Sri Lanka’s former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has just one seat in the 225-member Parliament, could become the next premier, media reports said on Thursday, amidst the worst economic crisis in the debt-ridden island nation.
The 73-year-old United National Party (UNP) leader held talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday and is expected to meet him again on Thursday, the Colombo Page newspaper reported.
Wickremesinghe, who has served as the country’s prime minister for four times, was in October 2018 fired from the post of prime minister by then President Maithripala Sirisena. However, he was reinstalled as the prime minister by Sirisena after two months.
According to political sources, members of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), a section of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and several other parties have expressed their support to show majority for Wickremesinghe in Parliament, it said.
The report said that Wickremesinghe will be sworn in as the new prime minister on Thursday or Friday. UNP chairman Vajira Abeywardena has said that Wickremesinghe will be able to get a majority in Parliament after being sworn in as the new prime minister, replacing Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned on Monday. The UNP, the oldest party in the country, had one just one seat in the last parliamentary polls in 2020.
President’s refusal to quit
In a late-night televised address to the nation, the President on Wednesday refused to quit but promised to appoint a new Prime Minister and a young Cabinet this week which would introduce key constitutional reforms to curb his powers, amid protests over the nation's worst economic crisis that ousted his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa who is under protection at a naval base following violent attacks on his aides.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining 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. Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 seeking the resignation of the Rajapaksa brothers.