Sri Lanka losing dollars on every second of stir, says PM Rajapaksa

Updated on Apr 12, 2022 01:31 AM IST

The pre-scheduled address to the nation had sparked speculation that Rajapaksa would resign to make room for his brother -- President Gotabaya Rajapaksa -- to appoint a premier more palatable to the opposition.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa(HT PHOTO/File)
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa(HT PHOTO/File)
Agencies | , Colombo

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa retained his family’s defiant tone in the face of mounting protests, leaning on his success in ending the nation’s bloody civil war to seek patience from citizens as prices surge and shortages worsen.

In a televised speech Monday, Rajapaksa — who’s credited with a military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTT) in 2009 that ended the 26-year separatist conflict — said demonstrators yelling slogans against inflation and electricity outages can do so only because of the efforts of the war heroes.

“We did not end the war to bring people to suffering like this,” Rajapaksa said, adding that while Sri Lanka is falling “into a deep trench” his government will offer solutions.

The pre-scheduled address to the nation had sparked speculation that Rajapaksa would resign to make room for his brother -- President Gotabaya Rajapaksa -- to appoint a premier more palatable to the opposition. Instead, the six-minute speech attacked the opposition for refusing to work with the government and accused it of indulging in petty politics.

Mahinda said that the government is working round-the-clock to overcome the economic crisis.

In his first public appearance since countrywide protests began demanding the resignation of the President and the entire Rakapaksa family, he appealed to the protesters to end their anti-government agitation and said that every minute spent on streets deprives the country of dollar inflow.

“The government is spending every second of the day to resolve this problem. My family is being slandered, we can tolerate it,” Mahinda said.

He said the protesters were demanding to send home the entire 225 parliamentarians. “It will be dangerous to reject Parliament,” he said.

In a bid to blame the Opposition Janatha Vikmuthi Peramuna (JVP) party for the protests, Mahinda recalled the JVP rebellions in the 70s and 80s.

He said that his government had built roads, ports and infrastructure not to keep the people on the streets protesting.

His speech came as a flurry of political activities took place to end the economic crisis and the political impasse.

The main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) said that they have begun the process to move an NCM against the government on its mishandling of the economy.

The anti-government protests, which started on Saturday, continued to its third day on Monday.

Sri Lanka’s cabinet resigned en masse last week and the opposition parties have declined to form an all-party government until parliament abolishes some of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s wide-ranging executive powers. The political vacuum is making it harder to negotiate a much-needed bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

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