Sri Lanka latest: Rajapaksa loyalist becomes new prime minister

A nationwide emergency, that allows military and police sweeping powers to arrest and detain people, remains in place. 
Armed vehicles parked near the President Palace in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednesday, July 22, 2022. The Sri Lankan army began dismantling a protest site facing the presidential office in Colombo early Friday, leading to tense scenes with demonstrators. Image: Bloomberg

Sri Lanka’s new President Ranil Wickremesinghe called in the military to maintain “public order” and troops began dismantling a key protest site near the presidential office early Friday, leading to tense scenes with demonstrators.

The oceanfront Galle Face camp was swarmed by hundreds of soldiers and police officials who detained some protesters and tore down the makeshift tents. A nationwide emergency, that allows military and police sweeping powers to arrest and detain people, remains in place.

Military members take down the camps at the protest site outside the president’s office in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednesday, July 22, 2022. The Sri Lankan army began dismantling a protest site facing the presidential office in Colombo early Friday, leading to tense scenes with demonstrators.

Wickremesinghe appointed Dinesh Gunawardena, an ally of former premier Mahinda Rajapaksa, as prime minister. He will name his cabinet later in the day, as he moves to set up an all-party government to revive bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund. Wickremesinghe was sworn in as president on Thursday after winning a three-way race in parliament.

Sri lanka’s economic crisis, the worst since it gained independence in 1948, has spiraled into a political crisis as well. Soaring inflation and acute shortages of everything from food to fuel to essential medicines have brought thousands of citizens to the streets.

Key Developments

  • Sri Lankan Army Clears Protest Site Before Cabinet Sworn In
  • Sri Lanka to Name Dinesh Gunawardena as Prime Minister: Reuters
  • How Sri Lanka Landed in a Crisis and What It Means: QuickTake
  • Sri Lanka Picks Ex-Leader’s Ally as President, Risking Fury

(All times local Sri Lankan)

Opposition Slams Military Action Against Protest Site (8:08 a.m.)

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa denounced reports of the military clearing a key protest site, calling it a “useless display of ego and brute force.”

New Sri Lanka Cabinet to be Sworn in Today (7:48 a.m.)

A new prime minister and cabinet will be sworn in today at 10 a.m., Wickremesinghe’s personal secretary Saman Ekanayake said.

Local media have reported that Dinesh Gunawardena, a close associate of Wickremesinghe, is tipped to become prime minister.  He is a lawmaker with a nationalist group aligned with the Rajapaksa’s party.

Police Says Key Protest Site Has Been Cleared (7:20 a.m.)

The armed forces and police removed protesters from around the presidential secretariat and cleared the area, police spokesman Nihal Thalduwa, told a television news channel.

Protesters Say Police Used Force to Disperse Them (7:00 a.m.)

Protest leaders took to social media to say that government troops assaulted them with batons while the cleared out demonstrators from the protest site in Colombo.

US Ambassador Urges for Restraint by Authorities (5:38 a.m.)

Julie Chung, the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, has urged for restraint by authorities and immediate access to medical attention for those injured. More than a day ago, she said in a tweet looked forward to working with Wickremesinghe as the new president.

British High Commissioner ‘Concerned’ About Crackdown (5:08 a.m.)

Sarah Hulton, the UK’s envoy in Colombo tweeted to say she was “very concerned” about the reports from the Galle Face protest area.

Armed Forces Called in to Keep ‘Public Order’ (00:01 a.m.)

Wickremesinghe has called in the country’s military — the army, navy and air force — to maintain public order across the island nation.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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