Sri Lanka's PM Wickremesinghe wants close relations with India

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Colombo
  • Updated: Aug 19, 2015 20:38 IST
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe looks on during a rally in Galle during his campaign for the Sri Lankan parliamentary elections scheduled on August 17. (AFP photo/Ishara S Kodikara)

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday said that Sri Lanka was keen to have good relations with India, indicating that the new government will attempt to balance the past regime’s China-centric foreign policy.

“It’s a new chapter in Sri Lankan politics itself. Therefore, we should have close relations with India,” Wickremesinghe said at his first interaction with the media after his United National Party (UNP) won Monday’s general election by defeating former Mahinda Rajapaksa-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

He was accompanied at the press interaction by his wife, Maithri Wickremesinghe, professor of English at the Kelaniya University.

“I have a vision for the country as a whole which includes its overseas as well as its internal policies,” he said when asked about building new relations with India.

On the ongoing China-funded projects in Sri Lanka, Wickremesinghe, 66, said the projects were under review.

“We are reviewing it (the projects). We have restarted some of them. We will decide on the others. The process is on," he said.

He deflected a question on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India which has been stalled since 2008.

“I have won election not on CEPA or China-agreement or anything else,” he said.

Wickremesinghe is likely to sworn in as PM this week.

According to the final tally, the UNP has won 106 seats in the 225-member Parliament.

Though the tally falls short of the simple majority on 113, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which won a crucial 16 seats, has pledged issue based support to the government.

“We will sit in the opposition but extend support to the government,” TNA lawmaker Dharmalingam Sithadthan told AFP, adding: “It will be issue-based support, but we think we can work with the PM.”

Wickremesinghe is also backed by an MP from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress party.

“I want everyone to come together now, think of the country, think of the people,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We can achieve unity in this country. I don't think anyone can opt out. No one can go back to divisive politics. We will not allow that,” he said.

“Will Rajapaksa function as the opposition leader? He is a master at opposing, and under his leadership the 80 something Parliamentarians can become a serious headache to both President Maithripala Sirisena and the PM. They will oppose every piece of legislation. If Rajapaksa is too dispirited to continue, his faction might just fall apart, not all at once, but with time,” political commentator, Tisaranee Gunasekara told HT.

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