Sri Lanka crisis: Ex-President Maithripala Sirisena calls for fresh elections
Amid the deepening economic crisis in Sri Lanka, former president and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) chief Maithripala Sirisena called for fresh elections on Sunday. He was addressing a May Day rally organized by the SLFP in Polonnaruwa. Meanwhile, Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa also said they were observing a "Black May Day" this year because of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's "tyrannical regime" and reckless policies.
- On Friday, Sirisena seemed to agree with Gotabaya's decision to form an all-party interim government without his brother, PM Mahinda Rajapaksa.
- Now, Sirisena's call for fresh polls comes as a surprise.
- Lanka has been experiencing inflation, severe food shortages, and crippling power outages in the most distressing economic crisis since its independence.
- Prices of medicines, milk powder, cooking gas, and fuel have also skyrocketed.
Sirisena on Sunday said that politicians should be on people's side at a time when "the country is facing a great tragedy," Colombo Page reported. He added he couldn't stay home when citizens were out on the streets and that's why he had hit the streets, too. "I want to form a new government in the country. We will do it," Sirisena reportedly said.
Citing the plight of the farmers in Polonnaruwa, Sirisena said he was participating in the May Day rally to raise his voice against "the ruling class of the country." He also talked about the acute food shortage and said two to three lakh people were starving in the island nation. He also warned that under the current leadership, soon "people would die at home."
Sirisena wanting to form a new government after fresh elections come as a surprise. Because on Friday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa met an SLFP delegation that reportedly demanded an interim government be formed. Sirisena had also said a National Council to make crucial decisions—including naming the new PM—would be formed. He also made it clear that PM Mahinda wouldn't be part of the interim government.
Meanwhile, Opposition leader and Samagi Jana Balawegaya's chief—Premadasa—blamed the government's "reckless" policies for Lanka's economic downfall. He slammed it for pushing Lanka "to the brink of bankruptcy for the first time in its history." "Due to the inability, failure, illogical arbitrariness, and arrogance of a tyrannical regime, our country, and future generations have been plunged into an unprecedented fate," PTI quoted him as saying.
Last year, the Lankan government banned chemical fertilizers to make agriculture "100% organic." However, this proved to be a disaster as farmers were unable to get organic fertilizers due to the shortage of availability and time, triggering massive protests. Lanka's foreign currency reserves also plummeted 70% in two years. It has even defaulted on the entirety of its foreign debt amounting to about $51B.
Experts believe Sri Lanka has to restructure its debt and repay it over a three-year period to deal with the ongoing economic crisis. This will help in saving US dollars and easing the burden on the citizens who have been experiencing shortages of essential items. The cash-trapped nation also sought a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under the rapid financial instrument window.