Protests in Sri Lanka for political change set to continue, says new prime minister
In an unusual move, Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has given public support to protesters, who have been camping at a popular beach here for more than a month, calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for mishandling the country’s worst economic crisis.
The prime minister said on Saturday he had appointed a committee to look after the interests of protesters from the “Gota Go Home” village who have been camping at Galle Face Green in Colombo since April 9.
Wickremesinghe, who was appointed prime minister by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after asking his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign, said young protesters in the village would be protected and their opinions sought in shaping future policy.
In an interview with the BBC Sinhala Service, the prime minister said the ‘Gota Go Gama’ protest should continue to bring about a change in the country’s political system and let the country’s youth take responsibility for leadership.
Wickremesinghe, the 73-year-old United National Party (UNP) leader, was named Sri Lanka’s 26th prime minister on Thursday as the country had been without a government since Monday when Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after violence erupted following of an attack on anti -government protesters by his supporters.
The attack sparked widespread violence against Rajapaksa loyalists, killing nine people and injuring over 200 others.
Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Party (SLPP) has thrown its weight behind Wickremesinghe and nearly all parties represented in the 225-member parliament have said that while they will not be part of Wickremesinghe’s government, they will support him in his efforts. to pull Sri Lanka out of the current economic crisis.
Political sources said two more ministers were to be appointed to the caretaker cabinet on Sunday. Rajapaksa named four on Saturday. At least 78 parliamentarians, including former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, had faced arson attacks on their private properties during the May 9 unrest.
At the meeting of the government parliamentary group held on Saturday, attendance was low as parliamentarians still fear for their lives despite the imposition of the curfew.
Those present blamed the Inspector General of Police for what they called “police inaction” to prevent the arson attacks on the properties of government parliamentarians.
Sri Lanka is going through the worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948.
A crippling shortage of foreign exchange reserves has led to long queues for fuel, cooking gas and other necessities, while power cuts and soaring food prices have deepened misery Population.
The economic crisis has also triggered a political crisis in Sri Lanka and a demand for the resignation of the powerful Rajapaksas.
President Rajapaksa sacked his cabinet and appointed a younger cabinet in response to demands for his resignation. A continuous demonstration in front of its secretariat has now lasted for more than a month.
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