Sri Lanka’s powerful Buddhist clergy threatens to issue anti-govt decree

PTI, Apr 30, 2022, 12:40 PM IST

Image credit: AP

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s powerful Buddhist clergy has threatened to issue a decree against the government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and decided to stage a protest against it on Saturday for its failure to make way for an interim government to resolve the ongoing political and economic crisis.

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets since April 9, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

In recent weeks, the Buddhist clergy, civil society and trade chambers have demanded the formation of an interim government in the predominantly Buddhist nation.

Now the Buddhist clergy has decided to come out to press for the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to make way for an interim government.

Some 1,000 monks are to stage a protest march on Saturday evening demanding the government to act according to their letter addressed to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa dated April 4.

Sirisumana said at a parley to be held later on Saturday with all parties representing Parliament, they would issue a decree against the government for their failure to act.

“We asked for the resignation of the prime minister and the government and appoint an interim government for a period of one year. The government during that period would be directed by a special panel…” Agalakada Sirisumana, a senior monk told reporters.

He said they had not received a satisfactory response from the government.

The four Buddhist chapters – Malwathu, Asgiri, Amarapura and Ramanya chapters – wield a lot of power in Sri Lanka’s political landscape. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has also come under pressure from a dissident group of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) coalition to set up an interim government.

However, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, 76, has refused to resign. He stresses that any interim government should only be formed under his premiership.

The Opposition maintains they would never be part of any government under the two Rajapaksas. The public agitations demanding the resignation of the entire Rajapaksa family entered its 22nd day on Saturday. Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948.

The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices. Sri Lanka needs at least USD 4 billion to tide over its mounting economic woes, and talks with international institutions such as the World Bank as well as countries like China and Japan for financial assistance have been going on.

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