Rajapaksa says country in ‘good hands’ with Wickremesinghe as president
Ranil Wickremesinghe who took over the country as the acting president after former president Gotabaya resigned, was sworn in as the eighth president of Sri Lanka on Thursday.
Wickremesinghe was elected president following a vote in parliament earlier this week.
This is the first time in Sri Lanka’s political history that a vote took place in parliament to elect a succeeding president after Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to resigned on 14 July by throngs of protesters demanding fuel and a reduction in the cost of living.
Protesters are continuing to demand the resignation of Wickremesinghe stating that he has no mandate by the public as he could not even secure a parliamentary seat after his defeat at the previous election
In a similar incident in 1993 following the demise of former president Ranasinghe Premadasa, DB Wijetunga was elected president unanimously without parliament resorting to a poll and without any contest.
This time around the names of three members of parliament were proposed and seconded in the parliament on Tuesday for the presidency and the names of acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe, member of parliament representing the SLPP Dullas Alahapperuma and member of parliament Anura Kumara Dissanayake representing the JVP were proposed.
The election of Wickremesinghe as President is seen as complicating matters more than solving them, as he is increasingly seen as an agent of the Rajapaksas and appointed by them. Mahinda Rajapaksa was quoted in the Sinhala print media Thursday as saying that the country is now in “good hands” and that he is confident that Wickremesinghe will lead the island nation out of economic hardship. The same Rajapaksa in the 2019 presidential election had lambasted Wickremesinghe for the central bank bond scam and inefficiency, accusing him of being an abject failure as prime minister. Mahinda Rajapaksa and brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa drifted apart soon after Gotabaya won the presidency and Gotabaya is believed to have increasingly sidelined Mahinda in decision making.
Protesters are continuing to demand the resignation of Wickremesinghe stating that he has no mandate by the public as he could not even secure a parliamentary seat after his defeat at the previous election and hence totally rejected by the people.
In a counter argument independent analysts are putting forward the generally unpopular question that if this is so then similarly that there is no constitutional justification to have insisted on the removal of Gotabaya who won with a resounding victory in the 2019 November presidential election. Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is seen by some to be linked to the global food and cost of living issues that are cropping up in Western and South Asian regions.
However protests, organised by many independent groups and some who are politically linked, had placed the entire blame on the corruption and wastage of public funds by the Rajapaksa family rule.
Analysts state however that Wickremesinghe cannot escape blame for his contribution to the current economic crisis because it is during his tenure as prime minister that the central bank bond scam in 2015 was carried out, just a month after the UNP regime was sworn in. In the scam Sri Lanka lost more than one million USD. Arjuna Mahendran, the head of the central bank appointed by Wickremesinghe and who had been the mastermind of the scam is still at large overseas although both the Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa regime had claimed to bring about justice.
Meanwhile Thursday Wickremesinghe declared that the occupying of the President’s House, Prime Minister’s office ‘under the guise’ engaging in a people’s protest is illegal and that legal action will be taken.
Meanwhile the Colombo Fort Magistrate issued an arrest warrant against Inter University Student Federation (IUSF) convenor, Wasantha Mudalige for failing to appear in court for a case connected to a protest in the year 2021. The Student Federation is linked to the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), a breakaway of the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party which tactically supported the protests.
The protestors have vowed to get rid of Wickremesinghe in weeks stating that it is an abomination of democracy for him to replace the Rajapaksas. Thursday saw the further increase in the cost of living as the railway fares were pushed up and food prices continued to soar.
Meanwhile the current central bank governor, Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, stated Thursday that in five months Sri Lanka could expect to rise from the current crisis of the path that he has chartered to come out of the morass Sri Lanka is in. The IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva in a statement issued from Japan has stated that the IMF hopes to complete rescue talks with Sri Lanka ‘as quickly as possible.’
Analysts however state that an IMF bailout will further impact the people negatively as austerities suggested by them will have to be borne by the tax payers of the country.