New Delhi: Sri Lanka’s ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party has announced that it will provide its crucial support to new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has just one seat in Parliament, to help him prove a majority in the House. The 73-year-old United National Party (UNP) leader was appointed as Sri Lanka’s 26th prime minister on Thursday after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s elder brother and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on Monday after violence erupted following an attack on the anti-government protesters by his supporters.
“We have political differences with him, but he is known as someone with international support to pull this country out of the economic problems we are facing,” SM Chandrasena, a former minister and a senior leader of the ruling SLPP party told reporters, as quoted by news agency PTI.
“We see queues everywhere as we go about, we have to end this. I will support Ranil Wickremesinghe as he tries to handle the economic crisis,” Premanath Dolewatta, another ruling party parliamentarian stated.
On the other hand, the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), and most opposition parties have claimed that his appointment was illegal.
Most Opposition parties have maintained that they would not take positions in Wickremesinghe-led interim government but would support his moves to tackle the economic crisis.
The ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) claims to have 114 seats, one more than the 113 required for a majority in the 225-member Parliament. There are 42 independent members while the SJB has 54 seats. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has 3 seats while Tamil National Alliance has 10 seats.
In the previous election, Wickremesinghe’s UNP won only one parliamentary seat, making him its sole representative in Parliament.
Protests Continue In Sri Lanka
Meanwhile, street protests continued in the island nation as people angered by fuel and cooking gas shortages blocked busy roads, PTI reported.
Locals protested outside Slave Island PS in Colombo, saying that they have had no access to LPG cylinders for over a month.
“No gas, nothing to eat either. We’ve been here since last night. Now they say that they don’t have it. I’ve not received gas for 2 months,” news agency ANI quoted a protestor as saying.
The ruling party members are meeting President Gotabya Rajapaksa to discuss the future of the government, who himself faces calls to resign.
Wickremesinghe has pledged to revive the economy and to end the current queues for essentials.
PTI reported government sources as saying that at least four Cabinet ministers may be appointed later on Saturday. Wickremesinghe’s Cabinet is expected to be limited to under 20.
The Prime Minister has asked for the public’s patience as he tries to talk with international partners to set up an international aid consortium to help Sri Lanka out of the crisis.
Sri Lanka’s worst 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.
(With PTI Inputs)
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