Sri Lanka’s political crisis should end with snap election: Nanayakkara

PTI, Apr 6, 2022, 11:19 AM IST

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Sri Lanka’s ongoing political turmoil triggered by the country’s unprecedented economic crisis can be ended with a snap election, veteran left-wing politician Vasudeva Nanayakkara said on Wednesday, emphasizing that there must be a government with everyone participating in it for at least 6 months before the polls are held.

Democratic Left Front politician Nanayakkara was among the 42 members who declared independence in Parliament from the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) coalition.

”This government cannot move forward now. There must be a government with everyone participating for at least 6 months and then have an election,” Nanayakkara said.

He, however, ruled out joining hands with the opposition groups.

While the Parliament meets on Wednesday to have a debate on the current political crisis, the ruling coalition officials said there could be more loss to the ruling party in terms of numbers.

The ruling coalition, which had won 150 seats in the 2020 general elections and went on to increase its numbers through defections from the Opposition, lost the support of 42 MPs.

The names of the 42 lawmakers to leave the coalition were announced by party leaders in Parliament.

They have now become independent members, leaving President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government with fewer than the 113 members needed to maintain a majority in the 225-member house.

The government, however, claimed that it commands a simple majority.

Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in history. With long lines for fuel, cooking gas, essentials in short supply and long hours of power cuts, the public has been suffering for months.

Despite the declaration of a state of emergency and a weekend curfew, people joined the protests calling for the resignation of Rajapaksa throughout the island nation on Tuesday. Protesters even blocked the access roads to parliament.

The protests took place in all parts with a large crowd thronging opposite the prime minister’s official residence here.

Meanwhile, 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 responded positively to his offer to form a unity cabinet to tackle the crisis.

He appointed just four ministers and one of them, the new finance minister, resigned after less than 24 hours in the job.

The Ministry of Finance is without a minister and its top bureaucrat with the resignation of the incumbent S R Attygalle.

The forex crisis had also hit the foreign service. The foreign ministry said that it was closing the Sri Lankan missions in Oslo and Baghdad while shutting the consulate in Sydney.

Following the 2019 Sri Lankan elections, the Rajapaksa family kept several portfolios in the government under their control.

While President Rajapaksa holds the all-powerful executive presidency, his elder brother Mahinda, who is a former president, is the current prime minister. Basil held the finance ministry and Mahinda’s son Namal, the heir apparent, was the minister of youth and sports.

India recently announced to extend a USD 1 billion line of credit to Sri Lanka as part of its financial assistance to the country to deal with the economic crisis following a previous USD 500 billion line of credit in February to help it purchase petroleum products.

During his recently-concluded visit to Colombo, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had assured India’s continued support in Sri Lanka’s economic recovery process.

President Rajapaksa has defended his government’s actions, saying the foreign exchange crisis was not his making and the economic downturn was largely pandemic driven by the island nation’s tourism revenue and inward remittances waning.

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