Colombo: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government faced more trouble Tuesday after the newly-appointed Finance Minister Ali Sabry resigned. In a separate development, dozens of lawmakers walked out of the ruling coalition amid nationwide protests over the country’s worst economic crisis. President Rajapaksa had appointed Sabry after sacking his brother Basil Rajapaksa, who was at the centre of anger within the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) coalition.
In a letter to the President, Sabri said that he took up the job as part of a temporary measure. “However, after much reflection and deliberation and taking into consideration the current situation, I am now of the view for Your Excellency to make suitable interim arrangement to navigate the unprecedented crisis fresh and proactive, and unconventional steps needs to be taken including the appointment of a new finance minister,” Sabry said.
He was among the four new ministers appointed by the president who dissolved his cabinet Monday and sought to form a unity government.
Meanwhile, a group of over 50 lawmakers who supported the government Tuesday decided to function as an Independent Group in Parliament unless the government resigns and hands over the ruling powers to a capable group, former state minister Nimal Lanza was quoted as saying by the ‘Daily News’.
Former minister Wimal Weerawansa also announced MPs who were part of the government from 10 parties will leave the government and remain independent.
A four-day session of the Parliament started Tuesday morning during which the Opposition raised objections to going ahead with the day’s agenda in the absence of relevant cabinet ministers. It was the first session since a state of emergency was declared by President Rajapaksa last week.
“We have a problem in continuing with the day’s agenda as subject ministers have not been named,” Opposition’s senior leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told the Speaker.
Another opposition leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that Parliament must appoint a replacement for the deputy speaker as Ranjith Siyambalapitiya had resigned following the government ally and former president Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s decision to act independent of the ruling coalition.
Main opposition leader Sajith Premadasa urged the government to pay heed to the protesters whom he said have suffered with hardships experienced recently.
Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in history. With long lines for fuel, cooking gas, essentials in short supply and long hours of power cuts, the public has been suffering for months.
Despite the declaration of the state of emergency and a weekend curfew, people joined the protests calling for the resignation of Rajapaksa throughout the island Tuesday. Protesters even blocked the access roads to parliament. The protests took place in all parts with a large crowd thronging opposite the prime minister’s official residence here.