April 23, 2022 8:47:05 pm
A defiant Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday dismissed calls to form an interim government to tackle the unprecedented economic crisis in the debt-ridden island nation, saying he would anyway head any such dispensation if it is required.
Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets since April 9, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.
Speaking to radio station ‘Neth FM’, the prime minister said: “What use of interim governments when people with varying policies can’t see eye to eye? There has to be accord which is not possible. If there is a need for an interim government it should happen only under my leadership.” Anti-government protesters in Sri Lanka are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his elder brother Prime Minister Mahinda as they blame the government policies for the worst forex crisis.
Commenting on the economic crisis, Rajapaksa, 77, said, “People need to show patience to face it (the economic crisis). They can keep on protesting if they don’t want to have talks.” Speaking on the protestors who are currently occupying Galle Face, the Prime Minister said that the protestors simply continue to occupy the place without coming forward for discussions.
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“They should speak and discuss with the Government officials,” he said.
He added that if the protestors are willing, the doors of Temple Trees (the official residence of the prime minister) are open for them to come in at anytime and discuss with officials.
Last week, the ruling dispensation reached out to the Opposition parties and protesters for talks, but all efforts were rebuffed as the agitators said they want the government to resign.
Prime minister Rajapaksa said he wasn’t aware personally of anyone calling for his stepping down.
“Even if there are demands for my resignation, it would not be from the majority, it will be from a minority group who wouldn’t know the political history of the country,” he asserted.
A group of over 40 Parliamentarians from the ruling coalition have declared independence and have demanded the formation of an interim government comprising all political parties to tackle the economic crisis.
Meanwhile, India has agreed to extend an additional USD 500 million credit line to help Sri Lanka import fuel.
India has already agreed to defer USD 1.5 billion in import payments that Sri Lanka needs to make to the Asian Clearing Union.
Sri Lanka needs at least USD 4 billion to tide over its mounting economic woes, and talks with international institutions such as the World Bank as well as countries like China and Japan for financial assistance have been going on.
Last week, the Sri Lankan government said it would temporarily default on USD 35.5 billion in foreign debt as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine made it impossible to make payments to overseas creditors.
Sri Lanka has been witnessing mass anti-government protests in recent weeks as it suffers food shortages, soaring fuel prices and major power cuts due to the unprecedented financial crisis.
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