In a bid to navigate Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday announced a three-member advisory group to help the government in the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.

Former central bank governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy, former World Bank official Shanta Devarajan and a former Deputy Director at the IMF Sharmini Coorey are part of the panel, reported ANI.

The island nation of 22 million people is struggling to pay for imports of fuel and other goods because of a shortage of foreign exchange. It is facing a severe shortage of petrol, diesel, milk powder, cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items. The shortage of fuel has led to power cuts of up to 13 hours daily in the country.

The crisis has also resulted in the declaration of a state of public health emergency due to a severe shortage of medicines and equipment. Government-run hospitals are running out of life-saving medicines and many of them have stopped conducting surgeries too.

P Nandalal Weerasinghe, a former senior deputy governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka who has worked with the IMF, and is the replacement of former central bank governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, will take over on Thursday. He is to hold a monetary policy meeting on Friday, reported Reuters.

Meanwhile, outgoing Finance Minister Ali Sabry, who resigned within a day of his appointment, said in Parliament that Sri Lanka must look at restructuring a $1 billion sovereign debt due for payment in July.

“We must go to the International Monetary Fund, there is no other solution that I can see,” Sabry said, according to Reuters. The search is still on for Sabry’s replacement.

Sri Lankan President will not resign

On Wednesday, Rajapaksa government’s chief whip informed the country’s Parliament that he will not resign under any circumstances, Reuters reported.

Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando said that 6.9 million citizens of the country had voted for Rajapaksa.

“As a government, we are clearly saying the president will not resign under any circumstances,” Fernando told the Parliament. “We will face this.”

The remarks came amid growing public unrest over an unprecedented economic crisis the island nation is facing and protests against Rajapaksa’s government over its handling. Protests are ongoing outside of the Sri Lankan Parliament in Colombo, as well as outside offices and homes of senior public officials.

On Tuesday, Rajapaksa’s government had lost its majority in the Parliament after 41 legislators quit their alliance with the ruling party. Earlier, the president’s entire cabinet, except his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, had resigned en masse from their positions.

US issues travel advisory

Meanwhile, the United States on Wednesday cautioned its citizen from travelling to Sri Lanka.

“Reconsider travel to Sri Lanka due to Covid-19 and fuel and medicine shortages,” the advisory said. “Travelers should monitor local media for updates on the ongoing situation.”

It also warned its citizens of a possible terror attack and said its government has limited ability to provide emergency services to American citizens in remote areas.

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls, government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, hospitals, and other public areas,” the advisory said.