Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has initiated negotiations with the Opposition parties to persuade them to join an all-party government led by him as part of his efforts to establish trust in his administration and help the bankrupt country recover from the worst economic crisis, according to media reports on Friday (July 29).
Talks are expected to be completed in one week, the Daily Mirror newspaper quoted sources as saying. Wickremesinghe, on Thursday (July 28), held talks with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) of former president Miathripala Sirisena.
The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) party, however, will not join the government, the newspaper reported. Instead, some of its MPs are contemplating joining the ruling side individually, the report said. Meanwhile, the National Freedom Front (NFF) led by MP Wimal Weerawansa pledged support to Wickremesinghe.
Weerawansa said there were two options before the country today, to lead it down the path of an anarchical situation as in Haiti or to salvage it from the current mess at least at the last moment through consensus. He said President Wickremesinghe had taken genuine steps to resurrect the country from the present abyss and therefore his party was ready to guide that exercise regardless of past political differences or enmity.
The NFF had supported Dullas Alahapperuma in the race for the election of the president on July 20 to succeed Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who resigned after fleeing the country amidst massive anti-government protests.
Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe on Thursday (July 28) said that all parties had been invited to form an all-party Government. The minister said that the government will wait for a limited period of time to see whether the other parties would come forward to join it. The government seeks to reestablish a sense of trust within the democracy and to resolve the socio-political crises within Sri Lanka with this move, Rajapakshe said.
The minister said that rather than a conflict-ridden Parliament, they expect to establish a peaceful Parliament which does not cause rifts on the problems faced by the people.
Sri Lankan MPs on July 20 elected Wickremesinghe as the country’s new president, with the majority of the vote coming from lawmakers representing ousted President Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party.
There were only two non-SLPP lawmakers in the Cabinet appointed on Friday. Constitutionally, the Cabinet can be extended up to 30 members. The 73-year-old President was appointed for the rest of the term of Gotabaya Rajapaksa who initially fled to the Maldives and then to Singapore.
Sri Lanka has seen months of mass unrest over the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honour its international debt.
Wickremesinghe on Wednesday said his government’s main priorities are to fix the country’s ailing economy and end the severe fuel shortage that has exacerbated after the last shipment under the Indian credit line arrived in the country in June.
(With inputs from agencies)