Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has met for the first time under newly-elected President Ranil Wickremesinghe and discussed ways to normalise the situation in the economic-crisis hit country within a week by regularising functions of the government institutions such as the Prime Minister’s Office and the Presidential Secretariat, according to a media report on Saturday.
After the appointment of the new Cabinet on Friday, the President called for the meeting, the Daily Mirror newspaper reported. The Cabinet was informed that fuel sufficient for one month had been secured and therefore distribution under a quota system should be expedited. The President said that he empowered the security forces to uphold the Constitution and to create an environment for people to live without fear.
The Cabinet also discussed the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund ( IMF) which are underway to secure financial assistance. Meanwhile, the Opposition requested Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena to summon the Parliament on July 25 to discuss attacks on peaceful protests at Galle Face on Friday by security forces and the current situation of the country.
Sri Lankan troops and police armed with assault rifles and batons on Friday forcibly removed anti-government protesters camped outside the presidential office in a pre-dawn raid. Police have described the pre-dawn raid on the main camp of the anti-government protesters as a “special operation to take [back] control of the presidential secretariat".
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The protesters had vacated the President and Prime Minister’s residences and the Prime Minister’s office after capturing them on July 9, but they were still occupying some rooms of the President’s secretariat. They also refused to accept Wickremesinghe as the new president, holding him partly responsible for the country’s unprecedented economic and political crisis.
The main protest group which blocked entry to the President’s Office since April 9, said they would continue their struggle till Wickremesinghe resigned. The new Sri Lankan government has been criticised for using force to remove the anti-government protesters.
Sri Lanka has seen months of mass unrest over an economic crisis and many blame the former government led by ousted president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family for mishandling the island nation’s economy. Protesters set Wickremesinghe’s personal residence on fire and occupied his office during protests last week.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials. Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.
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