World Sri Lanka's PM Ranil Wickremesinghe sworn in as acting...

Sri Lanka’s PM Ranil Wickremesinghe sworn in as acting president until lawmakers pick successor

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July 15 (BP) — Sri Lanka’s Parliament on Friday formally accepted the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and paved the way for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to be sworn in as acting leader of the unrest-filled country.

Rajapaksa, 73, fled Sri Lanka and went to Singapore earlier this week before turning in his resignation on Thursday. His forced exile was caused by an economic crisis in the country that led thousands of Sri Lankans to protest in the streets and occupy government offices and Wickremesinghe’s private residence.

Wickremesinghe’s elevation to acting president might not last long. Sri Lankan lawmakers are scheduled to convene on Saturday to choose a successor who will serve out the remainder of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in 2024.

The interim leader said in a televised address that he intends to change Sri Lanka’s constitution to restrict some presidential powers and strengthen parliament, restore order and pursue legal action against insurgents.

The country’s economic crisis began in 2019 and has since been marked by high inflation and limited supplies of food, fuel and medicine. The situation was aggravated by accumulated debts, the Russian war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, economic mismanagement, controversial legislation and failure to seek aid from the international community.

Army soldiers stand guard during an anti-government protest outside the office of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Wednsday. Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the country’s acting president on Friday. Photo by Kumara De Mel/BP

Wickremesinghe, 73, said last month that the Sri Lankan economy had collapsed and the government was unable to buy essential items for its population of 22 million.

Sri Lankans turned against Rajapaksa in recent months after accusations of wrongdoing that included corruption, war crimes and human rights violations in the small island Asian nation, which is located off India’s southern coast.

“We had one aim — to get rid of this absolutely corrupt regime,” one demonstrator said according to CNN. “I came because I was scared for my son’s future.”

Some Sri Lankans, however, are eager for a different permanent leader to take over.

“[Wickremesinghe] has no people’s mandate [and] is a well known Rajapaksa supporter,” protester Manuri Pabasari told BBC News. “I mean, the new president and the new prime minister should be not a Rajapaksa supporter.”

Under Sri Lanka’s constitution, Wickremesinghe can serve in the interim post for as many as 30 days.

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