‘Gotabaya has no reason to resign’

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa “has no reason” to resign, the chief government whip told Parliament on Wednesday, as citizens’ protests expand, with state-sector workers too demanding his resignation.

“The President has been given a mandate by 6.9 million voters. He does not need to resign, ”said Johnston Fernando, who was among the four ministers that Gotabaya recently re-appointed to a“ new Cabinet ”, after members of the old Cabinet resigned en-masse.

Economists panel

In his first initiative yet to address the economic crisis after citizens’ protests erupted, President Gotabaya on Wednesday appointed a panel of eminent Sri Lankan economists to advise him on debt restructuring and recovery, a statement said. Members of the ‘Presidential Advisory Group on Multilateral Engagement and Debt Sustainability’ include Indrajit Coomaraswamy, Former Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka; Shanta Devarajan, Former Chief Economist with the World Bank; and Sharmini Coorey, a Former Deputy Director at the IMF, the Presidential Media Division said.

The ruling Rajapaksa clan faces unprecedented public criticism as Sri Lanka battles its worst economic downturns.

Gotabaya’s government lost its majority in Parliament on Tuesday, as over 40 MPs from his party and its coalition partners sat separately, distancing themselves from the unpopular administration.

As agitations spread, President Gotabaya responded by imposing an Emergency, curfew, and banning social media last weekend – moves that his critics see as targeting dissent. Protestors defied the curfew, while the ban on social media was removed in a less than a day following a backlash. On Tuesday, Gotabaya revoked the Emergency, hours after the Opposition challenged him to a parliamentary vote on it.

Meanwhile, the political impasse triggered by the cabinet resignations persists, with the country left with just the President, the PM and three cabinet ministers, after one of them resigned within a day. The opposition has rejected Gotabaya’s offer to form a national cabinet and is reluctant to form a caretaker government during his presidency.

The Parliament convened on Wednesday to debate the crisis. Commencing the debate, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said, “Sri Lanka is facing the worst economic crisis in history, but it is just the beginning.” As citizens face hardships owing to the stifling shortages, he said experts have warned of a severe food shortage in the country. “The food, gas and electricity shortages will get worse. There will be acute food shortages and starvation, ”he said, urging parliamentarians to set aside political differences and respond collectively.

(Meera Srinivasan is The Hindu Correspondent in Colombo)

Published on

April 06, 2022

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