BusinessDay

Sri Lanka MPs confirm Ranil Wickremesinghe as president

... civil unrest likely to continue

Civil unrest is likely to continue in Sri Lanka as members of parliament confirm Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s new president.

The MPs’ confirmation comes amid calls by protesters for a major overhaul of the political system that has seen the once Tamil militia-troubled country nose dive into one of its worst economic crises since independence from Great Britain in 1948.

Results from the polls carried out on Wednesday showed that he defeated his closest rival, Dullus Alahapperuma, by 52 votes, clinching 134 votes against the 82 recorded by Alahapperuma.

The BBC reported that despite his unpopularity, the MPs still went ahead and elected him as the new president of the country.

He takes over a seemingly failed country from the ousted president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, which is struggling to deal with rising food and energy cost crises, amongst numerous other challenges.

As Reuters once reported, “Sri Lanka is effectively bankrupt and facing acute shortages of food, fuel, and other basic supplies.”

Read also: Sri Lankan crisis: An opportunity for Nigeria to examine its realities

In the heat of the crisis, protesters stormed both the president’s and the then prime minister’s offices, calling for both of them to resign.

That call for his resignation forced Rajapaksa to resign from office, following which he fled to Singapore for shelter, while Wickremesinghe stayed put to assume the role of president of the country.

The primary objective of Ranil Wickremesinghe will be to restore public order and build confidence in the hearts and minds of the people.

Secondly, he will most definitely pay attention to addressing the root cause of the economic crisis, which is not far from the impact the Russia-Ukraine war is having on the global food supply and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president had said that he hoped to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a possible bailout package after restoring political stability.

In his acceptance speech, Wickremesinghe told parliament that Sri Lanka was “in a very difficult situation”, adding that “we have big challenges ahead”.

Unfortunately, Aljazeera reported that some members of the parliament who are loyal to the Rajapaksa family may provide stiff opposition to Wickremesinghe’s call for a unity government. Even at that, many still view him as a part of the political elite who has mismanaged the finances of the country.

Wickremesinghe, an old timer, has been in Sri Lankan politics for over 45 years.

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