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Sri Lanka’s opposition hopes to install a new government amid turmoil

COLOMBO – Sri Lanka’s opposition political parties will meet on Sunday to agree on a new government, a day after the country’s president and prime minister offered to resign in the country’s most chaotic day in months of political turmoil, as protesters stormed at the homes of the two officials and set fire to one of the buildings in a rage over the nation’s economic crisis.

Protesters who stormed the president’s official residence, his office and the prime minister’s official residence on Saturday spent the night there, saying they would stay until the leaders formally resigned.

Opposition lawmaker MA Sumanthiran said all opposition parties together could easily muster the required 113 members to show a majority in parliament, after which they would ask President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to appoint the new government and then resign.

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He said the parties hoped to reach a consensus on Sunday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would step down after a new government was formed, and hours later the speaker of parliament said Rajapaksa would resign on Wednesday. The pressure on the two men had increased as the economic collapse caused acute shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to get food, fuel and other essentials.

If both the president and the prime minister resign, President Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena will take over as interim president, according to the constitution.

Thousands of protesters poured into the capital Colombo on Saturday and rushed Rajapaksa’s fortified residence. Video and photos show jubilant crowds splashing in the garden pool, lying on beds and using their cellphone cameras to capture the moment. Some made tea or used the gym, while others issued statements from a conference room demanding that the president and prime minister leave.

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It was unclear whether Rajapaksa was there at the time, and government spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said he had no information about the president’s movements.

Although both Wickremesinghe and Abeywardena said in their statements that they had spoken to the President, they did not say anything about his whereabouts.

Protesters later stormed the prime minister’s private residence and set it on fire, Wickremesinghe’s office said. It is not clear if he was there when the break-in took place, and the prime minister’s spokesman could not be reached for comment.

The country is relying on aid from India and other nations as leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. Wickremesinghe said recently that negotiations with the IMF were complicated because Sri Lanka was now a bankrupt country.

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Sri Lanka announced in April that it was suspending foreign loan payments due to a shortage of foreign currency. Its total foreign debt stands at $51 billion, of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027.

Months of demonstrations have nearly brought down the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades but is accused by protesters of mismanagement and corruption. The president’s older brother resigned as prime minister in May after violent protests forced him to seek safety at a naval base.

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Sri Lanka’s opposition hopes to install a new government amid turmoil

Source link Sri Lanka’s opposition hopes to install a new government amid turmoil

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