New Sri Lankan president appoints his predecessor’s cabinet | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack

Last Friday, Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed virtually the same cabinet of 18 ministers as his predecessor, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, making clear that there will be no change in the government’s agenda. In response to the country’s unprecedented economic and political crisis, it will impose the austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and brutally suppress any opposition.

Army soldiers stand guard as protesters shout slogans at the site of a protest camp outside the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, July 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Just prior to appointing the cabinet, in the early hours of Friday, Wickremesinghe gave the go-ahead for a violent crackdown on unarmed, anti-government protesters on Galle Face Green in central Colombo demanding his resignation. Thousands of soldiers and police attacked protesters and journalists and tore down tents and makeshift structures. Galle Face Green has been the central protest site in the three months of mass strikes and protests, fuelled by extreme shortages and skyrocketing prices for essentials, which forced Rajapakse to flee the country and resign.

Wickremesinghe was appointed “acting president” by Rajapakse as he fled then installed as president in a parliamentary vote last week. Wickremesinghe, a longstanding right-wing political hack known for pro-US and pro-IMF loyalties, has no popular support and depended on the votes of Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). He has assumed the powerful ministerial posts of defense and finance, as well as wielding the sweeping autocratic powers of the executive presidency.

As prime minister, Wickremesinghe has appointed Dinesh Gunawardane, a close confident of the Rajapakse brothers and parliamentary leader of the House who has held senior ministerial posts in SLPP-led governments. Gunawardane, who entered parliament in 1983, is leader of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), a Sinhala chauvinist party established by his father Philip Gunawardene—a renegade from the Trotskyist movement in the 1940s.

Gunawardene takes over from Wickremesinghe who was appointed as prime minister in May, after Mahinda Rajapakse was compelled by mass strikes to step down. The only other change in the cabinet line-up is the omission of the previous foreign minister, G.L. Peiris, who refused to back the Rajapakses’ choice of Wickremesinghe as president. Instead, Peiris openly called for the SLPP to vote for one of its own MPs, Dallas Alahapperuma, in last week’s parliamentary vote.

The Rajapakses strongly supported Wickremesinghe, even though he is the only parliamentarian of the rump United National Party (UNP), as the political figure most able to carry out the anti-working class agenda demanded by the ruling class. He also undoubtedly had strong backing from the country’s corporate elite, US imperialism, the IMF and Sri Lanka’s international creditors.

Ranil Wickremesinghe [Source: United National Party Facebook]

Ali Sabry, Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s personal lawyer and trusted confidante, was appointed foreign minister. He was justice minister in the Rajapakse government then briefly finance minister in April.

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