COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Sri Lanka’s new president Thursday to take charge of a nation bitterly angry he was chosen to handle the country’s unprecedented economic crisis.
Wickremesinghe took his oath before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya at a ceremony held in Parliament in the capital, Colombo.
The six-time prime minister was chosen by a secret ballot of lawmakers Wednesday to finish the term of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled the country after protesters stormed his residence last week and resigned by email from Singapore.
While months of protests in Sri Lanka have focused on the Rajapaksa political dynasty, Wickremesinghe also has drawn protesters’ ire as a perceived Rajapaksa surrogate. During demonstrations last week, crowds set his personal residence on fire and occupied his office.
Sri Lankans have taken to the street for months to demand their top leaders step down as the country spiraled into economic chaos that left its 22 million people struggling with shortages of essentials, including medicine, fuel and food.
Wickremesinghe has been leading the talks with the International Monetary Fund seeking a bailout for the bankrupt island nation.
He said Monday the negotiations were near a conclusion and talks on help from other countries had also progressed. He also said the government has taken steps to resolve shortages of fuel and cooking gas.
On Wednesday, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told financial magazine Nikkei Asia that the organization hoped to complete the rescue talks “as quickly as possible.”