Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was the only family member to retain a Cabinet post in his younger brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s new Cabinet of 17 ministers ordained on Monday, as the island nation faced its worst economic crisis in decades. Sri Lanka’s entire Cabinet resigned earlier this month, with the exception of President Gotabaya and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, after thousands defied a countrywide state of emergency and curfew to join street protests against the government. The previous Cabinet had to resign in order for the President to form a unity cabinet with members of the Opposition. The offer, however, was turned down by the opposition.
In addition to the three ministers he had previously appointed, Rajapaksa swore in a 17-member Cabinet on Monday.
That meant no place for the family’s oldest member, Chamal Rajapaksa, and Mahinda’s son Namal Rajapaksa, both Cabinet ministers, as well as nephew Shasheendra, a state minister.
The Cabinet consultation came as protests across the island continued to pressure the president and his family to resign for mismanaging the economy.
Sri Lanka is in the grip of its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. The island nation’s political turmoil was also triggered by the economic crisis, with citizens holding nationwide street protests for weeks over prolonged power outages and shortages of fuel, food, and other daily necessities, and demanding the ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
People remained in fuel and gas lines, while power outages that were not imposed over the weekend due to the traditional Sinhala and Tamil new years returned on Monday.
According to the state power company, there will be four and a half hour power outages on Monday.
Adding to the public outrage is the announcement by the Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) of additional price increases for gasoline and diesel beginning Sunday at midnight.
Fuel prices have risen for the fourth time since February, according to the LIOC.
According to a LIOC spokesman, the price increase was essential due to the depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee.
Sri Lankan rupees had dropped by more than 60% as of March 7, when the liberal trade rate was announced.
The price of Octane 92 has risen by more than 10% to a record high of 338 rupees per litre, while diesel has risen by 35% to 289 rupees per litre.