04/11/2022, 13.48
SRI LANKA
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Crisis in Colombo: Wickremesinghe’s formula

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

The former prime minister asked President Rajapaksa to delegate public finances to parliament and set up a consortium of countries to provide economic assistance to the island, currently crushed by runaway inflation and a shortage of essential goods. The situation remains at an impasse because of the president’s unwillingness to resign, but his party is no longer able to organise a rally in his support.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Former Prime Minister and United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo on 7 April to discuss the present crisis faced by Sri Lanka, the worst of the past few decades.

The UNP leader blamed the country’s severe economic and financial crisis on inappropriate decisions taken by the present government after it took power.

The president consulted Wickremesinghe with regard to approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The UNP leader told the president that the immediate solution is for him to resign from the presidency and vest powers in parliament, an option the president rejected once again.

The UNP leader also proposed that an aid Sri Lanka consortium should be formed to address the country’s immediate economic needs, consisting of the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea and China as well as others willing to help Sri Lanka.

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have already agreed to assist the country with short-term loans for urgent purchases such as medical drugs.

Meanwhile, while speaking to parliament (7 April), the UNP leader said that the government had failed in its duties and questioned who, in a surprise move, allowed the rupee to free float, which led the currency to depreciate by more than 40 per cent. Those responsible should be held accountable.

“We advised the government to go to the IMF about a year ago, but it did not listen. The prevailing problems would not have cropped up, if the government acted early,” Wickremesinghe said.

He also proposed bringing in a resolution for the legislature to take over public finance. In his view, this can be done under Section 148 of the constitution.

Sources within Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the party of former President Maithripala Sirisena that quit the government coalition, told AsiaNews that talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa continue with the aim of finding a solution to the current economic, political and social mess affecting the island nation.

Addressing the media on Sunday morning, Sirisena said that he would try to force President Rajapaksa to form an interim administration under an all-party cabinet without any Rajapaksas and with as few portfolios as possible.

He stressed that the interim administration should be set up under the constitutional provisions of the 19th Amendment and curtail the executive powers of the president.

For many political analysts, the main obstacle in the present catastrophic context is President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who refuses to resign, a step that any decent, self-respecting leader in any other country would have already done, while the vast majority of the population is against him.

The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party is the only source of political support for the president; however, their vote base seems to have evaporated. The SLPP has failed to hold a single mass rally anywhere in the country in support of the president, nor has it been able to find a cluster of supporters to defend their residences.

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