Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday invited leaders of Opposition parties to accept Cabinet posts in his government to deal with the island country’s worst economic meltdown since its independence.
“Considering this a national need, the time has come to work together for the sake of all the citizens and future generations,” Rajapaksa’s office said in a statement. “The president invites all political parties in the Parliament to come together to accept ministerial portfolios in order to find solutions to this national crisis.”
The statement added that solutions to the deepening crisis should be found “within a democratic framework”.
The invitation to the Opposition came hours after Sri Lanka’s entire Cabinet, except Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned en masse from their positions at a late-night meeting on Sunday.
The prime minister’s son Namal Rajapaksa and his brothers Chamal Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa were among the 26 departing Cabinet members.
Basil Rajapaksa is the much-criticised finance minister and had negotiated India’s economic relief aid to help Sri Lanka. He was replaced by the Minister of Justice Ali Sabry, according to PTI.
“We gave resignations to the prime minister saying we are willing to leave at any time,” Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told reporters in Colombo, according to Bloomberg. “After discussing with the president, the steps to be taken will be decided.”
Sri Lanka’s central bank governor, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, who had resisted calls for the island nation to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, also resigned from his position.
Following the developments, trading on the Sri Lanka stock market exchange was twice because of a plunge in share prices on Monday.
Sri Lanka is facing an economic crisis as its foreign reserves have hit rock bottom. The country had declared an economic emergency in August. Sri Lankans are now facing shortages of petrol, diesel, milk powder, cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items. The shortage of fuel has led to power cuts of up to 13 hours daily in the country.
On Saturday, authorities had declared a 36-hour nationwide curfew amid a series of protests over the economic crisis. The government has also blocked access to social media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter.
Sunday’s mass Cabinet resignation came hours after several Opposition parties and student groups held protests over the Rajapaksa government’s response to the crisis.
Despite the curfew and heavy police presence, university students in Colombo took out a march and shouted anti-government slogans, according to The Hindu. Similar protests were also held in the Kandy district.
Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa accused the Sri Lankan government of resorting to autocratic measures and dictatorship.
“Today is one of the darkest days of Sri Lanka’s democratic political life,” Premadasa told The Hindu. “The regime has used excessive power to subjugate and constrain the democratic rights of the people of the country.”