COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday appealed to all political parties to join an all-party government to tackle the island nation’s worst-ever economic crisis and prevent “strong economies” from using it as a “tool of interference,” days after India and China clashed verbally over the docking of a high-tech Chinese ship at a strategic port in this country.
Wickremesinghe’s remarks came as he presented the interim budget for 2022 in Parliament in his capacity as the minister of finance. “We can no longer be a nation dependent on loan assistance. We can also no longer be used as a tool of interference by other countries with strong economies,” Wickremesinghe said without naming any country. However, his remarks came days after the Chinese embassy and the Indian High Commission here clashed verbally over the docking of ‘Yuan Wang 5’ at Sri Lanka’s southern Hambantota port.
“All this can be achieved, only if we work together in unity with common consent. I reiterate the invitation to all the parties represented in this Parliament to join an all-party government. Since this unprecedented situation is the responsibility of us all, and therefore need to prioritise the necessities of the country,” he said. The research ship was originally scheduled to arrive at the Chinese-run port on August 11 but it was delayed in absence of permission by Sri Lankan authorities following security concerns raised by India. The Chinese ship finally arrived in Hambantota port on August 16 and left on August 22 after replenishment.
Since becoming stop-gap president to fill in the void left by his ousted predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa mid-July, Wickremesinghe’s efforts to form a government of unity has failed. “Some parties say that they will not join an all-party government due to action by the government which they cannot condone. Others express a reluctance to join due to their opposition to the policies,” he said.