Sri Lankan opposition hopes to install new government amid turmoil – News

Protesters who stormed the president’s official residence on Saturday spent the night there



By AP

Published: Sun 10 Jul 2022, 09:17

Last update: Sun Jul 10, 2022 2:26 PM

Sri Lanka’s opposition political parties will meet on Sunday to agree a new government a day after the country’s president and prime minister offered to resign in the country’s most chaotic day in months of political unrest, with protesters storming the homes of the two officials and setting one of them on fire. buildings in a rage over the nation’s economic crisis.

Protesters who stormed the president’s official residence, his office and the prime minister’s official residence on Saturday spent the night there, saying they will stay until the leaders formally resign.

Opposition lawmaker MA Sumanthiran says all opposition parties combined could easily muster the 113 members needed to show a majority in parliament, after which they will ask President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to install the new government and then step down .

He said the parties hoped to reach a consensus on Sunday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would step down once a new government was in place, and hours later the speaker of parliament said Rajapaksa would step down on Wednesday. The pressure on both men had increased as the economic crisis triggered severe shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to get food, fuel and other necessities.

If the President and Prime Minister resign, President Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena will take over as temporary president, in accordance with the constitution.

Thousands of protesters entered the capital Colombo on Saturday and stormed Rajapaksa’s fortified residence. Video and footage showed cheering crowds splashing in the garden pool, lying on beds and using their cellphone cameras to capture the moment. Some made tea or used the gym while others issued statements from a conference room demanding the president and prime minister leave.

It was unclear whether Rajapaksa was there at the time, and government spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said he had no information on the president’s movements.

Even though Wickremesinghe and Abeywardena said in their speeches that they had spoken with the president, they said nothing about his whereabouts.

Protesters then broke into the prime minister’s private residence and set it on fire, Wickremesinghe’s office said. It was unclear whether he was there when the incursion happened and the Prime Minister’s spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The country is counting on help from India and other countries as leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. Wickremesinghe said recently that negotiations with the IMF were complex as Sri Lanka was now a failed state.

Sri Lanka announced in April that it was suspending foreign loan repayments due to a shortage of foreign exchange. Its total external debt stands at $51 billion, of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027.

Months of protests have all but dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades but is accused by protesters of mismanagement and corruption. The president’s older brother resigned as prime minister in May after violent protests led him to seek refuge at a naval base.

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