Despite being unpopular with the general population, Ranil Wickremesinghe has been chosen as the new President of Sri Lanka by the country’s parliament. After months of widespread protests, Mr. Wickremesinghe must restore public order and steer the nation out of its economic crisis. In the legislative vote, he easily defeated his major opponent for the position, Dullus Alahapperuma, with 134 votes to 82.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former President of Sri Lanka, left the nation last week.
Thousands of protestors attacked his presidential mansions and other government facilities, demanding his resignation. He fled to the Maldives and subsequently Singapore. The Rajapaksa political family’s close ally Mr. Wickremesinghe, who was chosen Prime minister in May, had also been called upon to resign.
Last week, protesters attacked the Prime Ministerial office in Colombo and set fire to Rajapaksa‘s private residence as part of demonstrations against his leadership. The fact that Sri Lanka is practically bankrupt and is experiencing severe shortages of food, fuel, and other necessities has led to months of protests there. Mr. Wickremesinghe informed parliament upon his election that the country was “in a very tough state” and that “huge challenges ahead.” The 73-year-old also urged his political rivals to cooperate with his administration for the benefit of the nation.
His election is expected to bring back political stability, allowing the nation to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a rescue package. As prime minister, Mr. Wickremesinghe took part in the discussions last month. The majority of its members, according to the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramnua (SLPP) party, supported Mr. Wickremesinghe because of his background in business.
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According to general secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, “Ranil Wickremesinghe is the only person with the expertise, the know-how, and the potential to deliver solutions to the economic crisis.” Mr. Wickremesinghe is a seasoned congressman with 45 years of experience in Sri Lankan politics. He has served as Prime Minister six times”. He is, however, deeply disliked by many protesters who see him as a member of the ruling class, and it is anticipated that his victory could lead to more turmoil and demonstrations. In anticipation of protesters, barricades were erected around the parliament on Wednesday before the results were announced. Protesters, though, stayed largely quiet. Following the outcome, some protesters gathered at the Galle Face Green site chanting “Ranil Go Home.”
This week, Mr. Wickremesinghe prolonged the national state of emergency in an effort to stop any further escalation of the protests. He has constantly defied calls for his resignation and last week took over as president in Mr. Rajapaksa’s absence. He will complete the remainder of the presidential term, which runs through November 2024, thanks to his victory on Wednesday. Mr. Alahapperuma, a renegade MP in the ruling party who won the support of the main opposition, was his opponent. In Sri Lanka, he had promised to form a new, multiparty administration that would “put an end to the dishonest political culture.” He was unable to win over more people, though.
Sri Lankans not happy with Wickremesinghe’s appointment!
Wickremesinghe became the country’s new leader mostly as a result of the backing of the SLPP, which is currently in power.
Since 2000, he has attempted to run for president twice without success, most recently against Mahinda Rajapaksa, the clan patriarch. Protesters charge Wickremesinghe with going above and beyond to shield the Rajapaksas from harm and striking bargains with the wealthy but divisive family to gain an advantage over political competitors. Gotabaya turned to Wickremesinghe in the midst of the unprecedented economic crisis that started earlier this year in the hopes that the seasoned politician would assist in reviving the economy.
However, the selection infuriated demonstrators even more since they wanted the Rajapaksas to lose control of the nation’s ruling elite. Ranil Wickremesinghe is not the same as Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as is generally known. Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on July 9 and took over a number of government structures, including the presidential secretariat and Temple Trees, the prime minister’s official residence. The demonstrators also set fire to Wickremesinghe’s private mansion in Colombo.
Gotabaya had to announce his resignation and flee, first to the Maldives and subsequently to Singapore, as a result of the demonstrations. Wickremesinghe was given the job of forming a new cabinet as acting president but refused to resign. He has repeatedly won the general election, however, their time as prime minister was never fully served. Now he has achieved the post of head of state, which he had long desired.
But, protesters have declared that they will keep up their “aragalaya,” which is Sinhala for “battle,” till Wickremesinghe is gone. “We are now planning our course of action and reorganising. We will unquestionably continue our occupation and struggle at GotaGoGaming until Ranil Wickremesinghe steps down. Definitely not what we wanted, Melani Gunathilake, the protest’s leader, told Al Jazeera.
“We are very aware of the differences between Ranil Wickremesinghe and Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He is more shrewd than you are. And most recently, he even tried to put an end to the demonstration by declaring a state of emergency and flying air force helicopters above GotaGoGama. However, I don’t believe that these acts will terrify people any longer. “Sri Lanka deserves a leader who truly cares for its people, not someone who thinks about his political future,” I said.
Sri Lanka and its crisis-
Sri Lanka is an island nation off southern India. In 1948, it achieved freedom from British sovereignty. The nation’s 22 million people are divided into three ethnic groups: Muslims, Sinhalese, and Tamils.
One family of brothers has ruled for many years. Mahinda Rajapaksa rose to fame in 2009 after his government crushed Tamil separatist rebels following a protracted, violent civil war. After widespread upheaval, his brother Gotabaya, who at the time served as defence secretary and eventually as president, left the nation.
Despite sharing many executive duties with the Prime Minister, who is in charge of the majority party in parliament, the President of Sri Lanka is the country’s head of state, government, and military. Now that there is an economic crisis, there is rage on the streets: there are rolling blackouts, shortages of some groceries, medicines, and fuel as a result of rising inflation, and the Rajapaksa family and their government are being blamed by many.