Sri Lanka Parliament

Sri Lanka politicians are trying to settle popular unrest as parliament plans to meet tomorrow after the official resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was made today.

Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said he expected to elect a new President through Parliament within 7 days in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

The Speaker said in terms of the Constitution Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will function in the capacity of the President overseeing functions, duties, and powers of the office of the President until the constitutional procedure of electing the new President is over.

Other media reports said:

Sri Lankans defy curfew to celebrate as President Rajapaksa’s resignation becomes official.

Rajapaksa has resigned via email on Thursday.

The speaker of parliament in crisis-hit Sri Lanka has officially accepted a resignation letter from President Rajapaksa, having verified its authenticity after it was flown from Singapore.

Rajapaksa’s resignation became official once the document had been legally verified.

“From this point, we will move to constitutionally appoint a new president,” said the speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka on Wednesday amid a wave of unrest as his island nation grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades.

He arrived in Singapore following a stopover in the Maldives.

Speaker Abeywardena said the parliament would convene on Saturday to start the process of electing a new president. He expected the process would be finalized within 7 days.

The new president will serve the remainder of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in 2024.

That person could potentially appoint a new prime minister, who would then have to be approved by parliament.

Wickremesinghe will be sworn in as the   President later today as an interim President till the conclusion of electing a new President by Parliament, the Speaker added.

The Speaker’s formal announcement is as follows:

Under the section 38.1 (b) of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka I have received the resignation letter of His Excellency the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Accordingly, effective from 14 July 2022, from this point forth the President has legally resigned from his legal duties and responsibilities. Under these circumstances, the constitutional procedure of appointing a new President will now be activated. Until this constitutional procedure is over, according to the constitution the Prime Minister will function in the capacity of the President overseeing functions, duties, and powers of the office of the President.

As informed by me at the Party Leaders meeting convened on the subject of selecting the President, the President will be selected according to the provisions of the Special Provisions Act No. 2 of 1981 and the Article 40 of the Constitution. It is my intention to complete this procedure successfully and speedily. As the oldest democracy in the South Asian region holding Democratic traditions sacred, completing this process in a transparent and Democratic manner would be a milestone not only in the history of Sri Lanka, but also of the Democratic history of the world.

Therefore, I would like to request maximum cooperation for this Democratic process from all party leaders, state officials, and security forces. My special appeal to our respected and dear citizens of Sri Lanka is to create the peaceful environment that will allow all members of Parliament to attend Parliament freely and act according to their conscience. Under such an environment, with the help of all responsible, I intend to conclude the above process within a short period of seven days. Accordingly, the notice is hereby given that the Parliament will convene of the 16th of this month (16.07.2022) and all members are requested to attend on that day.

Jubilation

Earlier, the news of his resignation email triggered jubilation in the commercial quarter of Colombo, where protesters massed outside the presidential secretariat, defying a city-wide curfew.

Crowds set off firecrackers, shouted slogans and danced ecstatically at the “Gota Go Gama” protest site, named mockingly after Rajapaksa’s first name.

“The whole country celebrates today,” Damitha Abeyrathne, an activist, said. “It’s a big victory.”

“We never thought we would get this country free from them,” she added, referring to the Rajapaksa family who dominated the South Asian country’s politics for two decades.

Member of Parliament Terai Cabella Soria said political leaders now needed to work to stabilize the country.

“We have to realize the fact that there was a revolution, so we need to be thankful that, you know, not too many people died, but it can still deteriorate,” he said.

“So it’s the responsibility of the parliament to understand the sentiments of the people and then bring legislative changes like a new constitution, and go for an election.”

Protests against the economic crisis have simmered for months and came to a head last weekend when hundreds of thousands of people took over government buildings in Colombo, blaming the Rajapaksa family and their allies for runaway inflation, shortages of basic goods and corruption.

Battle For Presidency

A Daily Mirror report said:

A three-pronged battle is set to take place for the selection of the next president by approval of Parliament on July 20.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Dullas Alahapperuma and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa mull the submission of nomination papers to vie for presidency in the secret ballot.

The presidential post fell vacant prematurely in Sri Lankan history one occasion – the assassination of President R. Premadasa on May 1, 1993. It is now slated to be vacant after the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as already announced by him.

Parliament will take a secret ballot on July 20 to elect the new president. Daily Mirror learns that Wickremesinghe will contest for the post to serve the rest of the current presidential term. A section of the SLPP is planning to back him. Another faction of the SLPP including the ten-party alliance supports Alahapperuma. Earlier, the SJB announced that Sajith Premadasa will be its candidate.

