05/12/2022, 19.04
SRI LANKA
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Ranil Wickremesinghe to be Sri Lanka’s next prime minister

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

The five-time prime minister is expected to be sworn in tonight. The Sri Lankan parliament is expected to approve his appointment, following the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, brother of the current president Gotabaya. Meanwhile, ordinary Sri Lankans continue to demand a new government.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Former Prime Minister and current leader United National Party (UNP), Ranil Wickremesinghe, is expected to be appointed tonight as the new prime minister of Sri Lanka.

The change in head of government follows a meeting last night between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe at the President’s Office in the capital.

On Monday, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is president's elder brother, resigned amid protests against the high cost of living and the poor management of the economy. The now former PM is widely accused of financial mismanagement and pushing the country “to the brink of bankruptcy”.

Last night’s meeting was designed to give the president an opportunity to explore the possibility of provisionally tasking Wickremesinghe with the job. The UNP leader reportedly accepted because he says he has a plan to address the country’s economic woes.

According to sources close to the government, the two met for about two hours. Most MPs, of every background (Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim) back Wickremesinghe for the PM post.

President Rajapaksa initially asked the leaders of several political parties, including the main opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), to take on the task of prime minister; however, all turned down the request due to the challenge of dealing with the country's economic crisis.

A group of SJB MPs yesterday left the party to sit as independents in the house. Many other MPs, including from the ruling alliance and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), have decided to support Wickremesinghe's appointment.

Wickremesinghe was prime minister from 1993 to 1994, 2001 to 2004, in 2015, in 2018 (twice) and 2019, probably a “world record”, this according to some political analysts.

However, the protest movement that has developed in recent weeks across the country and abroad is seeking the president’s resignation.

The latter has rejected all calls for his departure, noting that he was going to appoint a new prime minister and a new cabinet, revive the 19th amendment and transfer some executive powers to parliament.

Meanwhile, former Commander of the Sri Lankan Army, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka (Ret), who currently sits in parliament, said on social media that he would never accept any cabinet position under the incumbent president.

For months, Sri Lanka has been struggling with the worst economic and financial crisis since independence. In mid-April the government, now in talks with the International Monetary Fund, declared default.

Shortages of food, fuel and other basics, along with frequent blackouts, have caused unrest in the country of 22 million. Amid the crisis, Buddhist and Catholic clergy have joined the anti-government movement, calling for the immediate end of the Rajapaksa administration.

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