Sri Lanka crisis: Parliament to meet amid calls for President to step down

Sri Lanka’s parliament meets on Tuesday as an economic crisis spiraled into street protests and a number of lawmakers called for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down due to the mismanagement of the country’s finances and his sweeping executive powers, according to Bloomberg report.

The ruling coalition partner, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party has said its 14 lawmakers had decided to withdraw support for Rajapaksa’s government and will sit as an independent group in parliament. The departure of this ally means the coalition has lost its two-thirds majority in the 225-seat parliament.

Apparently, Rajapaksa held political meetings on Monday even as public protests continued against shortages of essential goods and electricity power cuts, the news agency ANI reported citing The Daily Mirror.

Meanwhile, Rajapaksa’s own party the Sri Lanka Podujuna Peramuna is counting on retaining his brother Mahinda as prime minister although there are reports that some lawmakers are planning to sit out as independents.

If the government doesn’t show the numbers, a proposal will be made for the parliament speaker to call for a debate on who should be the new prime minister, the newspaper said, without saying where it got the information from. Rajapaksa will remain as president and there’s concern among the opposition leaders that he will interfere with plans to resolve the economic crisis. 

Opposition groups late on Monday have rejected overtures from the president to join an interim government after the entire cabinet resigned following street protests. They want to see a change to the country’s constitution that will limit Rajapaksa’s wide-ranging executive powers that include calling for elections mid-way through a five-year parliament term and appointing and firing government officials and judges. 

Rajapaksa is hard-pressed to resolve an economic crisis that now impacts every element of life in the country. On Monday, he swore in new finance minister Ali Sabry, who replaces the youngest Rajapaksa brother Basil and is among the key decision makers as the country starts bailout talks with International Monetary Fund. G.L. Pieris will continue as the foreign minister.

(With inputs from agencies)

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