07/11/2022, 17.41
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Sri Lanka’s opposition parties propose a national unity government

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has not yet submitted a letter of resignation despite claims that he would leave office on 13 July. A majority of MPs call on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to take the reins of government and continue talks with the International Monetary Fund. Other potential candidates for the presidency have already been named.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Following the attacks by thousands of protesters against the President’s House and the prime minister's own residence, Sri Lanka’s opposition parties have put forward the names of candidates for the posts of president and prime minister to head a government of national unity.

On Saturday, thousands of people stormed the President's House demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and then set fire to Temple Trees, the private residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, destroying many valuables, including some rare books.

Members of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party have also called on Rajapaksa to resign.

Parliamentary Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana said the president plans to resign on Wednesday, 13 July, while the Prime Minister's Office today confirmed the president's intentions, but no official statement has yet been made.

According to some high-level sources, Rajapaksa, whose current location is unknown, has confirmed that he will quit on 13 July, thus letting Wickremesinghe or a new leader take over.

Leaders from the country's main political parties, including the leading opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), as well as the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), and the independent SLPP group met yesterday.

They propose to appoint MP Dullas Alahapperuma as president and opposition leader Sajith Premadasa as prime minister of a national unity government that would leader the country out of the current crisis. Other MPs have put forward the name of Dhammika Perera for the post of president.

According to several political analysts, if President Rajapaksa leaves office on 13 July after handing over his resignation to the parliamentary speaker in accordance with the provisions in force, presidential and parliamentary elections must be held by March next year.

In the event that both the president and the prime minister leave office, the parliamentary speaker becomes interim head of state at least until Parliament appoints one of its members as president for the rest of the term.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe met with political leaders last night and, according to informed sources, he had the backing of a majority or about 115 MPs in Parliament. For this reason, several MPs asked him to take over the presidency, so as not to leave the economic crisis "halfway", especially now that talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are underway.

Experts told AsiaNews that if Wickremesinghe agrees, he is expected to be sworn in as president this week after Rajapaksa's resignation to focus on concluding an agreement with the IMF and restoring "some type of economic normalcy".

It is not yet clear who will take Wickremesinghe's place as prime minister; however, the latter will likely "let Parliament" appoint a suitable candidate.

For his part, opposition leader Sajith Premadasa held separate talks. If he should become president, he would want Dullas Allahapperuma as prime minister. However, analysts note that, as of last night, Sajith had not managed to get the support of the majority in Parliament.

Today the cabinet resigned to allow the formation of an all-party government.

Meanwhile, the European Union and the United States have also urged Sri Lankan parties “to cooperate, focus and work quickly” in order to achieve a peaceful, democratic and orderly transition of power amid the island nation’s worst economic and political crises since independence.

India expressed its solidarity towards Sri Lanka and pledged to help its southern neighbour solve its current economic and political crises. Yesterday, Pope Francis also renewed his appeal for peace in Sri Lanka.

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