Sri Lanka’s new PM struggles to form a unity government

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s new prime minister struggled on Friday to forge a unity government and avert imminent economic collapse as opposition lawmakers refused to join his cabinet and demanded new elections.
Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in Thursday night to lead his country through the worst recession in its history as an independent nation, with months of shortages and blackouts inflaming public anger. The 73-year-old insists he has enough support to govern and has approached several lawmakers to join him, but four opposition parties have already said his tenure as prime minister lacks legitimacy.
Leading opposition lawmaker Harsha de Silva has publicly rejected an offer to take over the finance ministry, saying he would instead push for the government to resign. “People are not asking for games and political deals, they want a new system that safeguards their future,” he said in a statement. De Silva said he was joining “the people’s struggle” to overthrow President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and that he would not support any political deal that would leave the leader in office.
Huge public demonstrations have for weeks condemned Rajapaksa for his administration’s mismanagement of the worsening economic crisis. Hundreds stand outside his office in Colombo in a protest camp that has campaigned for his resignation for the past month.
De Silva is a member of Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), the largest opposition party in parliament, which seemed poised to split over whether to support Wickremesinghe. But the head of the possible dissident faction, Harin Fernando, said on Friday that he had returned to the fold. “I will not support the Wickremesinghe government,” said Fernando. Three smaller parties have also signaled they will not join any unity government, and the leftist Popular Liberation Front (JVP) is demanding new elections.
However, the cash-strapped government is unlikely to be able to pay for the surveys, or even print the ballots, at a time when national paper shortages have forced schools to postpone exams. afp

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