Sri Lanka president vows to appoint new PM

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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa says he will appoint a new prime minister and cabinet this week, after his elder brother and former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned following deadly violence in the country.

The new prime minister and cabinet will command a majority in the 225-seat parliament, Rajapaksa said, adding he will bring constitutional reforms to grant more power to the parliament.

"I am taking steps to form a new government to control the current situation, to prevent the country from falling into anarchy as well as to maintain the affairs of the government that have been halted.

The president's statement followed comments from Sri Lanka's central bank governor earlier in the day, who said he would quit within weeks unless political stability was restored.

P Nandalal Weerasinghe, appointed central bank chief last month to help the island country of 22 million people find a way out of its worst economic crisis, said a stable government was essential to stop the turmoil.

"I have clearly told the president and other political party leaders that unless political stability is established in the next two weeks I will step down," Weerasinghe told reporters.

"Without political stability, it doesn't matter who runs the central bank," he said.

"There will be no way to stop the economic deterioration."

Ordinary Sri Lankans blame the government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family for a meltdown that reduced reserves to just about $US50 million ($A72 million), stalling most imports and bringing massive shortages of essentials including cooking gas, fuel and medicine.

After more than a month of mostly peaceful demonstrations, public anger exploded into violence this week when ruling party supporters stormed an anti-government protests camp, triggering clashes across the country and pushing the prime minister to step down.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president's older brother, said he was resigning with the hope of a new, unity government taking over.

But with mobs targeting ruling party politicians, the former prime minister, once hugely popular, was whisked away to a military base in the country's northeast, the defence secretary said.

"He will remain there for the next couple of days and when the situation is normalised, he can be moved to a location of his choice," Kamal Gunaratne said.

On Wednesday, police and soldiers patrolled the streets of Weeraketiya, the Rajapaksa family's home town, where shops and businesses were shut by a curfew that will run until Thursday morning.

With police and armed forces ordered to shoot anyone damaging public property or threatening lives, soldiers in armoured vehicles patrolled the streets of the commercial capital Colombo.

So far, at least nine people, including two policemen, have been killed in violence across the country, which has also left more than 200 people wounded and 136 houses damaged, Gunaratne said.

"This is the time for all Sri Lankans to join hands as one, to overcome the economic, social and political challenges," President Rajapaksa said on Twitter.

"I urge all Sri Lankans to reject the subversive attempts to push you towards racial and religious disharmony. Promoting moderation, toleration and coexistence is vital."

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