Wickremesinghe becomes Sri Lanka’s prime minister for sixth time amid grave challenges

Soon after his appointment, the new prime minister said he will work with both the opposition and the governing party to overcome the hardships faced by people. Importantly, he also assured that the peaceful protest, “GotaGoGama” will be allowed to continue their agitation

May 13, 2022
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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (right) greets Ranil Wickremesinghe during the latter's oath taking ceremony as the new prime minister, in Colombo on Thursday

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister in an attempt to bring political stability to the country ravaged by a severe economic crisis and political unrest. Wickremesinghe, who has been PM five times before, has vast administrative experience and is considered a less polarizing figure in the island’s politics.

His appointment came almost three days after Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from the post of prime minister on Monday amid widespread unrest. He will have the immediate task of proving his majority in parliament despite him being the only lawmaker from his party, the UNP.

Congratulating him on his appointment, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in a tweet that he “stepped up to take on the challenging task of steering our country through a very turbulent time. I look forward to working together with him to make Sri Lanka strong again.”

Several other leaders, including former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, wished him. Envoys of the US and other western countries also wished him.

India said its commitment to the people of Sri Lanka will continue. In a tweet, the Indian mission said, “High Commission of India hopes for political stability and looks forward to working with the Government of Sri Lanka formed in accordance with democratic processes pursuant to the swearing-in of @RW_UNP [Ranil Wickremesinghe] as the Prime Minister 0f Sri Lanka.”

Soon after his appointment, the new prime minister said he will work with both the opposition and the governing party to overcome the hardships faced by people. Importantly, he also assured that the peaceful protest, “GotaGoGama” will be allowed to continue their agitation.

However, his appointment was also criticized by some politicians and religious leaders.

“This decision has been taken totally disregarding the aspirations of the people who are protesting today. The protests can only get worse by this decision,” said the Rev. Omalpe Sobitha a senior Buddhist monk, said. 

Catholic Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith also opposed his appointment and said that for the country to move forward from the crisis, “we need a complete change of the system.”

Wickremesinghe’s earlier tenure in power isn’t without controversy and many of his opponents and former colleagues had been accused of sympathizing with and protecting the now embattled Rajapaksa family. It was under his watch in 2019 when a series of bombings by Islamists rocked the country in April 2019.

For him, wresting the downward spiral in the economy will be the most pressing task. Earlier on Wednesday, the governor of the central bank warned political parties of the possibility of a total collapse of the economy beyond redemption if no government is formed.

(SAM)

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