Sri Lanka opposition hopes to install new gov’t amid turmoil

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s opposition political parties will meet on Sunday to agree on a new government a day after the country’s president and prime minister offered to resign in the land’s most tumultuous day. The country experienced months of political unrest, with protesters storming the homes of both officials and setting fire to one of the buildings in fury over the nation’s economic crisis.
Protesters stormed the president’s official residence, his office and the prime minister’s residence on Saturday, saying they would stay until the leaders formally resign.
Opposition lawmaker MA Sumanthiran said all the opposition parties put together could easily assemble the 113 members needed to represent a majority in Parliamentthen they will ask President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to form a new government and then resign.
He said the parties hoped to reach a consensus by Sunday.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would leave office after a new government, and a few hours later, the parliament speaker said Rajapaksa would step down on Wednesday. The pressure on both is growing as the economic downturn causes severe shortages of essential goods, leaving people struggling to get food, fuel and other necessities.
If both the president and prime minister resign, President Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena will take over as interim president, according to the constitution.
Thousands of protesters entered the capital Colombo on Saturday and flooded Rajapaksa’s fortified mansion. Videos and photos show the crowd happily splashing in the garden pool, lying on their beds and using their cell phone cameras to capture the moment. Some made tea or used the gym while others issued statements from the boardroom asking the president and prime minister to go.
It was not clear whether Rajapaksa was there at the time, and government spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said he had no information on the president’s movements.
Although both Wickremesinghe and Abeywardena said in speeches that they spoke to the president, they said nothing about his whereabouts.
Wickremesinghe’s office said protesters then stormed the prime minister’s residence and set it on fire. It is unclear if he was there when the intrusion occurred and the prime minister’s spokesman could not be reached for comment.
The country is relying on aid from India and other countries as its leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. Wickremesinghe recently said that negotiations with the IMF are complicated because Sri Lanka is now a bankrupt country.
In April, Sri Lanka announced the suspension of foreign loan payments due to foreign currency shortages. Its total external debt amounts to $51 billion, of which $28 billion is due by the end of 2027.
Months of protests have destroyed the political dynasty of Rajapaksa, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades but has been accused by protesters of mismanagement and corruption. The president’s brother resigned as prime minister in May after violent protests saw him seek safety at a naval base.

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