Sri Lankan President vows to cede authority in order to 'prevent the country from descending into anarchy'

Sri Lankan Army Commando Regiment officer stands in front of a burned vehicle on a street during a curfew in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Photo: Bloomberg via Sydney Morning Herald)

Sri Lanka's president has pledged to appoint a new prime minister, empower parliament, and eliminate the all-powerful executive presidential system to stabilize a nation immersed in violence caused by one of the most severe economic crises.

In a broadcast address, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa condemned attacks on peaceful protestors by mobs who came to support his brother and former prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned on Monday without taking sides.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated, "I am taking steps to appoint within this week a new prime minister who has the confidence of a majority in Parliament, who can win the confidence of the people, and a new Cabinet to control the current situation, to prevent the country from descending into anarchy, and to continue the government's stalled functions."

"I will make way for the new prime minister to present and implement a new work program."

Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated that he would cede a substantial portion of his authority to parliament.

Authorities stationed armored vehicles and troops in the capital's streets on the day of the president's speech. Two days after, pro-government mobs beat peaceful protestors and sparked a wave of violence.

As intermittent acts of burning and vandalism continued despite enacting a stringent national curfew on Monday evening, security officers were ordered to shoot individuals judged to be engaging in the violence.

Protesters opposed to the administration have demanded the resignations of President Rajapaksa and his brother as a result of a debt crisis that has nearly bankrupted Sri Lanka and caused significant shortages of petrol, food, and other necessities. In the previous few days, nine people have been killed, and more than two hundred have been injured due to violent attacks in which crowds set fire to houses and vehicles.

Some protestors defied the curfew and reunited in front of the president's office to resume almost a month-long rally. The police announced over loudspeakers that staying in public during the curfew is prohibited.

In response to fears that a political vacuum could pave the way for a military takeover, social media videos depicted lines of military trucks leaving the city and soldiers riding motorcycles and establishing checkpoints across the country.

At a news conference with the country's army and naval chiefs, the top officer of the Defence Ministry, Kamal Gunaratne, rejected rumors of a military takeover.

"None of our officers are interested in seizing control of the government. It has never occurred in our nation, and it is difficult to accomplish here," Gunaratne added. President Rajapaksa is a former army officer who continues to serve as the country's defense minister.

The prime minister's departure has resulted in an administrative void and the automatic dissolution of the cabinet.

The former prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is being protected at a navy facility in Trincomalee on the northeastern coast, according to Navy commander Nishantha Ulugetenne.

After Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned, he and his family were evacuated from his official mansion, which was tightly guarded and surrounded by thousands of demonstrators.

The Indian Embassy disputed rumors on social media that "certain political figures and their families have fled to India" and rumors that India is sending troops to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is on the verge of insolvency and has delayed payments on $US7 billion in foreign loans this year, out of $US25 billion due by 2026. Its total external debt is valued at $51 billion.

Wednesday, the Central Bank urged the president and parliament to swiftly restore political stability, warning that the economy would collapse.

"Even to progress debt reorganization, we need a stable form of government. It is necessary to have a Cabinet, a Parliament, a prime minister, and a finance minister, according to Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe.

Without such an administration, it is tough for us to advance.

Publish : 2022-05-12 13:39:00

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