UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe takes over as Sri Lankan PM

Friday, 13 May 2022 (12:15 IST)
Colombo: United National Party (UNP) leader and five-time prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was on Thursday evening sworn in for the sixth time to lead Sri Lanka, as the island nation grapples with an unprecedented economic and political crisis.

Wickremesinghe took oath before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the President's House. Secretary to the President Gamini Senarath and Prof. Maithree Wickramasinghe were also present on the occasion.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a tweet said Ranil had stepped up to take on the challenging task of steering the country through a very turbulent time. “My best wishes to the newly appointed PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, who stepped up to take on the challenging task of steering our country through a very turbulent time. I look forward to working together with him to make Sri Lanka strong again.”

Former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been relocated to the Sri Lanka Navy Dockyard in Trincomalee due to security reasons, tweeted his congratulations to his successor. “Congratulations to the newly appointed Prime Minister of #lka, @RW_UNP. I wish you all the best as you navigate these troubled times.”

Soon after the swearing in, the new Prime Minister proceeded to the Walukarama Temple to seek blessings. Speaking to reporters after receiving religious blessings at the temple, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said he has a majority in Parliament with support from both the opposition and the government and that he was ready to prove it in Parliament.

He also warned that things are going to get worse by next month and that he took over the government to fix things. Responding to a question from a foreign journalist, who asked him, “You represent a party of one person in Parliament, why do you think you have the mandate to be Prime Minister?”

The new PM quipped, “Churchill had only four members with him in 1939. How did he become Prime Minister? I have done the same.” He also said that the GotaGoGama struggle must continue, and he will not intervene with the struggle and nor will the police do anything. He has also said the composition of the Cabinet of Ministers has not been decided yet

According to reports, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is preparing to immediately tackle the burning crisis in the country due to the absence of fuel. His number one priority is to solve the fuel crisis. He plans to hold discussions with several countries including India to solve the fuel problem, media reports said.

Julie Chung, the US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, in a congratulatory tweet, said she is looking forward to working with the new Prime Minister. She said his appointment as the Prime Minister and the quick formation of an inclusive government are the first steps to addressing the crisis and promoting stability.

The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka in a tweet expressed hope for political stability in the island nation and said it looks forward to working with the new government under Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The High Commission also said that India's commitment to the people of Sri Lanka will continue.

Ranil Wickremesinghe accepted the post of Prime Minister following the backing of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs. Wickremesingh lost the Parliamentary Elections in 2020 and later entered the Parliament through the single National List seat that was secured by the UNP.

Prior to his appointment as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, he has served five times in the post previously. He served as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka from 1993 to 1994, 2001 to 2004, 2015 to 2015 (100 days), 2015 to 2018, and 2018 to 2019. He has been leader of the United National Party since 1994 and has served as the Leader of the Opposition from 1994 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2015.

Meanwhile, Saman Ekanayake has been appointed as the new secretary to the Premier. The new Prime Minister's Secretary has been appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Ekanayake previously served under Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister's Secretary on three occasions. This will be his fourth appointment under Wickremesinghe. Ekanayake is a Special Grade Retired Administrative Officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service and has served in the Ministries of Youth Affairs, Sports, Samurdhi, Housing Industry, Foreign Affairs and Finance. He has also served in the High Commission of Sri Lanka in Malaysia and Great Britain.

Wickremesinghe's appointment as PM comes after a round of discussions on Wednesday evening between him and President Rajapaksa during which the new appointment for the premiership and the present political crisis in the country were discussed.

Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister on Monday following weeks of protest calling for his ouster over the unprecedented food and fuel crisis that has paralysed the island nation.

Mahinda Rajapaksa's resignation also followed attacks by pro-government elements on peaceful protesters camped outside Temple Trees, the PM's residence, and the 'GotaGoGama' protest site at Galle Face Green on Monday afternoon.

The events led to a nationwide public furore and triggered two days of violence and arson attacks on the properties of government ministers and top officials, leading to the death of at least eight persons, including a lawmaker.

The resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa was later notified in a Gazette Extraordinary published on May 9, under the directives of the President.

The Sri Lankan government is currently struggling to meet basic requirements for its population of 22 million citizens amid an unprecedented economic crisis caused by mishandling of finances and ill-timed tax cuts.

The island nation is also currently facing a foreign exchange deficit, which has resulted in food, fuel, power, and gas shortages, and has sought economic assistance from friendly countries, including India. (UNI)

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