Sajith Premadasa
Premadasa is the only leader who is not tainted by the governance of the past and has been bold with policy positions

Sri Lanka: All eyes on Sajith Premadasa, who could be the next President

The situation in Sri Lanka is imploding with people on the streets in large numbers and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flying out of the country early on Wednesday morning. The current leadership is discredited and protests on the streets of Colombo are against the Rajapaksa brothers, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the speaker.

President Gotabaya had promised to resign on Wednesday and once he resigns, prime minister will be appointed as ‘acting president’ till the time the Parliament votes to elect a new president. The parliamentary vote to elect the next president is likely to be held on July 20 and is going to be a secret ballot without a whip. There could be massive cross voting.

Also read: Sri Lanka in uncharted territory; on the brink of anarchy

Sri Lanka’s main opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has told the BBC that he intends to run for president, once Gotabaya Rajapaksa steps down.

In with a chance

Sajith Premadasa of the SJB alliance has 53 MPs. If he can garner the support of the 43 breakaway MPs, 3 of the JVB and 10 of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) then he stands a chance to become the next leader of the troubled nation.

While numbers don’t favour Premadasa as of now and he may or may not be able to swing the numbers in the upcoming voting for President, he certainly is the biggest face for the country and can play a key role in bringing the country out of this crisis.

Premadasa described the current situation in Sri Lanka as “confused, uncertainty and total anarchy”, saying it needs “consensus, consultation, compromise and coming togetherness”. He has conceded that there are no quick fixes.

Premadasa said he was ready to take part in an all-party interim government.

Son of former PM

Premadasa is a former member of Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) and now head of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) alliance. He is the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa, who served as the prime minister from 1978 to 1988 and as president from 1989 to 1993 of Sri Lanka. Ranasinghe was assassinated by the LTTE on May 1. 1993.

Premadasa had an early start in politics. Belonging to a political family, he was the leader of the UNP from Hambantota and became an MP for the first time in the year 2000.

He is the only leader who is not tainted by the governance of the past and has been bold with policy positions. Premadasa was one of the first leaders to call for the abolition of the presidential form of government.

For inclusive politics

He has also been an advocate of inclusive politics. He stood against racism and alienation of minorities.

In fact, he has said in the past that the country’s major challenge of security comes from alienation of minorities. This position of his could get him the needed Tamil support during voting.

Also watch: Emergency imposed in Lanka after Gotabaya flees Island

Premadasa had lost the presidential election in 2019, and would need the support of the governing alliance MPs to win. He is banking on getting it due to the popular discontent against Rajapaksa and his family.

The SJB leader has been criticised for refusing to take the post of prime minister when it was offered to him in April.

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