Sri Lanka crisis updates | Ranil Wickremesinghe elected President in crucial Parliament vote

Here are all the latest updates on the ongoing political and economic crisis in Sri Lanka

July 20, 2022 09:43 am | Updated 05:46 pm IST

Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected the President of Sri Lanka on July 20, 2022, as Sri Lanka battles its worst economic crisis. File

Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected the President of Sri Lanka on July 20, 2022, as Sri Lanka battles its worst economic crisis. File | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected the President of Sri Lanka in a crucial Parliament vote on Wednesday. Mr. Wickremesinghe polled 134 votes as opposed to 82 votes for his main opponent Dullas Alahapperuma, official results showed.

The voting by secret ballot took place amidst tight security in the wake of the simmering tensions in the island nation 223 lawmakers voted while two MPs abstained. Four votes were rejected while 219 were declared valid.

Earlier, the Sri Lankan Parliament on Wednesday began voting to elect the successor to Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a three-way presidential contest, following a high-voltage political drama which saw the former President fleeing the country and resigning after a popular uprising against his government for mismanaging the economy.

Amid public unrest due to the unprecedented economic crisis followed by a political turmoil in the country, a senior Indian government official posted in Sri Lanka sustained grievous injuries in an unprovoked assault, the Indian High Commission said on Tuesday as it urged its nationals to remain aware of the latest developments in the island nation and plan their movements and activities accordingly.

Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe; the formerly Rajapaksa-aligned, and now independent Dullas Alahapperuma; and the leftist Anura Kumara Dissanayake were on Tuesday nominated by parties in Parliament, a day ahead of the poll through a secret ballot.

Editorial | Fleeing, quitting: On the decline and fall of Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The Government of India, which held an all-party meeting on the crisis in the neighbourhood, said that “fiscal prudence and responsible governance” are the lessons the country has to learn from the crisis in the neighbouring country and that there should not be a “culture of freebies”. While supporting the government’s moves to help Sri Lanka, the Opposition took objection to a presentation by officials that sought to show a comparison of the economic situation in various Indian States.

Opinion | A revolt that could turn into a revolution

Here are the latest update:

3 p.m.

India promises continued support to Sri Lanka

The Indian envoy in Sri Lanka acknowledged the election of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the President of Sri Lanka and promised continued support for ‘stability and economic recovery through democratic values’.

12:40 p.m.

Ranil Wickremesinghe elected President of Sri Lanka in crucial Parliament vote

Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected the President of Sri Lanka in a crucial Parliament vote. It is the first time presidency for the six-time Premier, as Sri Lanka battles an economic crisis.

The 73-year-old six-time prime minister secured 134 votes in the 225-member House while his nearest rival and dissident ruling party leader Dullas Alahapperuma got 82. Leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake secured just three votes.

The new President will have a mandate to serve out the rest of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in November 2024.

Earlier, the voting by secret ballot took place amidst tight security in the wake of the simmering tensions in the island nation triggered by the unprecedented economic and political crisis. In the crucial election, 223 lawmakers voted while two MPs abstained. Four votes were rejected while 219 were declared valid.

This is for the first time in 44 years that Sri Lanka’s Parliament has directly elected a president. Presidential elections in 1982, 1988, 1994, 1999, 2005, 2010, 2015, and 2019 had elected them by popular vote. - PTI

10.15 a.m.

Voting begins to elect Sri Lanka’s new President in three-cornered contest

The Sri Lankan Parliament on Wednesday began voting to elect the successor to Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a three-way presidential contest, following a high-voltage political drama which saw the former President fleeing the country and resigning after a popular uprising against his government for mismanaging the economy.

The voting by secret ballot is taking place amidst tight security in the wake of the simmering tensions in the island nation triggered by the unprecedented economic and political crisis. Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Dullas Alahapperuma, a dissident ruling party MP backed by the main opposition, and leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake were proposed by lawmakers on Tuesday as the three candidates for the presidential election.

