Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday offered to resign to make way for an all-party government, as protests intensified in the country for the resignation of the government led by Gotabaya Rajapaksa for mishandling the country’s worst economic crisis.
The Prime Minister’s Media Division said that Wickremesinghe will resign after an all-party government is established and the majority is secured in Parliament.
His office said that Wickremesinghe, 73, will continue as Prime Minister until then.
Wickremesinghe told Opposition party leaders that he was taking the decision to step down as the island-wide fuel distribution is due to recommence this week, the World Food Programme Director is due to visit the country this week and the debt sustainability report for the International Monetary Fund is due to be finalised shortly.
So as to ensure the safety of the citizens, Wickremesinghe said he is agreeable to this recommendation by the Opposition party leaders.
Wickremesinghe later told the media that he proposed to the President to establish an all-party Government.
He said when the existing government resigns, a new government must be formed and it is not wise for the country to go on without a government.
Wickremesinghe was appointed the Prime Minister after anti-government protests forced the resignation of then prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the elder brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in May.
Wickremesinghe’s offer to resign came after it was decided at the all-party leaders’ meeting that the President and the Prime Minister should resign immediately.
The meeting was held at Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s official residence.
The Leader of the Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya Sajith Premadasa did not participate in the partly leaders’ meeting as he is currently in a private hospital in Colombo due to a sudden illness.
It is said that the majority of the party leaders have requested in the meeting of the Committee on Parliamentary Affairs that the Speaker should become the Acting President and work to form an all-party government under his leadership.
Former President and Leader of Sri Lanka Freedom Party Maithripala Sirisena was also of the opinion that the President and the Prime Minister should immediately resign from their positions.
The former president in a statement through video call said his party is of the opinion that these activities should be done to preserve the peace and the Constitution.
A group of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmakers meanwhile in a letter have requested the President to resign immediately considering the current situation.
Leaders of political parties that represent Sri Lanka’s Parliament have agreed that both President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe must resign immediately, making the way for Speaker Abeywardena to become acting president, lawmaker Dullas Alahapperuma from SLPP tweeted.
Alahapperuma tweeted that the party leaders agreed that parliament must be convened within a week to elect a new president by a parliamentary majority.
In the same week, he said, a coalition government must be formed representing all parties.
The development came hours after thousands of irate anti-government protesters stormed into President Rajapaksa’s official residence in central Colombo’s high-security Fort area after breaking the barricades, as they demanded his resignation over the island nation’s worst economic crisis in recent memory.
At least 45 people, including seven security personnel, were injured in clashes between security forces and the protesters – some of them holding Sri Lankan flags and helmets – who had gathered in large numbers in the Fort area, demanding President Rajapaksa’s resignation.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, crippled by an acute shortage of foreign exchange that has left it struggling to pay for essential imports of fuel, and other essentials.
Protesters blame Rajapaksa for the country’s economic malaise, the worst since independence in 1948.
Last week, Wickremesinghe announced in Parliament that Sri Lanka would present a debt restructuring programme to the IMF by August to secure a bailout package while underlining that the negotiations with the global lender were more complex and difficult than in the past because the country was “bankrupt”.
The country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, had announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026.
Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.