Following Rajapaksa's resignation, Sri Lanka to get a new government
by Melani Manel Perera

Today, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe was sworn in as acting president. The majority in parliament could support him but his election would be unpopular among protesters, who have submitted their demands to all parties.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – With the official resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, accepted by the speaker of the parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, a new phase begins for Sri Lanka.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in today as acting president, a position he will hold until parliament approves a new government within the next 30 days.

Two political leaders are vying for the post of president, Wickremesinghe himself and opposition leader Sajith Premadasa.

The governing party, which enjoys a majority, could support the former prime minister, although at present it seems unlikely that protesters will accept such a solution.

The protest movement that occupied parts of the capital Colombo for months and seized the President’s House on 9 July have submitted a number of demands to all political parties.

Protesters want the resignation of all government officials with links to the Rajapaksa family, the cancellation of the debts of farmers and small businesses, a revision of the current taxation system so that direct taxes on companies are increased and indirect taxes on consumers are reduced, the release of jailed protesters, and a fair deal for families whose members have been killed or disappeared.

The protesters are also calling for an investigation into the crimes and thefts of the previous administration, a new constitution drafted with citizens’ participation, and greater democratisation of the country by reducing the executive powers of the president.

In delivering their demands to the authorities, protesters reiterated that their struggle would continue until everything they are asking for is not realised within the next six to 12 months.

After fleeing to the Maldives, now former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa travelled to Singapore but his final destination is not known. Singapore Foreign Ministry said that the fallen leader had neither “asked for asylum, nor had he been granted asylum" in the city-state.

With his letter of resignation, Rajapaksa loses his legal immunity that had pre-empted any trial against him; he is accused of war crimes against the Tamil population perpetrated during the civil war when he was Minister of Defense.

Sri Lanka is experiencing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. Last April the island nation defaulted on its US$ 50 billion foreign debt. As a result, it has been unable to import fuel and inflation has now exceeded 54 per cent, preventing ordinary Sri Lankans from buying basic items, especially food and medicine.