Opposition party, protesters reject Ranil as PM
Sri Lanka’s main Opposition party joined anti-government protesters on Friday in rejecting the appointment of a new Prime Minister and insisted the President resign to take responsibility for the country’s disastrous economic crisis.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed five-time Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to his sixth term late on Thursday, but Opposition comments signalled it was not likely to resolve the political and economic disarray in the strategic Indian Ocean island nation.
A week of violent clashes between protesters and government supporters across the country has left nine people dead and more than 300 wounded. The President’s elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, quit as Prime Minister on Monday as violence spiralled and is in hiding in a military base.
The rest of the cabinet quit earlier. ”It is clear the (new) Prime Minister is remote controlled by the President,” said Eran Wickramaratne, a parliamentarian and senior member of the main Opposition party, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya.
“This country wants the Rajapaksas to go home. We are committed to that goal.” Protesters who have camped out at a site near the Prime Minister’s office for over a month also rejected the appointment.
“We will stop this struggle when our people get justice,” said Chamalage Shivakumar, one of the hundreds of people at the “Gota Go Home” protest site, named after the President.
“Whoever they appoint as Prime Minister, we will not stop this struggle until people get relief.”
Wickremesinghe, 73, is the only lawmaker from his United National Party in parliament and will be reliant on rival political parties to form a coalition government. An alliance led by the Rajapaksas holds about 100 of parliament’s 225 seats, while the Opposition has 58 seats. The rest are independent.
On Friday, Wickremesinghe held talks with foreign envoys representing India, Japan, the US and China, his office said.
“Discussed continued cooperation for economic recovery and stability in Sri Lanka through democratic processes,” the Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a tweet. New Delhi is battling Beijing for influence in Sri Lanka, which lies on key shipping lanes between Asia and Europe.