SRI LANKA: On Friday, Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister struggled to form a unity government and avoid an impending economic catastrophe as opposition legislators refused to join his cabinet and demanded recent elections.
Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in late Thursday to lead his country through its worst economic downturn since independence, with months of shortages and outages inflaming popular outrage.
The 73-year-old claims to have enough support to government and has approached numerous MPs to join him, but four opposition parties have already questioned his leadership.
Harsha de Silva, a senior opposition legislator, openly refused an offer to take over the finance minister, saying instead that he would campaign for the government’s resignation. “People are not asking for political games and deals. They want a new system that will safeguard their future,” he said in a statement.
De Silva claimed he was joining “the people’s effort” to depose President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and that he would oppose any political deal that kept him in power.
For weeks, large public demonstrations have lambasted Rajapaksa’s administration for mismanaging the increasing economic crisis. Hundreds of protesters remain outside his Colombo office, where they have been calling for him to resign for the past month.
De Silva is a member of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), parliament’s largest opposition party, which has appeared to be split on whether to back Wickremesinghe. Harin Fernando, the leader of the prospective splinter faction, claimed Friday that he had returned to the fold. “I will not support Wickremesinghe’s government,” Fernando said.
Three smaller parties have also stated that they will not participate in any unity government formed by the socialist People’s Liberation Front (JVP), which is demanding elections. However, the cash-strapped administration is unlikely to be able to afford polls, let alone print ballots, at a time when schools have been forced to postpone exams due to a countrywide paper scarcity.