UN Chief urges for “smooth transition” of SL Govt

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Amid reports that Sri Lanka’s President has confirmed he will resign after his residence was stormed by thousands of protesters at the weekend, the UN chief on Monday called for dialogue to “ensure a smooth transition of government and solutions to the country’s deep economic crisis”.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has yet to comment publicly on the occupation of his residence, along with that of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, but the Prime Minister’s office reportedly said it had been informed that the President planned to step down on Wednesday.

President Rajapaksa has become the focus of widespread protests in recent months over dire food, fuel and medical shortages, alongside a financial and humanitarian crisis that has left the country unable to service its debt, record inflation, and more than six million food insecure.

“The Secretary-General continues to follow developments in Sri Lanka closely”, said a statement issued on behalf of UN chief António Guterres, by UN Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq.

“He stands in solidarity with the Sri Lankan people and calls on all stakeholders to engage in dialogue to ensure a smooth transition of government and to find sustainable solutions to the economic crisis.”

The president was moved to safety before the protesters entered the residence, and the occupation continues. According to reports, his resignation can only be accepted when he resigns by letter to the Speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament, which has yet to happen.

The Prime Minister has also reportedly indicated that he will step down, after his house was set ablaze during the weekend.

“The Secretary-General condemns all acts of violence and calls for those responsible to be held accountable, underlining the paramount importance of maintaining the peace”, the statement continued.

“The United Nations stands ready to support Sri Lanka and its people.”

Sri Lanka’s multiple crises were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which saw the collapse of the crucial tourism industry, which provides foreign currency for imported fuel and medical supplies, and rocked by the supply chain crisis precipitated by the Ukraine war.

The UN Resident Coordinator and top humanitarian official in Sri Lanka, Hanaa Singer, issued a statement on Sunday saying an end to the immediate political crisis through dialogue was essential, so that the country can “cope with its worst economic crisis since independence.”

“It is important that all incidents of violence against journalists, peaceful protestors, and harm to property are investigated and that those responsible, are held accountable”, she said.

“The UN continues to monitor the situation closely and is ready to assist in dialogue, as needed.

“As we do around the world, the UN calls for respect for human rights, rule of law and democratic governance in Sri Lanka.”