewing a military parade.

“An investigation was launched to figure out why the broadcast was interrupted,” a top defence official told AFP.

Sri Lanka’s police chief and top military brass stood behind the new president as the oath was ad-ministered.

Official sources said he was expected to shortly form a cabinet not exceeding 30 ministers to steer the country out of its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain.

A foreign exchange crisis triggered by the coro-navirus pandemic and exacerbated by mismanage-ment has left Sri Lanka suffering lengthy power blackouts and the country’s 22 million people endur-ing shortages of fuel, food and medicines for months.

Public anger over the hardships boiled over when tens of thousands of protesters stormed the home of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, forcing him to step down and clearing the way for Wickremesinghe’s election.

Wickremesinghe is widely expected to invite his schoolmate and former public administration minister Dinesh Gunawardena to be the prime minister in the unity government.

But political sources said at least two other can-didates were also in the running. Gunawardena and Wickremesinghe have known each other since the age of three and studied together at the prestigious Royal College of Colombo.

Gunawardena is a trade union leader and repre-sents a small nationalist party allied with the ousted Rajapaksa’s SLPP party.

“There will be a few MPs from the main opposi-tion joining the cabinet,” a source close to Wick-remesinghe said, adding that he was keen to ensure a rainbow coalition.—APP

 

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