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Sri Lanka leader vows to shed powers, appoint prime minister – Press Telegram

By KRISHAN FRANCIS

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – The president of Sri Lanka on Wednesday vowed to appoint a new prime minister, empower parliament and abolish the all-powerful executive presidential system as reforms to stabilize the country in a political crisis and violence unleashed by the worst. economic crises in memory.

In a televised speech, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said without partisanship he condemned the attacks on peaceful protesters by crowds who had come to support his brother and former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned on Monday.

“I am taking steps to appoint a new prime minister this week who has the confidence of a majority in Parliament, who can gain the confidence of the people and a new cabinet to monitor the current situation, to prevent the country from falling. anarchy and continue with government functions that are paralyzed, “Gotabaya Rajapaksa said.

“I will give way to the new Prime Minister to present a new work program and implement it.”

Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he would also hand over much of his powers to parliament and, when he returned to normalcy, take steps to abolish the country’s powerful executive presidential system.

The president’s speech came as authorities deployed armored vehicles and troops on the streets of the capital on Wednesday, two days after pro-government crowds attacked peaceful protesters, sparking a wave of violence across the country.

Security forces have been ordered to shoot those believed to be involved in the violence, as sporadic arson and vandalism have continued despite the nationwide crackdown that began Monday night.

Anti-government protesters have demanded the resignation of President Rajapaksa and his brother over a debt crisis that has nearly shattered Sri Lanka and left its people in dire need of fuel, food and other essentials. Nine people have been killed and more than 200 injured in violent attacks in which crowds have set fire to buildings and vehicles.

Armored trucks with soldiers on top rolled to some areas of Colombo. Challenging the curfew, some protesters gathered in front of the president’s office to continue the demonstrations that began more than a month ago. Police have announced through loudspeakers that it is illegal to remain in public places during a curfew.

Videos posted on social media showed lines of military trucks leaving the capital, along with soldiers riding motorcycles and setting up checkpoints across the country for fear that a political vacuum could pave the way for a military takeover.

Defense Ministry chief Kamal Gunaratne has denied speculation about a military takeover at a press conference with the country’s army and naval chiefs.

“None of our officers have the desire to take over the government. It has never happened in our country and it is not easy to do it here,” Gunaratne said. President Rajapaksa is a former senior army official and remains the country’s official defense minister.

Gunaratne said the army will return to its barracks once the security situation returns to normal.

The U.S. State Department has expressed concern over the military deployment, and spokesman Ned Price said he was “following closely” the situation.

The Prime Minister’s departure created an administrative vacuum without a cabinet, which was automatically dissolved with his resignation.

Navy Commander Nishantha Ulugetenne said former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was being protected at a naval base in Trincomalee on the northeast coast.

After Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned, he and his family were evacuated from their official residence through thousands of protesters trying to enter the heavily guarded colonial-era building.

The Indian embassy denied speculation on social media that “some politicians and their families had fled to India” and also rejected speculation that India was sending troops to Sri Lanka.

India’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said it supported Sri Lanka, saying it had extended $ 3.5 billion to help overcome the economic crisis and sent essential items such as food and medicine.

On Monday, supporters rallied at the prime minister’s official residence to urge Mahinda Rajapaksa to remain in office. After the meeting, government-backed mobs beat peaceful protesters who camped near the prime minister’s residence and the president’s office demanding their resignations, while police watched and did little to stop them. Across the country, angry citizens responded by attacking government supporters and ruling party politicians.

Nine people, including a ruling party MP and two police officers, were killed and 219 injured in the violence, the Defense Ministry said. In addition, 104 buildings and 60 vehicles burned.

Pro-government mobs were persecuted, beaten and stripped. Government supporters’ homes were attacked and some businesses set on fire.

Pope Francis tweeted for peace in Sri Lanka.

“He said a special thought to the people of Sri Lanka, especially the youth,” he said.

“I urge everyone to maintain a peaceful approach, without giving in to violence. I call on all those responsible to listen to the aspirations of the people, respecting human and civil rights.”

The European Union has called on the authorities to launch an investigation into the incident and hold accountable those who instigated and carried out the violence.

Sri Lanka is close to bankruptcy and has suspended payments of $ 7 billion in foreign loans maturing this year out of $ 25 billion maturing in 2026. Its total external debt is $ 51 billion.

The Central Bank on Wednesday urged the president and parliament to quickly restore political stability, warning that the economy faces a threat of collapse in a few days.

“Even to move forward in debt restructuring, we need a stable government. We need a cabinet, a parliament, a prime minister, a finance minister,” said Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe.

“Without that kind of administration, it’s very difficult for us to move forward.”

Sri Lanka leader vows to shed powers, appoint prime minister – Press Telegram Source link Sri Lanka leader vows to shed powers, appoint prime minister – Press Telegram

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