Colombo: Embattled Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has officially conveyed to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that he will resign on July 13 as previously announced, the Prime Minister’s office said on Monday. Rajapaksa said he will resign on Wednesday after protesters on Saturday stormed his official residence, calling for him to step down over his handling of the country’s dire economic crisis, said a PTI report.
Days after protesters stormed Sri Lankan leaders’ homes in rage over their mishandling of the country’s economic crisis, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also said he was willing to resign and make way for an all-party government to take over as protesters breached his private residence and set it on fire, according to his office. A statement from the PM’s office said, “President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has officially informed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that he will be resigning as previously announced.”
Earlier on Saturday, President Rajapaksa informed Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena from an undisclosed location that he will step down on Wednesday.
Opposition parties to resume talks today to form an all-party interim govt
Sri Lanka’s Opposition parties will resume talks on Monday to form an all-party interim government after the president and prime minister offered to resign as unprecedented protests broke out and thousands of enraged demonstrators stormed the leaders’ homes over their mishandling of the country’s worst economic crisis.
According to the reports, the appointment of a new president after Rajapaksa leaves the presidency and the formation of a new government will be discussed at the meeting.
Also read: India steps up vigil along border with Island nation, deploys hovercrafts and patrol boats
Under the Sri Lankan Constitution, if both president and prime minister resign, the Speaker of Parliament will serve as acting president for a maximum of 30 days. Meanwhile, parliament will elect a new president within 30 days from one of its members, who will hold the office for the remaining two years of the current term.
The cash-starved island nation witnessed a tumultuous day on Saturday when protesters broke into Rajapaksa’s official residence in Colombo. The protesters were seen in the bedrooms and splashing around in the swimming pool of the President’s House.
A country of 22 million people, Sri Lanka is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials.
Tens of thousands have taken to the streets in recent months, calling for the country’s leaders to resign over accusations of economic mismanagement. Schools have been suspended and fuel has been limited to essential services. Patients are unable to travel to hospitals due to the fuel shortage and food prices are soaring.
Trains have reduced in frequency, forcing travellers to squeeze into compartments and even sit precariously on top of them as they commute to work. In several major cities, including Colombo, hundreds are forced to stand in line for hours to buy fuel, sometimes clashing with police and the military as they wait.
With an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, Sri Lanka announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026. Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.
Sri Lanka military chief refutes claims of troops heading to Galle Face
Amid the ongoing protests in Sri Lanka over the economic and political crisis, the Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka, General Shavendra Silva denied the social media reports of military personnel marching towards Galle Face protest site on Monday.
“There is no such attempt to attack or disturb `the Aragala Bhumiya` as falsely circulating in social media now,” Ministry of Defence Spokesman said quoting the Chief of Defence Staff, General Shavendra Silva as he refuted the fabricated information.
In another official statement, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka also denied the rumours of a military operation to occupy the Aragalaya struggle ground at this moment, adding “Do not panic, continue your struggle peacefully and non-violently.”
India steps up vigil along the border with Sri Lanka
The Indian Coast Guard has deployed its hovercrafts, aircraft and patrol boats to step up the vigil on the maritime border with the island nation to prevent any possible influx of refugees or anti-India elements from there.
The surveillance has been enhanced in the areas stretching from the Tamil Nadu coast to the parts of Kerala coast with the deployment of Coast Guard personnel and assets along with other agencies, government officials told ANI.
#WATCH Indian Coast Guard hovercraft operating from Mandapam base near Rameshwaram. The Indian Coast Guard is on high alert along the maritime border with Sri Lanka, to prevent the influx of illegal migrants from there due to the ongoing political and economic crisis there. pic.twitter.com/j3cHzTLovZ
— ANI (@ANI) July 11, 2022
The surveillance activities were upped soon after the fresh round of political crisis started in the island nation where people have stormed the Presidential palace and the leadership is reported to have fled the capital city, Colombo. Along with the central agencies, the Tamil Nadu Coastal police is also on high alert.
With PTI /ANI Inputs)