Tuesday, Oct 04, 2022

Sri Lanka New Leader Looks For Bipartisanship To Address Unprecedented Economic Crisis

The economic crisis also sparked a political crisis in the country after a popular uprising against the government.

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe PTI

Sri Lanka's President-elect Ranil Wickremesinghe will take oath of office on Thursday, it was announced on Wednesday, as he called for support from all parties to overcome the country's worst economic crisis in decades.

The 73-year-old Acting President and six-time former prime minister was on Wednesday elected as new President by Parliament, a development likely to anger anti-government protesters who have been demanding his resignation.

In his victory speech, Wickremesinghe thanked Parliament for upholding democratic practices and sought support from both the presidential rivals as well as former presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena. He also asked Tamil leaders to join him.

"I need not tell you about the current state of the country, how difficult it is. The economy and the young are asking for change. There are many problems in the world. We have to go forward without getting entangled," he said.

Wickremesinghe said all concerned must get together to "make a new programme". "What people demand from us is not old politics, they want the parliament to work together,” he added.

He said he was willing to start the party consultation process from Thursday and urged the parties for bipartisanship.

"I have worked in this Parliament for 45 years. My life is this Parliament. I am thankful to parliament for giving me this honour,” Wickremesinghe said.

He requested the Speaker to allow him to take oath in Parliament which none of his predecessors had done. He has two and a half years of the balance Rajapaksa term. The next presidential election would take place in November of 2024.

Wickremesinghe, who has been in Parliament for nearly five decades, was appointed as prime minister in May, nearly two years after his United National Party (UNP) was routed and failed to win a single seat in the general election held in August 2020.

He was sworn-in as acting president on July 13 after President Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives and then to Singapore from where he resigned in the face of public revolt against his government's mishandling of the country's economy.

Wickremesinghe, who has been leading the crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund, last week said that negotiations were nearing conclusion, and discussions for assistance with foreign countries were also progressing.

The economic crisis also sparked a political crisis in the country after a popular uprising against the government.

The island nation needs about USD 5 billion in the next six months to cover basic necessities for its 22 million people, who have been struggling with long queues, worsening shortages and power cuts.