Sri Lankas embattled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday sought divine help to remain in office by praying at an iconic Buddhist temple, amidst mounting pressure on the veteran politician to step down over the worsening economic crisis facing the island nation, according to media reports.
In his first public outing since the outbreak of anti-government protests last month, the 76-year-old the patriarch of the powerful Rajapaksa clan, travelled to the sacred city of Anuradhapura where hostile crowds booed and jeered him and asked him to step down, the reports said.
The Prime Minister took a vow before the sacred Sri Maha Bodi, the ECONOMYNEXT, a financial and political news service, quoted a source close to the prime minister as saying.
He wants to stay in office and that is why he climbed the steps to the upper terrace to touch the sacred Bo tree, the source said.
The top most portion of the temple complex is not open to the public and access is allowed only for visiting heads of state and Sri Lankas top politicians.
The Prime Ministers Media Unit said that Mahinda Rajapaksa was engaged in religious observances in Anuradhapura, visited the Ruwanweli Seya and received blessings from the monks.
He also prayed at the Mirisawetiya Temple and received blessings from the priests at the shrine, News First news portal reported.
Apart from seeking divine help to remain in office, the Mahinda Rajapakasa is also taking action to muster support from his constituents by inviting large numbers to visit him at his Temple Trees residence on Monday, the source said.
Mahinda Rajapaksas visit to Anuradhapura comes amid reports that his younger brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has sought the prime ministers resignation to form an interim government to overcome the worst economic crisis faced by the country since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.
Local government representatives loyal to the prime minister met with him on Saturday and pledged support and demanded that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 72, resign in response to the main demand of the escalating protests.
Following an emergency Cabinet meeting on Friday, the president had indirectly suggested that a resignation by his elder brother Mahinda could clear the way for a broad-based national government to steer the country out of the economic chaos.
Contrary to some reports that Gotabaya asked Mahinda to step down, sources close to both said there was no such direct demand.
However, sources at Temple Trees (the Prime Ministers official residence) told ECONOMYNEXT that Mahinda Rajapaksa was digging his heels and preparing to rally support within the ruling SLPP for him to hold onto power.
The Prime Minister has pointed out that he was not in any way responsible for policy blunders that brought the country to this mess, the report quoted the source close to Mahinda Rajapaksa as saying.
The fertiliser fiasco as well as the delay in seeking an IMF bailout were all decisions taken by the president. Why should the Prime Minister be the fall guy.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksas wife Shiranthi has visited the Dedimunda devale at Mawanella recently in a bid to secure blessings to ward off evil spirits tormenting their family, the report said.
The devale is said to have powers to neutralise any curse and return evil to those who instigated the spell. She travelled to the devale with extra police protection.
Last week, the presidents personal shaman, Gnana Akka, had charmed bottled water that was secretly delivered to the Galle Face agitation site in the belief that those who drink it will give up their agitation and the protests will fizzle out.
Despite mounting pressure, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have refused to quit office.
In a special Cabinet meeting on Friday, President Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency with effect from Friday midnight. This is the second emergency declared in just over a month.
The economic crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)