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Sri Lankan president ‘agrees to replace his brother as prime minister’

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Sri Lanka’s president has agreed to replace his older brother as prime minister in a caretaker government proposed to resolve a political stalemate caused by the country’s worst economic crisis in decades, a prominent politician has said.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has agreed that a national council will be appointed to appoint a new prime minister and an all-party cabinet in parliament, politician Maithripala Sirisena said after meeting the president.

Mr Sirisena, who was president before Mr Rajapaksa, was a ruling party politician before defecting earlier this month along with nearly 40 other lawmakers.

Sri Lanka is on the verge of bankruptcy and has announced that it is suspending payments on its foreign loans.

Sri Lankans representing various government establishments attend a protest rally during a strike demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

It must repay US$7 billion in foreign debt this year and US$25 billion by 2026.

Its foreign exchange reserves amount to less than one billion US dollars.

The shortage of foreign currency has severely limited imports, forcing people to queue to buy basic necessities such as food, fuel, cooking gas and medicine.

Mr. Rajapaksa and his family, including Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, have dominated almost every aspect of life in Sri Lanka for most of the past 20 years.

Protesters who have taken to the streets since March hold them responsible for the crisis.