Sri Lankan opposition meets to form new government

Colombo, Sri Lanka –

Sri Lanka’s opposition political parties met on Sunday to agree on a new government a day after the country’s president and prime minister offered to resign in the most dramatic day of political turmoil The rule lasted for months, with protesters storming the homes of both leaders and setting fire to one of the buildings in fury over the economic crisis.

Protesters remained in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home, his seaside office and the prime minister’s palace, saying they would stay until his official resignation. Soldiers have been deployed around the city and Chief of Defense Staff Shavendra Silva appealed for public support to maintain law and order.

Ranjith Madduma Bandara, a top official from the main opposition United People’s Force party, said that separate discussions had been held with other parties and lawmakers had broken away from their ruling coalition. Rajapaksa and many other meetings are scheduled. He did not say when a deal could be reached, although it is expected to be finalized on Sunday.

Another opposition lawmaker, MA Sumanthiran, earlier said that all the opposition parties combined could easily assemble the 113 members needed to represent a majority in Parliament, at which point they will ask Rajapaksa to form a new government and then resign.

Rajapaksa appeared to have left his residence before the storm made landfall, and government spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said he had no information on his movements. A statement from the president’s office on Sunday said Rajapaksa had ordered officials to immediately begin distributing a consignment of cooking gas, assuming he was still working.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would leave office when a new government was formed and hours later, a spokesman for Parliament said Rajapaksa would step down on Wednesday. The pressure on both is growing as the economic downturn causes severe shortages of essential goods, leaving people struggling to get food, fuel and other necessities.

If both the president and prime minister resign, President Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena will take over as interim president, according to the constitution.

Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in May in a bid to address shortages and start an economic recovery.

Wickremesinghe has entered into important negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on a relief program and with the World Food Program to prepare for a foreseeable food crisis. The government must submit its debt sustainability plan to the IMF by August before a deal is reached.

No one can doubt that any new leader can do more than Wickremesinghe, analysts say. His government’s efforts have shown great promise, with the necessary amount of fertilizer being distributed to farmers for cultivation next season and the first shipment of gas orders arriving in the country. on Sunday.

“This unrest could create confusion among international institutions like the IMF and the World Bank,” said political analyst Ranga Kalansooriya, adding that the new administration should agree. on a joint program for economic recovery.

He said while Wickremesinghe was working in the right direction, his administration’s weakness was not implementing a long-term plan to focus on solving day-to-day problems.

It is unlikely that an all-party government will agree on IMF-backed economic reforms without several parties losing their political support.

Wickremesinghe on Saturday said it was not right for him to leave without a government in place.

“Today in this country we have a fuel crisis, we have a food shortage, we have the head of the World Food Program coming here and we have some issues to discuss with the IMF,” Wickremesinghe said. “. “Therefore, if this government goes, there should be another.”

Thousands of protesters entered the capital Colombo on Saturday and flooded Rajapaksa’s fortified mansion. Crowds of people splashing in the garden pool, lounging on beds and using their cell phone cameras to capture the moment. Some made tea or used the gym while others issued statements from the boardroom asking the president and prime minister to go.

Although both Wickremesinghe and Abeywardena, speaker of parliament, said in their speeches that they spoke to the president, they did not say anything about his whereabouts.

Wickremesinghe’s office said protesters then stormed the prime minister’s residence and set it on fire. It is unclear if he was there when the intrusion occurred.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington was monitoring developments in Sri Lanka and called on Congress to work quickly to implement solutions and address people’s grievances.

Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok, Blinken said that the United States condemns the attacks on peaceful protesters while calling for a full investigation into any protest-related violence.

Sri Lanka is relying on aid from India and other countries as its leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the IMF. Wickremesinghe recently said that negotiations with the IMF are complicated because Sri Lanka is now a bankrupt country.

In April, Sri Lanka announced the suspension of foreign loan payments due to foreign currency shortages. The company’s total external debt amounts to US$51 billion, of which US$28 billion is due by the end of 2027.

Months of protests have destroyed all of the Rajapaksa political dynasties, which have ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades but are accused by protesters of mismanagement and corruption. The president’s brother resigned as prime minister in May after violent protests saw him seek safety at a naval base. Then he moved to a house in Colombo.

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