Protesters have demanded Sri Lanka’s newly appointed prime minister arrest his predecessor for allegedly instigating an attack against them earlier this week.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned amid calls for his brother Gotabaya to also resign as PresidentSri Lanka is in the grips of the worst economic crisis since its independenceA court has imposed a travel ban on Mahinda Rajapaksa after he allegedly ordered violence against anti-government protesters
The protesters made the call while camped outside the official residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was appointed on Thursday by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a bid to hold onto power and quell the island nation’s political and economic crisis.
The president’s brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned as prime minister on Monday after an attack on peaceful protesters triggered a wave of violence across the country.
Nine people were killed and more than 200 wounded.
It looks as though the Rajapaksa political dynasty is nearing its end.
For months, Sri Lankans have been forced to wait in long lines to purchase essentials such as medicines, fuel, cooking gas and food because of a severe foreign currency shortage.
The group of about 10 protesters now camped at the prime minister’s residence said they don’t trust Mr Wickremesinghe, a former five-time prime minister, because he is close to the Rajapaksas.
Wimal Jayasuriya, a 43-year-old teacher, said Mr Wickremesinghe should have Mahinda Rajapaksa arrested “if he is truly on the side of the people”.
If he doesn’t, “then he has to get ready to go”, Mr Jayasuriya added.
Mr Jayasuriya and the others said they were among the protesters who were attacked on Monday with metal and wooden poles by Rajapaksa supporters who were leaving the then prime minister’s residence after meeting with him.
Thousands of protesters have joined weeks of protests outside the president’s office and the prime minister’s residence demanding their resignations over the country’s economic crisis.
Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family have taken refuge at a fortified naval base in Trincomalee, on the north-eastern coast.
A court has issued travel bans against him, his former Cabinet minister son and 15 others, including other former ministers, pending an investigation into the attack on the protesters.
Mr Wickremesinghe’s appointment has been opposed by some politicians and religious leaders who say he is part of a corrupt system they want overhauled.
As prime minister from 2015 to 2019, Mr Wickremesinghe was accused of protecting the Rajapaksa family from allegations of corruption and other crimes after Mahinda Rajapaksa lost a presidential election in 2015.
People queue to buy kerosene oil for cooking outside a petrol station in Colombo.(AP: Eranga Jayawardena)
The main opposition party, which split from Mr Wickremesinghe’s leadership in 2020, also opposes his appointment as prime minister.
Mr Wickremesinghe says he can prove he has the support of a majority of parliament and will be able to solve the country’s economic issues.
Sri Lanka is near bankruptcy and has suspended repayment of its foreign loans pending negotiations on a rescue package with the International Monetary Fund.
It needs to repay $US7 billion ($10 billion) in foreign debt this year out of $US25 billion due by 2026. Its total foreign debt is $US51 billion.
The finance ministry says the country currently has only $US25 million in usable foreign reserves.
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