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Ranil Wickremesinghe sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister for the sixth time

Ranil Wickramsinghe has been sworn in as the prime minister once again (Photo: IANS)

Former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been sworn in as Sri Lanka's new Prime Minister on Thursday evening. Wickremesinghe, the leader of the United National Party (UNP) had met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday to discuss future developments in the island nation.

Amid other fast-changing developments in Sri Lanka, a court also banned former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, his son Namal and 15 confidantes, from leaving the country. The Colombo court also asked the police to investigate attacks by Rajapaksa’s supporters on peaceful protesters, which led to violence and arson across the country on Monday.

Sri Lankan newspaper Daily Mirror had reported on Thursday morning that Ranil Wickremesinghe may become the prime minister. It said that Wickremesinghe and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa held closed door discussions on Wednesday evening during which the President made the offer to the UNP leader to take up the position.

The newspaper added that the main opposition leader, Sajith Premadasa had demanded Gotabaya's resignation before he would think of taking over as the prime minister. However, there was no official confirmation about the discussions.

Defying mounting pressure on him to resign, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had earlier during the day reinforced that he will form a new government and appoint a new prime minister.

The mellowed down president, whose elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister earlier this week, also said that he will take steps to amend the Constitution to empower the Parliament.

Despite the shoot-out orders given to the army and also the police, people have continued to stay at the Galle Face sea front and near the administrations' offices in defiance. People have largely ignored the curfew that was imposed after unprecedented violence on Monday and Tuesday.

Taking to Twitter on Thursday, President Gotabaya said: "Steps will be taken to form a new government to prevent the country from falling into anarchy and to maintain the affairs of the state that have come to a halt. A PM who commands a majority in Parliament and is able to secure the confidence of the people will be appointed within this week".

In a series of tweets, he also said that the new government will be given the opportunity to present a new programme and be empowered to take the country forward. "Further, steps will be taken to amend the Constitution to re-enact the contents of the 19th Amendment to further empower the Parliament.

Calls from various factions for the abolition of the executive presidency will be considered. With the new government and their potential to stabilize the country, we will have an opportunity to discuss this and work towards a common consensus".

He also appealed to the people to desist from violence. "I humbly request assistance in maintaining the uninterrupted function of the state machinery in order to protect the lives of the people and their property. To maintain a continuous supply of essentials without allowing the country to collapse at any point in time" Gotabaya said.

The island nation totters on the brink of a humanitarian disaster with surging food and fuel inflation. Long power cuts too have added to the daily misery of people, who have been protesting for over six weeks demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The fleeing of the former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family to a naval base in Trincomalee under heavy military escort has reduced the Rajapaksa family's clout in Sri Lankan politics.

The violence that followed in the wake of Rajapaksa supporters attacking anti-government protestors led to massive arson and violence across the country for two days. Angry people burnt down homes and luxury hotels of the Rajapaksa family and their supporters. The people also torched luxury cars and other vehicles in the melee. At least eight people were dead and over 200 others injured in the violence.