Crime & Justice

Go Ranil Go: Sri Lanka protesters now target President Wickremesinghe

By Indira Guerrero

Colombo, July 21 (EFE).- Jeevanth Peiris, a Catholic priest and one of the organizers of the Sri Lankan protest movement that led to the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his prime minister, has a new mission on hand: to topple Ranil Wickremesinghe, the country’s current leader.

“Our first objective was to make him (Rajapaksa) resign as the president and we have done it. Therefore, now we have a second objective because Wickremesinghe was brought by Rajapaksa to cover (up) his corrupt system,” Peiris told EFE.

Wickremesinghe took the oath of office as president of Sri Lanka on Thursday, a day after he won a parliamentary ballot.

Speaking to EFE at the “Gota Go Village”, the main protest site that mockingly refers to the former president, the white-robed priest said the protesters now had a new goal to oust the new president.

Because he was chosen as prime minister by the deposed president in May, demonstrators claim the seasoned politician is connected to the Rajapaksa administration.

Wickremesinghe was given the position, according to Peiris, by Gotabaya to “cover up all his difficulties.”

“Therefore, Wickremesinghe was not backed by the people, but by the parliamentarians who … were worried about their own benefits,” he said.

People’s discontent with both leaders reached boiling point on July 9, when President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, were forced to flee their official residences after thousands of protesters stormed in to demand their resignation.

Even though both leaders announced later that day that they would resign, only Rajapaksa did so a week later but only after appointing Wickremesinghe as acting president.

Wickremesinghe’s stint at the helm of the nation, which was supposed to be temporary until the appointment of a new president by parliament, has been extended until 2024 after Wednesday’s win, sparking outrage among the protesters.

“We wanted to give a chance to the parliamentary system” but the outcome has proved that they were wrong, Peiris said.

According to the priest, people are only looking for stability.

Since the end of March, thousands of people have taken to the streets as the country faces its worst economic crisis since independence from the British Empire in 1948.

The unrest intensified over the last several weeks due to the depletion of global petroleum supplies, high sovereign debt, and a cash constraint that has affected people’s capacity to buy food and medicines.

The protesters don’t believe that Wickremesinghe can fulfill that objective given his failure as a prime minister in the past.

“He was the prime minister for three months and failed to bring solutions to the queues for fuel and the food crisis,” Peiris said.

That is the reason the priest, who has been guiding the movement for weeks, is drawing up plans for what promises to be a fresh revolt to match the one that expelled Rajapaksa.

“We will continue this protest peacefully and creatively until Ranil Wickremesinghe resigns,” he said. EFE


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