The candidates who get more than 50 percent of valid votes will become the president. Unless any of the contestants cross the 50 percent mark, the preferential votes marked by the MPs will be counted.

JVP’s Position

According to informed sources, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has taken up the position that a neutral MP with no future electoral ambitions should be appointed next president. The party says Speaker Abeywardane should be appointed. The JVP believes the appointment of a political leader with future presidential ambitions will work for the interests of his party with the next election in mind.

Duties And Functions Of The Defence Ministry

An extraordinary gazette was issued, amending the duties and functions of the Defence Ministry by the powers vested by Ranil Wickremesinghe as the acting President.

According to the Gazette notification, several departments which were under former Minister Dhammika Perera were taken under the Acting President.

Election Is The Only Solution To Fulfill People’s True Aspirations: JVP Reiterates

Claiming that the struggle was not solely to expel President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) reiterated today that the country should be brought back to normalcy soon under an interim government and go for an election to fulfill people’s aspirations.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said in a special statement that the people’s true wishes and demands are not represented by the current Parliament and that an opportunity should be given for a new mandate.

“Majority in Parliament still holds by a group rejected by the people. Composition of this Parliament will not help stabilize the country and cater to the people’s demands. An interim government should be formed for a short period of time and country should be brought back to normalcy and then go for an election,” he said.

Parliamentarian Dissanayake said this struggle was not only to expel President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe but it was focused on creating a system change.

“Even though the main focus was to expel the President, the core of the struggle was to change the 74-year-old failed economic policy, political culture, ensure judicial supremacy, introduce a new Constitution so as to uphold democracy, put a full stop to fraud and corruption and recover stolen money,” he said and added that these objectives could not be achieved from an administration formed in the current Parliament.

IMF Waiting Until Situation Is Resolved

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is still in contact with officials at technical levels within the Sri Lankan government and hopes to be able to resume discussions with higher-level officials, an IMF spokesman said on Thursday, after Sri Lanka’s president announced his resignation.

“We hope for a resolution of the current situation that would allow for our resumption of a dialogue on an IMF-supported program,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in a scheduled press briefing.

Rice said the IMF still has technical counterparties in Sri Lanka’s central bank and the Ministry of Finance and hopes to be able to have high-level discussions with the authorities to begin discussions on a program “as soon as possible.”

He said any new loan program for Sri Lanka would require adequate assurances on debt sustainability.

Clifford Lau, a money manager at William Blair, a holder of Sri Lankan bonds, said it was difficult to say when a deal could be reached with the IMF because the country needs to rebuild its government.

“I still believe that an IMF deal will eventually happen as there is the consensus amongst the political elites that it is the most credible way forward to restore confidence from within and outside,” Lau said. “What needs to stop now is the political infighting, and elect an all-parties leader to resume bailout talks as soon as possible.”

JVP Affiliated Trade Unions

JVP affiliated Trade Unions have stated that they will start a series of indefinite TU actions starting from July 18, calling for the removal of Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Speaking at a media briefing in Colombo, National Trade Union Coordinating Center Wasantha Samarasinghe said that they are to initiate a hartal or general strike as well.

It Is In China’s Interest To Restructure Sri Lanka’s Debt, Says Yellen

China is a “very important” creditor of Sri Lanka and it would likely be in the interest of both countries if China participated in restructuring Sri Lanka’s debt, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Thursday.

Yellen said she would urge other members of the Group of 20 major economies to put pressure on China to be more cooperative in long-stalled efforts to restructure the debts of countries in debt distress, including Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka owes at least $5 billion to China although some estimates put it at almost twice that amount. India has also lent it $3.8 billion and Japan is owed at least $3.5 billion, according to the IMF, with another $1 billion due to other rich countries.

“Sri Lanka is clearly unable to repay that debt, and it’s my hope that China will be willing to work with Sri Lanka to restructure the debt,” Yellen told a news conference on the sidelines of a meeting of G20 finance officials on the Indonesian island of Bali.

She declined to comment on recent events in Sri Lanka.

The economy of Sri Lanka began to show cracks in 2019 after large tax cuts by Rajapaksa’s government drained the country’s coffers.

The pandemic then shattered the lucrative tourism industry, and rising global prices have left Colombo struggling for essentials such as fuel, medicine and food.


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