07/12/2022, 00.00
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Sri Lanka to get a new president on 20 July

by Melani Manel Perera

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is expected to resign tomorrow. Reports suggest that he tried to flee the country by sea. Parliament will hold a first meeting next Friday. Hunger continues to affect many Sri Lankans. The World Food Programme is providing food aid to three million people until December.

Colombo (Asia News) – Sri Lanka’s parliament will pick a new president on 20 July to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced today.

The house will meet next Friday as a first step before the formal election, which will take place five days later.

After thousands of protesters occupied the President’s House in the capital Colombo, the opposition proposed a government of national unity.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would resign and his office confirmed that President Rajapaksa will also quit. According to the latest reports, he tried to flee the country by sea.

All this has come about because the country faces its worst economic crisis since independence.

Inflation is running at 54 per cent – with local food up 57 per cent – with more than US$ 50 billion in foreign debt, US$ 28 billion to be repaid by the end of 2027.

Under the circumstances, the country cannot import fuel and other basic products because of a foreign currency crunch.

For many Sri Lankans, this has meant hunger. To help them, the United Nations Food Programme (WFP) will start an assistance plan for three million people until December.

According to a recent report by the UN agency, about three out of 10 families (or 6.26 million people) are in conditions of food insecurity, 65,600 severely food insecure, this in a country of 22 million.

The “WFP has purchased iron-fortified rice, pulses, oil, and commodities. These are expected to arrive in August,” the WFP writes in a report.

Priority will go to “families who are unable to purchase increasingly expensive food, particularly those with children under five, pregnant and lactating women, and persons with disabilities.”

So far, the organisation has received US$ 18.14 million from the governments of Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, or 28 per cent of its emergency appeal of US$ 63 million.

In mid-April the Central Bank of Sri Lanka announced that the country was in a default.

Over the past few months, people took to the streets of the capital Colombo and other parts of the country demanding the government’s resignation.

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