As weeks of instability and protests rocked neighbouring Sri Lanka, things turned topsy turvy for the ruling Rajapaksa family, which had ruled the island nation for 20 years. After pushing the country into economic chaos, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned in May 2022. However, his resignation did not soothe the crisis-hit nation as chorus for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation grew louder.
After sailing through for almost two months after Mahinda’s resignation, Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to face the fury of Sri Lankan nationals as they gathered in Columbo from across the country and headed towards his official residence. As things went out of hand for the Sri Lankan police despite using tear gas against protestors, the demonstrators stormed the Presidential residence, in what was seen as a coup led by people of the country. Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to flee his residence, and then country, as hostile crowds kept storming countries important offices and residences, including that of caretaker PM Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, after fleeing to Singapore, sent his resignation to the speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament. With Gotabaya’s resignation, ended the 2-decade rule of Rajapaksa family over Sri Lanka, which has now led the country to economic ruins and political instability. Ranil Wickremesinghe was handed over the responsibility as caretaker President, until the elections for the new President take place.
In the backdrop of these developments, HW News spoke to Eran Wickramaratne, a member of Sri Lankan parliament and former State Minister of Finance.
When asked about the political future of the country with an interim President running the government, Mr Wickramaratne said: “The parliament was summoned and President’s resignation was read out as formality by secretary-general of parliament. He then announced that by next Tuesday, those who are aspiring to be the President of the country, who can be any member of parliament, can be nominated. The election will be held on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has become acting President until the President is elected.”
Mr Wickramaratne highlighted that the new President elected will serve the unexpired period of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s tenure, which is around two and half years.
The former minister, answering a question on whether Gotabaya Rajapaksa could have had a dignified exit from the top post than what unfolded, said he could have “certainly” had a very much more dignified exit.
“I could tell you this from my personal knowledge that he could have left early, had he given it a thought. On May 9, there was an attack on peaceful protestors in Columbo. On hearing about it, leader of opposition Sajith Premadasa, myself and one other MP made our way to the location to meet the protestors. But even we also came under attack and had to run for cover.”
“Gotabaya Rajapaksa had previously invited Sajith Premadasa to take oath as Prime Minister. On May 10, general secretary of our party and three other MPs including me went to see Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In that meeting, I explained to Rajapaksa in detail that an amendment to Sri Lankan constitution is required to cut the power of executive Presidency. Sri Lankan constitution has a powerful Presidency. Gotabaya Rajapaksa mingled it to increase his powers. We went to Rajapaksa with this amendment and told him to bring it as his amendment and not opposition’s. Then he could be called a ‘reformer’ and it will go down well for his legacy,” Mr Wickramaratne said.
Mr Wickramaratne, in this meeting which went on for over two hours, said h explained to the President that it will take months before this amendment will be implemented and since Rajapaksa’s party had majority in the house, it could be passed easily. This, Mr Wickramaratne said, could have ensured a dignified exit for Rajapaksa.
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