07/21/2022, 20.40
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Widespread disappointment among Sri Lankans over Wickremesinghe as president

by Melani Manel Perera

Protesters plan to continue their struggle. For Fr Jeevantha Peiris, “we are not going to move from here”; instead, “Only a change of system can bring change”. For his part, the new president threatens to use force against protesters.

Colombo (AsiaNews) –  Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as president today before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya.

For protesters, the six-time prime minister was never their first choice as the country’s head of state, while for most Sri Lankans, this was a day of disappointment because of the new president’s close ties with the Rajapaksa family.

“The government promised many things. But they have not done anything so far. Therefore, we are not afraid of them and we are not going to move from here,” said some protesters at the camp near the Presidential Secretariat speaking to AsiaNews.

Many of them have been protesting at this site for more than a hundred days. one of them, Fr Jeevantha Peiris, does not “believe that the problems of this country were solved with the expulsion of Gotabaya.”

In fact, “Our people are between life and death without medicine. This is how innocent people lose their life in our country. Political, social, and economic change is needed to bring a solution to this situation,” he explained.

For the clergyman, Wickremesinghe is not the right person to lead Sri Lanka. “He has already been prime minister six times and has failed six times; he cannot bring about the change we want.’

Instead, “Only a change of system can bring change,” and for this reason, “we do not accept Wickremesinghe’s appointment.” What is needed is the “People's Council we proposed in our demands”.

As the crisis unfolded, “We believed that at least this time parliamentarians would stand with the people. But they acted against” it. Sadly, “once again, people are standing together at this place of struggle in a new way, with new energy,” Fr Jeevantha Peiris noted.

The current parliament does not represent the population, this according to Sister Deepa Fernando, a member of the Holy Family and activist for social justice.

Speaking with AsiaNews about the anti-government protest, she said: “These leaders have been rejected by the people for more than three months.

“The sacrifices by youth and thousands of people have not been taken seriously by parliamentarians” who “show us once again that their main purpose is to stay in power, protecting their misdeeds, positions and privileges.”

For the woman religious, “This is a clear manifestation of Sri Lanka's distorted politics”.

Speaking to the media, the new president expressed a different view. “If you try to topple the government, occupy the president’s office and the prime minister’s office, that is not democracy; it is against the law,"” he said.

Going further, he added: “We will not allow a minority of protesters to suppress the aspirations of the silent majority clamouring for a change in the political system.”

Last week, when he was still prime minister, Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency, he pledged to crack down on “fascist” protests, suggesting that he would have no qualms about using violence against people.

Currently, Sri Lanka is going through its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. In April the island nation defaulted on its foreign debt of more than US$ 51 billion.

For months the country has been unable to import fuel and inflation has exceeded 54 per cent, with basic necessities now beyond the reach of many if not most people, especially food and medicine.

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