Gota out, will Ranil be next?


‘Aragalakaruwo’ or protesters, who overthrew President Gotabaya Rajapaksa just a few days ago, have now turned their attention on Ranil Wickremesinghe, who wears multiple hats of being the UNP Leader, Premier and acting President, urging him to resign.

Protesters yesterday occupied the Premier’s Office in Colombo, demanding his resignation. Previously, on Saturday (9), these protesters torched Wickremesinghe’s private residence in Colombo. Both SLFP leader and former President Maithripala Sirisena and JVP/National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake too yesterday called for Wickremesinghe’s resignations from his official positions.

To quell protests, Wickremesinghe yesterday declared a state of emergency, while simultaneously declaring an indefinite curfew in the Western Province with immediate effect. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said on Monday that Parliament will vote on Wednesday (20) for a new President. Wickremesinghe, the sole UNP MP in Parliament, Dullas Alahapperuma (MP) from the ruling SLPP Government and Opposition and SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa (MP) are among the three contestants who have currently given their names to contest for this post. It’s not clear whether NPP leader Dissanayake too will join the fray when nominations close on Tuesday. The elected new President will complete the remaining tenure of Gotabaya’s term which ends in 2024.

The question, however, is whether the protesters will be patient till Wednesday, only six days away, when Parliament elects this new President. The President is empowered by the Constitution to appoint as Premier, who, in his opinion, commands the majority confidence in the House.

Wickremesinghe, ipso facto, has promised to resign as Premier once an All-Party Government is formed. The two persons responsible for the country’s economic misery are Rajapaksa and his elder brother Mahinda, President from 17 November 2005 to 8 January 2015.

Once the Yahapalana Government was  formed after the defeat of Mahinda at the 8 January 2015 Presidential Poll and Wickremesinghe was made Premier, his fourth stint as Premier, the current being his sixth, he took  steps to revive the economy which bore dividends.

But those gains were reversed after the election of Gotabaya at the Presidential Poll of 16 November 2019. Demonstrators forced out Gota to flee the country, due to the economic mess that the two Rajapaksa brothers created, on 9 July.

They previously exercised patience for nearly two years and eight months before ousting Gota. They should extend similar patience for at least another six days before seeing the removal of Wickremesinghe as Premier. Wickremesinghe in his present dispensation has been Premier for only two months. He was appointed by Gota with the backing of SLPP MPs who form the majority in Parliament after then Premier Mahinda together with the Cabinet resigned on 9 May 2022 due to successful protests.

As the Rajapaksa brothers have rifled the island’s coffers, Sri Lanka has no US dollars to import petroleum fuel, cooking gas, medicines, food and coal to ensure an uninterrupted electricity supply among the lack of a host of other essentials as well.

That has resulted in queues for the bare essentials, including several deaths, whilst waiting for days in queues, especially fuel queues, an unenviable record.  Other unenviable records due to the Rajapaksas’ corruption are schools and public offices being closed for want of fuel to run public transport and daily power cuts. Nepotism, cronyism, a black market, record high inflation and cost of living are also the order of the day.

Dollars needed to revive the economy are with the international community comprising the EU, USA and Japan. They were tight fisted when the Rajapaksas were in power due to their pro-China stance, coupled with corruption.

However, EU and Japan have come forward to aid Sri Lanka post 9 July after the overthrow of the Rajapaksas. EU in a statement on 10 July said they are assessing the available options to further step up their support to Sri Lanka, while the Japanese Embassy in Colombo on Tuesday said that they are determined to continue to build their great friendship in the years to come.