Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe sworn in as interim President of Sri Lanka | Political news

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been sworn in as interim president after the speaker of parliament accepted a resignation letter sent by embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after fleeing the country.

Wickremesinghe on Friday asked lawmakers to work towards a consensus to establish a multi-party government in the troubled country and said he would follow the constitutional process and establish law and order after months of anti-Rajapaksa protests.

The 73-year-old, who had already taken the role after Rajapaksa traveled to Singapore via the Maldives, was sworn in before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya. According to the constitution, the prime minister automatically becomes president in case of resignation.

Earlier, Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana confirmed that Rajapaksa “has formally resigned from his post”.

The official statement makes Rajapaksa – once known as the ‘Terminator’ for his ruthless crushing of the Tamil rebellion – the first Sri Lankan head of state to step down since assuming an executive presidency in 1978.

Parliament will now meet on Wednesday to elect a politician who will serve the remainder of Rajapaksa’s term ending in 2024, with nominations due the day before.

Likely candidates include Wickremesinghe himself, as well as opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and former minister Dullas Alahapperuma, according to reports. Former army commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka also told the media that many MPs were asking him to take part in the contest.

“I call on the honorable and loving citizens of this country to create a peaceful atmosphere in order to implement the proper parliamentary democratic process and to allow all members of parliament to attend meetings and function freely and conscientiously,” Abeywardana said. .

‘He must go’

Protesters accuse Rajapaksa and his powerful political family of siphoning off money from government coffers for years and hastening the country’s collapse by mismanaging the economy. The family denied allegations of corruption, but Rajapaksa admitted that some of his policies contributed to the collapse of Sri Lanka.

After Rajapaksa’s resignation, protesters cooked and distributed rice pudding – a food Sri Lankans enjoy to celebrate victories. At the main protest site outside the president’s office in Colombo, people hailed his resignation but insisted that Wickremesinghe should step down as well.

“I am happy that Gotabaya is finally gone. He should have resigned earlier, without causing much trouble,” said Velauynatha Pillai, 73, a retired bank worker, as patriotic songs blared from loudspeakers. .

But he added: “Ranil is a supporter of Gotabaya and other Rajapaksas. He was helping them. He too must go.

Fall of the Rajapaksa political clan

Protesters who had occupied government buildings retreated on Thursday, restoring an uneasy calm to Colombo. But with the political opposition in parliament fractured, a solution to Sri Lanka’s many woes seemed no closer.

The nation is seeking help from the International Monetary Fund and other creditors, but its finances are so bad that even securing a bailout has proven difficult, Wickremesinghe said recently.

Amid rising tensions, the military on Thursday warned it had the power to respond in the event of chaos – a message some found concerning.

Given that Sri Lankan presidents are protected from arrest while in office, Rajapaksa likely wanted to leave while he still enjoyed constitutional immunity and had access to the plane.

The protests underscored the dramatic downfall of the Rajapaksa political clan that has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past 20 years.

A military strategist whose brutal campaign helped end the country’s 26-year civil war, Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was president at the time, were hailed by the island’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority. Despite accusations of wartime atrocities, including ordering military attacks on ethnic Tamil civilians and abducting journalists, Rajapaksa remained popular among many Sri Lankans. He has always denied the allegations.

It was not immediately clear whether Singapore would be Rajapaksa’s final destination, but he has already sought medical treatment there, including heart surgery.

Saroj Pathirana contributed reporting from Colombo

Comments are closed.