Sri Lanka crisis: PM Wickremesinghe says willing to resign, make way for new government
Local media reported that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had informed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that he would respect the decision taken at the party leaders' meeting.
Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday told political leaders he was willing to step down and make way for a new government after party leaders in Parliament demanded both he and the embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa step down on the day protesters stormed the president's residence and office.
The prime minister’s spokesman, Dinouk Colambage, said Wickremesinghe told party leaders that he will resign when all parties have agreed on forming a new government.
Taking to Twitter, Wickremesinghe said, “To ensure the continuation of the Government including the safety of all citizens I accept the best recommendation of the Party Leaders today, to make way for an All-Party Government. To facilitate this I will resign as Prime Minister.”
Wickremesinghe took the decision as fuel distribution will recommence and the debt sustainability report for the International Monetary Fund was due to be finalised shortly, according to a statement from his media office.
Party leaders in Sri Lanka at a meeting, chaired by the Parliament Speaker, reportedly requested Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe to step down following months of economic decline and popular unrest that culminated in the storming of the presidential palace and office by anti-government demonstrators.
Earlier, Wickremesinghe held initial talks with some party leaders before the parliament Speaker chaired a meeting to decide on the next steps to resolve the crisis in Sri Lanka.
Local media reported that Rajapaksa had informed Wickremesinghe that he would respect the decision taken at the party leaders' meeting.
Embattled President Rajapaksa’s whereabouts was not known after he was moved out of his residence on Friday ahead of Saturday's protests during which thousands of irate anti-government protesters stormed into his official residence in Colombo.
A group of lawmakers from the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna have written to Rajapaksa to step aside and provide an opportunity for another leader to take over with a clear parliament majority, the party’s general secretary Sagara Kariyawasam said. Local media reported at least 16 lawmakers had signed the letter.
Sri Lanka’s influential lawyers’ body also questioned embattled Rajapaksa’s ability to function and remain in power after thousands of irate anti-government protesters stormed into his official residence.
At least 30 people, including two policemen, were injured in clashes between security personnel and protesters – some of them holding Sri Lankan flags and helmets.
Rajapaksa, who was facing calls for resignation since March, was using the President’s House as his residence and office since protesters came to occupy the entrance to his office in early April.
“The Bar Association of Sri Lanka calls upon President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to consider whether he can continue to fulfill his obligations and the powers and duties as the President of Sri Lanka any longer,” web portal Lanka First reported, citing the Bar Association’s statement on Saturday.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, crippled by an acute shortage of foreign exchange that has left it struggling to pay for essential imports of fuel, and other essentials.