Sri Lankan Cabinet Resigns en Masse Following Protests over Fuel and Food Shortages

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    “All 26 ministers in the Cabinet aside from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his elder brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa submitted letters of resignation at a late-night meeting,” Sri Lanka Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told reporters on April 3.

    The Cabinet reshuffle opened the door for Sri Lanka's president to name cabinet ministers, who will be appointed on Monday, or simply reappoint members of the Cabinet to new posts. Al Jazeera reported on April 4 about the changes made by Rajapaksa in the Cabinet of Sri Lanka in the wake of the mass resignation on Sunday, writing:

    “Two other brothers of the Rajapaksa clan and finance minister Basil Rajapaksa and Irrigation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa are among the people who quit as did the son of the prime minister and Sport Minister Namal Rajapaksa…”

    The president has already appointed four of the ministers who are retiring, and three others to their previous posts – and has also replaced his brother, Basil Rajapaksa, as finance minister with the former justice chief. The previous ministers of education, foreign affairs, and highways remained in their posts.

    A crowd of protesters against the government attempted to take over the presidential residence of President Rajapaksa the capital city of Sri Lanka, Colombo, on March 31. The incident prompted the government of Sri Lanka to declare the state of emergency for the tiny island situated off India's southernmost coast on April 1. Sri Lanka's government strengthened the state of emergency decree on April 2, when it also imposed an unofficial curfew of 36 hours for Sri Lankans amidst the threat of more protests.

    Demonstrators have been gathering throughout Sri Lanka to denounce the country's government's role in the country's escalating financial crisis. The people of Sri Lanka have been suffering from massive fuel, food, and medical shortages since early March, as the island nation was unable to access foreign reserve currency to purchase imports of essential goods.

    “Since the beginning of March, the Sri Lankan rupee has fallen by almost 45% against the US dollar and its foreign exchange reserves have fallen to crisis levels,” Sky News noted in March.

    Sri Lanka relies almost completely on its tourism industry and money remittances received from Sri Lankan workers abroad to provide the fuel for its import-driven economy. The Chinese coronavirus outbreak has affected these two sources of foreign revenue and caused Sri Lankan traders with a deficit in foreign currency. In the absence of funds to purchase the imports that are required, Sri Lanka has buckled under the pressure of severe shortages, which have ultimately irritated the island's population of approximately 22 million.

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