President pledges: new PM this week

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in a special televised statement yesterday (11), said a new Prime Minister who commands the majority in Parliament and Cabinet will be appointed within this week.

“At present, our country is facing the worst crisis in its history. The economic crisis that preceded this event created social and political instability due to the difficulties faced by the people.

“As a solution to these problems, a common proposal was put forward by various parties to form a new Government with a majority of parties represented in the Parliament.

In the past, I have had many discussions with leaders of various parties and groups in this regard,” he added.

He added, the new Prime Minister will be given the opportunity to present a new programme and to take the country forward. “There have also been calls from various factions to abolish the Executive Presidency. After the new government stabilises the country, the opportunity will be given to discuss with everyone and to work in this regard,” he added.

Rajapaksa also pledged to take steps to amend the Constitution to re-enact the provisions of the 19th Amendment to empower Parliament.

Further, in a backdrop that the former Prime Minister stepped down from his position, President Rajapaksa is reported to have held discussions with UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe last night (11).According to highly-placed sources, Wickremesinghe is most likely to be appointed as the Premier on Friday (13) along with the new Cabinet which is likely to be limited to 20, of which at least four would be from the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB).

Meanwhile, SJB MP Harin Fernando has decided to become independent in Parliament. Fernando said he would support to form a Government while being an independent MP in the House.

“The country needs a Government. We cannot delay it anymore. If the SJB is delaying this further, I will support to form a Government while being independent in Parliament,” he said.

Meanwhile, the SJB forwarded four conditions yesterday (11) if they are to form a Government.

“The President should agree to resign within a stipulated time frame and he should not interfere with affairs of the newly-formed Government. The Executive Presidency should be abolished within the shortest possible time with the support of all parties in Parliament. Finally, an election should be held after securing the rights of the citizens,” the SJB said in a statement.

According to the party’s internal sources, at least 15 MPs along with Harin Fernando may disassociate themselves from the SJB and are likely to pledge support to the new government.

Meanwhile, SLFP Leader Maithripala Sirisena said 11 parties and the independent group in Parliament sent a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa nominating three names for the vacant position of Prime Minister.

He added that over 53 MPs representing the 11 parties and the independent group in Parliament held lengthy discussions on the need to appoint a Prime Minister who has a consensus.

Sirisena said the Opposition Leader has not made his stance clear in this regard, adding however that prompt attention should be given to appoint a Prime Minister.

By Faadhila Thassim and Methmalie Dissanayake