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COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dropped his brother as finance minister and sought a new central bank governor on Monday, as crowds angry over the country’s deepening economic crisis surrounded the homes of several lawmakers.

The debt-laden country, run by Rajapaksa and members of his family since 2019, is struggling to pay for imports of fuel and other goods due to a scarcity of foreign exchange, leading to hours-long power cuts and a shortage of essentials.

Police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who gathered outside Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s private residence in Tangalle, in southern Sri Lanka. Mahinda, the president’s elder brother, was away at the time in Colombo, the country’s commercial capital, where peaceful protests continued into the night.

“Protesters broke through two barricades that had been placed near the residence and police had to use tear gas to move the protesters away,” police spokesperson Nihal Thalduwa said.

Crowds also gathered outside the homes of six lawmakers and the party office of a former state minister spread across the country, he said.

“Police continue to provide security to the houses of parliamentarians,” Thalduwa said.

After many protesters demanded the total ouster of the Rajapaksas, the president’s media office said in a statement that four new ministers had been appointed “to ensure parliament and other tasks can be conducted in a lawful manner until a full Cabinet can be sworn in.”

The president’s nephew resigned as sports minister in the government that was disbanded while the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) governor offered to quit. The CBSL delayed its monetary policy announcement scheduled for Tuesday.

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