A candidate has to cross the magical figure of 113 in the 225-member House to win the election. - PTI

9.55 a.m.

Indian official assaulted in Sri Lanka

A senior Indian government official posted in Sri Lanka sustained grievous injuries in an unprovoked assault, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said on Tuesday as it urged its nationals to remain aware of the latest developments in the island nation and plan their movements and activities accordingly.

"In the current situation, #Indian nationals in #SriLanka are requested to remain aware of latest developments and accordingly plan their movements and activities. You may contact us when required," it said.

In another tweet, the High Commission said its officials in the morning met "Vivek Varma, an Indian national and Director of Indian Visa Centre, who sustained grievous injuries in an unprovoked assault last night near Colombo". The matter has been brought to the attention of the Sri Lankan authorities, it said. — PTI

July 19

Over 4,000 books gutted, 125-year-old piano damaged: Sri Lankan acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe on arson attack on his private residence

Sri Lanka’s acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that much of the contents in his private residence in Colombo were not salvageable after a group of irate anti-government protesters torched it on July 9, destroying his 125-year-old piano and more than 4,000 books, some of them centuries-old.

In remarkable scenes of a country in meltdown, anti-government protesters set Mr. Wickremesinghe’s private residence at Cambridge Place on fire, hours after they stormed the President’s House and other key buildings.

Mr. Wickremesinghe said he respects the rights of the protesters to peacefully undertake their demonstrations, but he asserted that he will not allow another government building like the Presidential Palace or the Prime Minister’s private residence to be occupied.

July 19

Seven more Sri Lankan Tamils reach Dhanushkodi

Two families, comprising seven persons, from Sri Lanka’s Jaffna and Trincomalee districts reached Rameswaram by illegal vessels in the early hours of Tuesday.

An Indian Coast Guard patrol brought them to the shores and handed them over to the Marine Police. Preliminary inquiries revealed that the two families had paid ₹1 lakh each to the fishermen in Sri Lanka and reached Indian waters at Arichalmunai around 3 a.m.

Speaking to reporters, the Sri Lankans said they had been jobless for the last two months. Their small savings helped them buy food till last week. They almost starved as essentials were unavailable in their localities. With no job and no clue to when the economic crisis in the island nation would get over, they decided to reach India.

July 19

A voice of reason during Sri Lanka’s crisis

In the midst of an economic collapse, Sri Lanka witnessed unprecedented mass resistance, leading to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation last week. During these months, there has been a barrage of expert political commentary and economic analysis. But one voice stood out.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), a professional body of lawyers, emerged as the chief advocate of citizens’ freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, intervening swiftly and firmly when it mattered the most. Be it when a row of police trucks suddenly lined up near the iconic agitation site in capital Colombo in April, or when ruling party supporters assaulted peaceful protesters in May, or when a soldier was recorded assaulting a civilian queuing at a petrol shed earlier this month.

The BASL did not formally identify with the people’s struggle, nor unconditionally support it. But through speedy and staunch defence of citizens’ civil liberties, amidst police curfews and state violence, this professional body provided vital external strength to the protest movement.

July 19

Sri Lanka to witness three-way contest for Presidency

The Rajapaksas’ Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Front) dominates the legislature with well over 100 seats. But some of its legislators have more recently been sitting “independently” in the House, apparently distancing themselves from the Rajapaksa clan and their party, widely discredited during Sri Lanka’s devastating economic crisis.

The party appears divided on its preferred Presidential candidate as Mr. Gotabaya’s successor. Its general secretary Sagara Kariyawasam recently announced that the SLPP would back Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, while chairman G.L. Peiris has pledged support for Dullas Alahapperuma, who was earlier with the Rajapaksa camp. While political sources indicate that the Rajapaksa family is firmly backing Mr. Wickremesinghe, it remains to be seen how members of their party might vote.

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