Gotabaya Rajapaksa Omits Family Members From New Sri Lankan Cabinet Amid Unremitting Public Outrage
Thousands of people have been out on the streets for weeks against Sri Lanka’s president and his family members as the island nation has witnessed the largest civilian uprising in its modern history. The country lacks foreign exchange to import essential items due to a crippled economy and remittances from nationals working abroad.
On Monday, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed a 17-member Cabinet even as civilian protests demanding his resignation further strengthened.
Despite days of negotiation, opposition parties
have not joined the government, rejecting a call made by Rajapaksa after the resignation of his Cabinet en masse, except for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, on 3 April.
Gotabaya, once known as "The Terminator", the most feared man in Sri Lankan politics due to his ruthless policy against Tamil insurgents, has now omitted his family members, such as Namal Rajapaksa, Chamal Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa, and Shasheendra Rajapaksa from the new Cabinet.
Vocal supporters of Gotabaya, such as Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Rohitha Abeygunawardena, among others, are not included in the Cabinet.
Addressing the newly appointed ministers, the president requested that they not use their privileges/facilities as ministers.
"Ensure that the state institutions under your purview are free of corruption and prioritise public service", Rajapaksa said.
He also urged Cabinet members to take this as an opportunity to make "systemic change" to meet demands of the protesters.
Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan government delegation headed by Finance Minister Ali Sabry will meet the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) in Washington on Monday to discuss the re-restructuring of Sri Lankan debt and a possible bailout.
Sabry said the country needs between $3 and $4 billion to overcome the economic crisis. He will also meet the Indian delegation led by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who is also in Washington to take part in IMF and World Bank meetings.
India is expected to announce a separate loan for the beleaguered country that had to meet $7 billion in debt payments this year.
The Indian Ocean island announced a $51 billion debt default, its first since 1948, on 12 April.
Sri Lanka's population of 22 million faces power cuts, as well as severe fuel and other essential commodity shortages.