Colombo: While defending the embattled leader’s controversial decisions, amid massive popular protests calling for his resignation over the country’s worst economic crisis, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will not resign, his cabinet chief told parliament on Wednesday.
Sri Lankans have protested for weeks against prolonged power cuts and shortages of gas, food and other basic goods. Public anger prompted almost all ministers to resign and dozens of lawmakers to leave Rajapaksa’s government.
Speaking in Parliament, the government’s whip Prime Minister Johnston Fernando said the government would face this problem and there was no reason for the president to resign because he had been elected to office.
“As a responsible government, we say that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will not resign under any circumstances,” Fernando said.
Alleging that the opposition Janata Vimukthi Peramunawas Party (JVP) was behind the violence in the country, Fernando said such “bullying policies” should not be allowed and called on people to end the violence.
He said the government will continue to work to address the issues the public is facing at present, Colombo Page reported. Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1948.
Read also: Sri Lankan president’s grip on power weakens as dissidents plot to quit government
The government also defended the president’s decision to impose a state of emergency, which gave him comprehensive authority to act in the interest of public security and maintain public order, including suspending any laws, and allowing detention and seizure of property, saying it was declared after attempts. To attack the president’s office and other public property.
Rajapaksa, 72, declared a state of emergency last week after protesters demonstrated near his home in Colombo. Late Tuesday night, the president rescinded the state of emergency after massive popular protests demanded his resignation.
The president and his older brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, continue to hold the reins of power in Sri Lanka, even though their politically powerful family has been the focus of public ire.
On Tuesday, a verbal clash took place in Parliament between the ruling party and members of the opposition when they had a discussion on the current crisis in Sri Lanka.
The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) also carried banners in Parliament during the debate.
The opposition questioned the state of emergency imposed and later lifted by the president and also insisted that the president step down.
Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Office said on Tuesday it is closely following developments in Sri Lanka and urged the authorities to engage in meaningful dialogue with political parties and civil society to find a solution to the deepening economic crisis, Colombo Page reported.
Public frustration has escalated in recent months with largely peaceful demonstrations across the country, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Lise Throssell, said, and the situation has worsened over the past two weeks amid sudden shortages of fuel, cooking gas and gas fuel. Some staples, as well as power outages.
The spokeswoman said the HRO is concerned about the measures taken by the government to declare a state of emergency, curfews, internet bans and police violence against protesters.
“We are concerned that these measures are intended to prevent or discourage people from legitimately expressing their grievances through peaceful protests, and that they frustrate the exchange of views on matters of public interest,” she said.
Economists have warned that the country will plunge into more serious economic and political crises by the end of May. “We have been hit by two crises, economic and political,” said Professor Janak Kumarasinghe.
He said both crises need urgent solutions to prevent further disasters. President Rajapaksa is still struggling to appoint a cabinet as none of the political parties have responded positively to his offer to form a national unity government to tackle the crisis.
He appointed only four ministers, and one of them, the new finance minister, resigned after less than 24 hours in office.
The Ministry of Finance without a minister and its chief of staff with the resignation of incumbent SR Attygalle. After the 2019 Sri Lankan elections, the Rajapaksa family kept several positions in the government under their control.
While President Rajapaksa holds the powerful executive presidency, his older brother Mahinda, a former president, is the current prime minister. Basil took over the Ministry of Finance, and Mahinda’s son, son, and heir was Minister of Youth and Sports.
India recently announced the extension of a $1 billion credit line to Sri Lanka as part of its financial assistance to the country to deal with the economic crisis after an earlier $500 billion credit line in February to help it purchase petroleum products.
During his recent visit to Colombo, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar India’s continued support in Sri Lanka’s economic recovery process.
President Rajapaksa has defended his government’s actions, saying that the foreign exchange crisis was not of his making and that the economic slowdown was a pandemic driven in large part by tourism revenues in the island nation and a decline in internal remittances.
Also read: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa cancels state of emergency as protests spread
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