Opposition parties not to be part of Wickremesinghe ministry
Ranil Wickremesinghe.Reuters

Opposition parties not to be part of Wickremesinghe ministry

SJB general secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said the party would not accept ministerial positions and called for Wickremesinghe’s resignation.

COLOMBO: Most of the Opposition parties in Sri Lanka on Friday announced that they would not become a part of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's interim government but would support its economic policies from outside to help the debt-ridden island nation's early recovery.

The 73-year-old United National Party (UNP) leader was appointed as Sri Lanka's 26th prime minister on Thursday as the country was without a government since Monday when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's elder brother and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after violence erupted following an attack on the anti-government protesters by his supporters. The attack triggered widespread violence against Rajapaksa loyalists, leaving nine people dead and wounding over 200 others.

“We cannot become a part of this Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government,'' Wimal Weerawansa, a legislator for the independent group from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s SLPP said.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena’s SLFP central committee has also decided not to be part of the government.

The Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) said they would also not be part of the government while the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) said United National Party (UNP) leader Wickremesinghe has no legitimacy as he was not even elected in the 2020 parliamentary election.

SJB general secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara said the party would not accept ministerial positions and called for Wickremesinghe’s resignation.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said the decision taken by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to appoint Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister, is one that was made with zero regard to the voice of the people. The JVP leader ridiculed the decision, saying the appointment has no legitimacy and has no democratic value.

“Wickremesinghe is a person who held the post of Prime Minister, formed governments, and yet could not even win a single seat at the last General Election. He did not even have the required number of votes to enter parliament. If an election is used to measure the consent of the people, elections have shown that he has no mandate, and that is why the people sent him packing,” he said.

The interim government idea was mooted by the powerful Buddhist clergy and civil society as a means to find a solution for the ongoing economic crisis.

With Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation on Monday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he was talking to political parties to set up an interim government.

Wickremesinghe, who had been sworn in as the prime minister of Sri Lanka on five occasions before, said his primary task was to tackle the worst economic crisis with assistance from all parties.

The new prime minister, who has only his seat in the Parliament, said he commanded a majority coming from both sides.

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. The authorities have made numerous arrests and repeatedly imposed curfews. The political crisis was triggered in late March when people hurt by long hours of power cuts and essential shortages took to the streets demanding the resignation of the government.

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