AP’s Asia team began pressing for interviews as soon as Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed Sri Lanka’s prime minister for a sixth time. Wickremesinghe is tasked with steering Sri Lanka out of a disastrous economic crisis that has nearly bankrupted the country and sparked violent protests that ousted his predecessor, the president’s brother.

Colombo-based correspondents Krishan Francis and Bharatha Mallawarachi tapped government sources while Asia-Pacific news director Adam Schreck reached out with formal interview requests and South Asia correspondent Krutika Pathi made the case from New Delhi.

Once the interview was secured, the team strategized on how to make it stand out and break news. Pathi, who conducted the interview alongside video journalist Shonal Ganguly, photographer Eranga Jayawardena and stringer Jay Palipane, worked with Schreck and other regional leaders to refine the AP’s questions ahead of time. A central goal was to press Wickremesinghe on two major geopolitical themes that intersected with his domestic crisis: the war in Ukraine, given Sri Lanka’s neutral stance and its recent willingness to buy Russian oil, and China’s controversial role, one of AP’s global news priorities.

Combo sri lanka

At left, Sri Lanka’s newly appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe responds during an interview with the AP in Colombo, June 11, 2022. In the wide-ranging interview, Wickremesinghe indicated he would be willing to accept more financial help from China, despite his country’s mounting debt. At right, people wait in long queues on June 11 to buy fuel for their vehicles at a filling station in Colombo.

AP Photos / Eranga Jayawardena

The planning paid off, delivering to a timely, news-making interview with Wickremesinghe saying that as his nation hunts desperately for fuel amid the economic crisis, he’d be willing to buy more Russian oil despite pressure from the U.S. and its allies to isolate Moscow, and he would be willing to accept more financial help from China, despite his country’s mounting debt. The digital presentation included an online video edit produced by Delhi-based Rishabh Jain.

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earned widespread international play and credits, and even a major competitor took the rare step of citing AP in its own story.