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Sri Lanka president reshuffles cabinet amid mounting protests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People protest against Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a residential area after the government imposed a curfew following a clash between police and protestors near the President's residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 3, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has dismissed his brother as finance minister in a government shakeup amid growing protests triggered by an economic crisis in the country.

Gotabaya's brother, Basil Rajapaksa, and three other ministers were replaced on Monday after the cabinet resigned in a bid to resolve the economic crisis.

"Four ministers were appointed to ensure parliament and other tasks can be conducted in a lawful manner until a full Cabinet can be sworn in," Rajapaksa's media office said in a statement.

Rajapaksa has called on all political parties representing the parliament to take part in forming a unity government to handle the nationwide crisis.

"The president invites all political parties representing in the parliament to come together to accept ministerial portfolios in order to find solutions to this national crisis," Rajapaksa's media office added.

Meanwhile, street protests against the government continued on Monday with crowds gathering in several towns protesting the shortage of essential goods and fuel exacerbated by hours-long power cuts.

The protesters demand a change in government, in particular, targeting the ruling Rajapaksa family.

"This government, we do not want them anymore. They have had years and years to show us that they could do change but there is nothing. The situation has just gotten worse by the day," said protester Anjalee Wanduragala, 22, a student at the University of Colombo.

Gotabaya had been a popular figure among Sri Lanka's powerful Sinhala Buddhist majority, who credit him with ending the country’s 26-year-long civil war in 2009. 

However, as the tourism industry, the 22-million-population island- nation’s economic mainstay, declined due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, his popularity waned as well.

Government critics say the roots of the crisis, the worst in several decades, lay in the ruling family’s economic mismanagement, and the bad judgment of preceding governments, who amassed huge budget shortfalls, exasperating the current crisis.

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