By SUSITHA FERNANDO
Colombo, April 29 (IANS) To end the current political deadlock, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has agreed to form an interim, all-party government with a fresh cabinet, dropping his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, former President Maithripala Sirisena announced on Friday.
Sirisena, who met President Rajapaksa, along with representatives of 11 political parties who supported Rajapaksa to come to power but decided to stand independent following the recent political crisis, informed the media of the development.
The 11 parties which had insisted on removing PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and the cabinet as a solution to the ongoing political impasse, had also demanded that Friday’s meeting could only be with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa but not with anyone else.
According to Sirsena, appointment of a new PM and the Cabinet of the interim government is to be done by the national Assembly consisting of the leaders of all political parties.
“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is ready to form an interim government, if all the political parties represented in Parliament agree to do so,” he said.
At Friday’s discussion, the President has also agreed to establish a National Council, which will decide on the appointment of a Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers, Inspector General of Police, Attorney General, and the Ministry Secretaries.
The interim cabinet of ministers would be limited to 15 or 20, Sirisena told media.
However, neither President Gotabaya Rajapakssa nor PM Mahinda Rajapaksa have officially announced the outcome of the meeting or what their positions are. Referring to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s invitation to political parties for an discussion to form an interim government, PM Mahinda Rajapaksa on Thursday said that his brother would never ask him to step down and insisted that whatever government would be formed, would be under his leadership.
Facing the worst-ever economic crisis in its history, the Indian Ocean island nation is suffering long hours of daily power outages, seeing long queues for gas and fuel and many essential items, including food and medicine have gone out of stock. With soaring inflation and existing dollar reserves limited to $1 billion, the country’s Central bank announced a default of external debt. Sri Lanka is facing a massive external debt of around $51 billion with $7 billion due in 2022.
By SUSITHA FERNANDO