By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
COLOMBO (Worthy News) – Bankrupt Sri Lanka appointed a new prime minister hoping to quell worsening civil unrest in which at least nine people died this week, and more than 300 were injured.
Ranil Wickremesinghe, a political veteran who was prime minister of the island nation five times before, will have to lead Sri Lanka through its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.
The move came after the president’s elder brother resigned as prime minister on Monday going into hiding on a naval base amid warnings of all-out anarchy.
Citizens have grown frustrated with what they view as the ruling class’ economic mismanagement. Sri Lanka’s economic recovery from a deadly 26-year civil war has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Rising energy costs linked to the war in Ukraine drained state coffers, which meant Sri Lanka was running low on fuel and essential medicines while facing daily power blackouts.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whose elder brother Wickremesinghe is now prime minister, has called for nationwide curfews.
The president also gave security forces powers to shoot at anyone involved in looting or putting people’s lives at risk.
However, it remained unclear when and if calm could be restored to the troubled nation as regular protests by often desperate people continue.
Sri Lanka has a constitution that gives Buddhism preferred status, and this Buddhist supremacy view is widely shared in the country, rights activists say.
Despite the violence, Sri Lanka’s Mahinda Rajapaksa — who resigned as prime minister after supporters attacked anti-government protesters — won’t flee Sri Lanka, his son said. The 76-year-old heads a political clan whose hold on power has been shaken by months of blackouts and shortages in the Asian country.
Mahinda had to be evacuated by the military from his official residence on Monday night after it was besieged by an angry crowd following a day of violence.
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