Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition loses majority amid protests over economic crisis
The newly appointed finance minister announced that he was quitting less than 24 hours after he accepted the post.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ruling coalition lost its majority in Parliament after at least 41 legislators quit the alliance on Tuesday amid the escalating public unrest over an unprecedented economic crisis, reported Reuters.
MPs from parties aligned with the president’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna-led coalition have now become Independent members. Rajapaksa’s government has fewer than 113 members, which is needed to maintain a majority in the 225-member House.
Leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Maithripala Sirisena, said he is on the side of the people. “There are endless shortages of essentials including fuel and cooking gas,” he added, according to Reuters. “Hospitals are on the verge of closing because there are no medicines.”
The island nation of 22 million is struggling to pay for imports of fuel and other goods because of a shortage of foreign exchange.
The Opposition asked Rajapaksa to resign due to the country’s worsening shortages of essentials and prolonged power cuts.
“The people of this country want Gotabaya and the entire Rajapaksa family to go and we can’t go against the people’s will and we can’t work alongside the corrupt,” said a senior official of the United People’s Force, which is largest Opposition political party, the Associated Press reported.
Mass protests demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation also continued on Tuesday.
The police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse protestors outside Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksha’s home in Tangalle, reported Reuters.
Newly appointed finance minister resigns
Meanwhile, in another setback the newly appointed finance minister also announced that he was quitting less than 24 hours after he accepted the post.
Ali Sabry, a close ally of Rajapaksa, was sworn in as the finance minister on Monday after Sri Lanka’s entire Cabinet resigned en masse from their positions at a late-night meeting on Sunday.
“I am now of the view, for your Excellency to make suitable interim arrangements to navigate this unprecedented crisis, fresh and proactive and unconventional steps need to be taken, including the appointment of a new finance minister,” Sabry said in his resignation letter to the president.
Sabry had replaced the president’s brother Basil Rajapaksa, who was heavily criticised over the debilitating foreign currency exchange crisis the country is facing. Basil had also negotiated India’s economic relief aid to help Sri Lanka.
On Monday, Gotabaya Rajapaksa sought to form a unity government to deal with the crisis, but the Opposition had rejected the offer.
Sri Lanka closes two embassies
Meanwhile, the debt-laden country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday said that it is temporarily closing embassies in Norway’s capital Oslo and Iraq’s capital Baghdad from April 30, ANI reported. The Consulate General in Australia’s Sydney city will also be shut till further notice.
“It is part of a general restructuring of Sri Lanka’s diplomatic representation overseas, undertaken by the Foreign Ministry in the context of the current economic situation and foreign currency constraints faced by the country,” the statement by the foreign ministry read.
Now, Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Sweden’s capital Stockholm will be concurrently accredited to Norway.
Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi will take over the functions of the embassy in Iraq.