Gotabaya appoints Ranil as Sri Lanka Prime Minister

May 13, 2022 12:00 am | Updated 05:41 am IST - Colombo

Premadasa too offers to form govt. if President resigns

Ranil Wickremesinghe, left, taking oath as the Prime Minister before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo.AFPAFP

Ranil Wickremesinghe, left, taking oath as the Prime Minister before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo.AFPAFP

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday appointed former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe as Premier, in a bid to restore stability in the island nation in the midst of a political impasse and stifling economic crisis.

This is the sixth time Mr. Wickremesinghe, 73, has been appointed to the office — he has never finished a full term — and will have the task of arresting the devastating impact of the island’s economic downturn, that too under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is fiercely detested by disgruntled citizens demanding his resignation.

Mr. Gotabaya’s older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister on Monday, hours after his supporters violently attacked anti-government protesters.

Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) was decimated in the 2020 general polls, in which the Rajapaksas secured a two-thirds majority. Mr. Wickremesinghe is currently the only Member of Parliament from his party. Although he lost the 2020 general elections, the UNP nominated him to the legislature on the national list, through Sri Lanka’s proportional representation system that allocates political parties a certain number of seats based on total votes polled.

Just ahead of the 2020 poll, Mr. Wickremesinghe’s former deputy Sajith Premadasa broke away from the UNP and formed the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB or United People’s Force), the main Opposition party now.

Mr. Wickremesinghe’s majority in Parliament is contingent on substantial support from the ruling party. Most of its members have promised to back him, according to political sources.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa too said he was willing to form a new government if the President committed to stepping down within “a minimum time frame”. Mr. Premadasa made his offer conditional, seeking new laws to strengthen Parliament and abolish Executive Presidency.

Mr. Mahinda was one of the first leaders to wish Mr. Wickremesinghe.

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