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Dinesh Gunawardena sworn in as Sri Lanka's new premier


A senior Sri Lankan lawmaker was sworn in as the South Asian country's new premier on Friday, a day after the inauguration of its new president amid the worst financial crisis in the nation's recent history.

Dinesh Gunawardena, who had previously served as a minister and leader of the house in parliament, succeeded acting President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who on Thursday was sworn in as president.

A member of the Podujana Peramuna party, Gunawardena took his oath as the country's next premier in the presence of Wickremesinghe in the capital Colombo on Friday morning, the country's information department said.

His inauguration, followed by the ministers of his new government who were also sworn in, came hours after security forces, amid weeks of unrest, arrested nine people in a raid on the main camp of protesters in Colombo.

The post of premier fell vacant as Wickremesinghe won the presidential election this week, securing 134 votes in the island nation's 225-seat parliament.

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had fled the country and resigned last week amid mass protests. Wickremesinghe was subsequently sworn in as the country's interim president.

Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka after thousands of protesters stormed the presidential palace and set fire to the prime minister's house. Rajapaksa's brother Mahinda had resigned as prime minister in May.

Crippled by a shortage of foreign exchange reserves after the collapse of its tourism-dependent economy, the country of 22 million people has defaulted on all its foreign debt.

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