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Sri Lanka: PM Wickremesinghe invites Opposition leader to join hands to resolve country's worst economic crisis

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PTI | Colombo, May 14 | Updated on: May 14, 2022

Ranil Wickremesinghe seeks help from SJB leader Sajith Premadasa to form unity government

Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya’s (SJB) leader to leave aside party politics and join hands with him to form a non-partisan government to stabilise the country’s economy, according to media reports on Saturday.

The 73-year-old United National Party (UNP) leader, who was appointed as Sri Lanka’s 26th prime minister on Thursday, wrote a letter to SJB leader Sajith Premadasa, the Daily Mirror, an online news portal reported.

In the letter, Wickremesinghe invited the SJB to support the joint effort made by them to immediately resolve the burning issues faced by the people and also to stabilise the country economically, politically and socially by obtaining foreign assistance. He urged him to leave aside party politics and form a non-partisan government that goes beyond traditional politics, Hiru News, another online news portal said.

The Prime Minister has also sought the Opposition Leader’s positive and swift response as the future of the country was facing a serious economic situation.

Wickremesinghe’s letter to Premadasa came days after the Opposition leader wrote to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa that the SJB will not join the government. Premadasa had also questioned Gotabaya’s decision to swear-in Wickremesinghe as the prime minister when he himself had expressed willingness to be the premier based on some conditions, including the resignation of the President.

Economic and political crisis

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has provoked widespread protests calling for political reform and the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

On April 1, President Rajapaksa imposed a state of emergency, lifting it five days later. The government reimposed a state of emergency on May 6 after police fired teargas and arrested students protesting near parliament, which was adjourned until May 17.

Although the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, the police fatally shot a protester on April 19, and on several occasions have used teargas and water cannons against protesters.

The authorities have made numerous arrests and repeatedly imposed curfews. The political crisis was triggered in late March when people hurt by long hours of power cuts and essential shortages took to the streets demanding the resignation of the government.

President Rajapaksa sacked his Cabinet and appointed a younger cabinet as a response to the demand for resignation. A continuous protest opposite his secretariat has now gone on for well over a month.

On Monday, his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as the prime minister to make way for the president to appoint an interim all political party government. Wickremesinghe was appointed the country’s new prime minister on Thursday.

Published on May 14, 2022

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