Sri Lanka eases curfew as new prime minister seeks to form Cabinet Of Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man walks along a deserted road in Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 11, 2022. REUTERS / Dinuka Liyanawatte

By Uditha Jayasinghe and Alasdair Pal

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka lifted a nationwide curfew for 12 hours on Saturday, further easing the tight curbs as new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe sought to form a government after clashes with anti-government groups killed nine people.

More than a month of overwhelmingly peaceful protests against the government turned violent this week after supporters of former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stormed an anti-government protest camp in the commercial capital Colombo, burning tents and clashing with protesters.

The initial clashes and reprisals against government officials also left more than 300 wounded.

The government lifted the curfew from kl. 06.00 (0030 GMT) Saturday to kl. 18. A 24-hour curfew imposed on Monday had been lifted for a few hours Thursday and Friday to allow the purchase of essential supplies.

Rajapaksa resigned after the violence flared up on Monday, leaving his younger brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa to rule as president.

Severely affected by the pandemic, rising oil prices and tax cuts by the populist government, Sri Lanka is embarking on its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.

Useful foreign reserves have fallen, and violent inflation and fuel shortages have taken thousands to the streets in protest.

Wickremesinghe, a five-time prime minister, was appointed to a new term late Thursday. The 73-year-old was expected to start appointing ministers before parliament meets again on Tuesday.

Wickremesinghe is the only lawmaker from his United National Party to have a seat in parliament and will depend on other parties to form a coalition government. Rajapaksas’ Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna has promised to support Wickremesinghe.

The main opposition has ruled out supporting him, but several smaller parties have said they will support the new prime minister’s policy to stabilize the economy.

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