Sri Lankan ministers sacked for criticizing economic policy

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president has dismissed two more Cabinet ministers after they publicly criticized the government’s handling of the economy, which they said is causing severe hardships for people.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sacked Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila and Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, the president’s office said Thursday.

A total of three Cabinet ministers have now been ousted for criticizing the government’s economic policies.

Both Gammapila and Weerawansa played key roles in bringing Rajapaksa to power and are now part of a group of about 30 lawmakers in the governing alliance that are urging the government to change economic course.

The country has a severe foreign exchange shortage because of a sharp decline in foreign tourists and exports due to the pandemic and heavy debt obligations for infrastructure projects.

The lack of dollars to pay for imports has resulted in shortages of essential products such as milk power, medicine and fuel. Dwindling fuel stocks have forced daily 7 1/2-hour power cuts because generators can’t be operated.

There are long queues at gasoline stations and vehicles are stranded on roads because their tanks have run dry. Fishermen are demanding fuel to operate their boats and farmers are unable to run harvesting machines.

Gammanpila publicized the foreign exchange shortages and blamed the government for not prioritizing imports of medicine and fuel. Weerawansa said authorities were giving priority to projects like building highways while ignoring the immediate needs of the people.