Dinesh Gunawardena, Sri Lanka president's schoolmate, to be next PM: Report

Updated on Jul 21, 2022 06:42 PM IST

Sri Lanka's six-time prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in Thursday as president of the crisis-hit nation, with plans to form a unity government to manage the turmoil.

Dinesh Gunawardena, Leader of the House of Parliament(REUTERS)
Dinesh Gunawardena, Leader of the House of Parliament(REUTERS)

Sri Lankan new President Ranil Wickremesinghe's schoolmate and former public administration minister Dinesh Gunawardena will be appointed prime minister in the unity government, reported Reuters on Thursday. Wickremesinghe was widely expected to invite Gunawardena to be the prime minister.

President Wickremesinghe is set to appoint his new cabinet on Friday, a day after he was sworn into Sri Lanka's highest office following mass protests that forced predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and resign.

The 73-year-old Wickremesinghe, who was overwhelmingly elected as head of state in a parliamentary vote Wednesday, took his oath of office with the country's police chief and top military brass standing behind him.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa, who supported a rival candidate in Wednesday's vote, said he had met with Wickremesinghe to discuss how to protect the country from further "misery and disaster".

"We as an opposition will provide our constructive support for efforts to alleviate human suffering," Premadasa tweeted Thursday.

A foreign exchange crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and exacerbated by mismanagement has left Sri Lanka suffering lengthy power blackouts and record-high inflation.

The country's 22 million people have also endured months of food, fuel and medicine shortages.

Public anger boiled over when tens of thousands of protesters stormed the home of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, forcing him to step down.

Wickremesinghe has been tainted in the eyes of many Sri Lankans by his association with Rajapaksa, whose political party backed the new president's ascent.

(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)

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