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Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa opts for damage control—tenders apology, forms new cabinet without family members

Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Photo: IANS)

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed 17 cabinet ministers and 21 state ministers after almost two weeks of his previous ministry resigning en masse due to a crippling economic and humanitarian crisis.

Addressing the new cabinet on Monday, Rajapaksa also admitted to making mistakes that led to the current crisis of food shortage and rising prices of fuel in the country. Sri Lanka had to stop imports of essential commodities and crude oil after its foreign exchange reserves touched rock bottom.

Rajapaksa said, "People are under immense pressure due to this economic crisis. I deeply regret this situation." He added that the leaders have to regain the trust of the people.

Among the mistakes he admitted were "the decision not to provide chemical fertilisers to farmers" and the delay in seeking help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Even as he dropped a considerable number of his relatives from positions of power in the new cabinet, both President Rajapaksa and his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have retained their positions.

He touched upon the $2.5 billion Indian assistance in times of the country's worst-ever crisis. Rajapaksa said: "We need the support of the international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund as well as friendly countries to overcome the serious challenge that we are facing today".

In his address, Rajapaksa said: "The pain, discomfort and anger displayed by the people for having to spend time in queues to get essential items at a high price that cannot be afforded due to rising cost of living is justified. Whatever the shortcomings were in the past, it is my responsibility as the people elected me as the President to manage the present challenges and difficulties," adding: "I promise to the people who have elected me that I will not abdicate that responsibility in the midst of any difficulty or challenge."