Sri Lanka economic crisis: President Gotabaya will not resign despite protests, minister tells Parliament

  • "As a government, we are clearly saying the president will not resign under any circumstances. We will face this," Fernando added.
People shout slogans against Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and demand that Rajapaksa family politicians step down, during a protest amid the country's economic crisis, at Independence Square in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (REUTERS)
People shout slogans against Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and demand that Rajapaksa family politicians step down, during a protest amid the country's economic crisis, at Independence Square in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (REUTERS)
Published on Apr 06, 2022 12:42 PM IST
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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will not resign from his post despite the countrywide protests calling for the leader to step down over his handling of the ongoing economic crisis, minister Johnston Fernando told the Parliament on Wednesday. "May I remind you that 6.9 million people voted for the president," said the chief government whip and highways minister in Parliament amid outrage by the opposition in the Sri Lankan Parliament, according to news agency Reuters.

"As a government, we are clearly saying the president will not resign under any circumstances. We will face this," Fernando added.

The island nation is in the midst of a severe economic crisis, leading to fuel shortages, power cuts of 13 hours and spiralling inflation. People across the country have taken to the street calling on their President to resign from the presidency, saying that the ruler's mismanagement of the crisis made it worse.

From beachside towns in the south to the Tamil-speaking north, more than 100 demonstrations have broken out across the island nation since last week, according to the WatchDog research collective.

Calls to resign were also echoed in parliament with 42 lawmakers from the ruling coalition saying they will become independents, leaving Rajapaksa’s government with less than 113 needed to maintain a simple majority.

On Tuesday, the President revoked a state of emergency within days of imposing it as the escalating political crisis makes it tougher for Sri Lanka to agree to a much-needed financial bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The proclamation that took effect April 1 is repealed as of midnight April 5, Rajapaksa announced on late Tuesday.

How did the situation get so bad?

Historically, Sri Lanka has had weak finances where expenditure has exceeded income. Some critics say that frailty was compounded when Mahindra, brother of Gotabaya Rajapksa, enacted deep tax cuts soon after taking office in 2020. The situation went further downhill after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country further, devastating its tourism-reliant economy.

During this period, the government declined help from the IMF for months despite vocal appeals from some experts and opposition leaders, leaving foreign exchange reserves perilously low.

They stood at around $2.31 billion as of February, while Sri Lanka faces debt payments of around $4 billion during the rest of this year, according to Reuters.

It is now set to resume talks with the IMF this month as the government shifted its stance amid the crisis.

(With agency inputs)

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