After the defection of the Sri Lankan president, opposition parties are trying to unite to agree on the next government

After the defection of the Sri Lankan president, opposition parties are trying to unite to agree on the next government

On Sunday, July 10, uncertainty continued in Sri Lanka as President Gotabaya Rajapaksa agreed to resign next week after he was forced to flee his residence by a mob. Sri Lanka’s opposition political parties will meet on Sunday to approve the new government.

The United States appealed to the country’s future new leaders “Act Fast” Solutions to restore economic stability and address people’s discontent over deteriorating economic conditions, “Including power, food and fuel shortages”A State Department spokesman said.

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Continual resignations

In the wake of the Rakshasa demonstrations in Colombo, there was an outcry Economic crisis affecting the country, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe sought to pave the way for a national unity government by calling an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday with opposition parties who proposed resignations. But that was not enough to quell the anger of the demonstrators who besieged his residence in the evening in his absence and set it on fire without causing any injuries.

An opposition deputy, Matiyaparan Abraham Sumanthiran, expressed optimism about the opposition’s chances of gathering the 113 members needed to win a majority in parliament and demand the president’s resignation by this Sunday. His departure was announced earlier on Saturday Parliament Speaker Mahinda Abeywardhanaexplains that “President says he will step down on July 13 to ensure peaceful transition”.

If both the President and the Prime Minister resign, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, will assume the interim presidency as per the constitution.

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Two of the president’s relatives resigned without delay: Sudeva Hettiarachi, the head of the press service, and Bandula Gunawardena, the media minister, gave up his position at the head of the presidential party.

President “to safety”

Earlier, President Rajapaksa, who had been in the hot seat for months, fled before hundreds of demonstrators entered the presidential palace, an iconic building reserved for regular receptions, but he moved out in April after an attack on his private residence.

“The President has been taken to safety”, a defense source told Agence France-Presse. Soldiers guarding the official residence fired into the air to prevent protesters from approaching the palace until it was evacuated. According to this source, the president boarded a military ship headed for territorial waters in the southern part of the island.

Local television stations showed footage of hundreds of people crowding the gates of his palace. Protesters streamed live videos on social media of crowds marching in, some enjoying themselves in the presidential pool or bedroom.

Protesters also took over the offices of the presidency, which is close to where demonstrators have camped for three months.

An unprecedented crisis

Demonstrations calling for Rajapaksa’s resignation drew hundreds of thousands of people on Saturday, with protesters even forcing railway authorities to take them on trains, as the country runs out of petrol. Three people were injured by bullets and many fired tear gas as police tried to disperse the crowd in the capital’s administrative district. About 20,000 soldiers and police have been sent to Colombo to protect the president, officials said.

Protesters swim after storming the swimming pool at the president's official residence on July 9, 2022 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka, once a middle-income country with a standard of living envied by India, has been devastated by the loss of tourism revenue following jihadist attacks in 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The crisis, unprecedented since independence in 1948 on the island of 22 million inhabitants, has been exacerbated by a series of bad political decisions, according to economists. The presidential race in power since 2005 is responsible for this situation.

With soaring inflation and famine, Sri Lanka lacks everything: gasoline, electricity, food, medicine. The country is negotiating a rescue plan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which could involve tax hikes. According to the United Nations, 80% of the population cannot afford three meals a day.

Le Monte with AP and AFP

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