SET UP CAMP OUTSIDE PM OFFICE DEMANDING RAJAPAKSA FAMILY’S EXIT
Sri Lankan protesters, who have been camping at the main beachfront outside Sri Lankan President’s Secretariat here, have now extended their protest to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office, as they intensified their demand for the government led by the Rajapaksa family to step down.
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.
The street protest opposite the presidential secretariat entered its 18th day on Tuesday, demanding the resignations of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, his 76-year-old elder brother.
The protesters have set up the ‘Gota go home village’ there.
To give impetus to the protest, the protesters have now set up a protest site ‘Mahinda go home village’ near Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office-cum-residence known as ‘Temple Trees’.
Earlier, the Colombo magistrate court had refused to issue a police order preventing protests near the Temple Trees.
The Rajapaksas are under pressure to resign for their mishandling of the forex crisis which landed the island nation into its worst economic crisis.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to drop his older brother Chamal and the eldest nephew Namal from the Cabinet in response to the protests which called for accountability from the family.
He is also under increasing pressure to form an interim government.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had said that he would hand over the government to any group that could muster 113 seats in the 225-member Parliament but would not step down from the presidency.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa also last week stressed that there was no need for him to resign or to allow the formation of an interim government without his leadership.
The Rajapaksa brothers are also facing calls for the restoration of the 19A Constitutional amendment which was adopted in 2015 to curb the power of the president.
With Gotabaya’s ascendancy to the presidency in 2020, the 19A was annulled to make the presidency more powerful over parliament.
On Thursday, Sri Lanka’s principal Opposition party, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), presented a constitutional amendment bill that among other provisions seeks to abolish the presidential system of governance, in existence in the country since 1978, and replace it with a system that reinforces constitutional democracy.
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.
Sri Lankan officials were in Washington last week to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.
India has agreed to extend an additional USD 500 million credit line to help Sri Lanka import fuel.
India has already agreed to defer USD 1.5 billion in import payments that Sri Lanka needs to make to the Asian Clearing Union.
Last week, the Sri Lankan government said it would temporarily default on USD 35.5 billion in foreign debt as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine made it impossible to make payments to overseas creditors.