Lanka struggles to repay record foreign debt: PM | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 11, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, January 11, 2019

Lanka struggles to repay record foreign debt: PM

Accused war criminal gets top army post

Sri Lanka's prime minister said yesterday the country was struggling to pay back its ballooning foreign debt, blaming a recent political crisis for dealing a "death blow" to the economy.

Ranil Wickremesinghe said his government was scrambling to raise $1.9 billion to help service a first debt payment of $2.6 billion, that is due on Monday.

Sri Lanka faces $5.9 billion in foreign debt repayments in 2019, a record for the cash-strapped island.

The country lost $1 billion in foreign reserves during a power struggle between Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena in late 2018.

Sirisena sacked Wickremesinghe in October and later dissolved parliament to quell any opposition, but Sri Lanka's courts deemed the move unconstitutional.

Wickremesinghe was reinstalled 51 days later but not without a cost, the prime minister said.

"We are yet to quantify the losses, but it was a death blow to an economy that was struggling to recover," Wickremesinghe told parliament.

Sri Lanka hopes to raise $1 billion from the international debt market, another $500 million from China and Japan and a further $400 million from the Reserve Bank of India.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's president has appointed a general accused by the United Nations of war crimes to the country's second-highest army ranking, evoking outcry from rights groups.

Major General Shavendra Silva, who commanded an army division accused of gross abuses against civilians during Sri Lanka's civil war, formally assumed duties as Chief of Staff of the army yesterday.

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