Colombo, Apr 5 (EFE).- At least 42 lawmakers withdrew their support to the ruling party of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday, leaving the government on the verge of losing its parliamentary majority as protests over an ongoing economic crisis intensified on the island.
As the government struggled to quell public outrage over rising prices and shortage of essentials, Finance Minister Ali Sabry stepped down a day after his appointment following the termination of the cabinet by Rajapaksa.
A group of protesters, calling for the president to step down, gathered near the parliament that was in the session amid mass defection by ruling coalition lawmakers that has left the governing Sri Lanka Podujana Peremuna (SLPP) in disarray.
Among those who walked out of the ruling combine was the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by former president Maithripala Sirisena. The SLFP has 14 members in the 225-member house.
“We made some suggestions to face the economic crisis, but the government has not responded in a favorable way,” Sirisena told the parliament.
The SLFP said its lawmakers would act independently in the parliament and not share the seating arrangements with the treasury bench.
Sixteen legislators from other parties said they would also work independently in the parliament after withdrawing their support to the SLPP.
Some 12 ruling lawmakers also announced their withdrawal of support to the Rajapaksa government.
The ruling party originally had 151 legislators in the house. The number increased to 159 due to crossover from the opposition.
The withdrawal of support by 42 lawmakers has cast doubts on whether the government maintains the majority in the house two days after the president dissolved the government.
The president appointed four ministers on Monday to ensure the minimum functioning of the administration.
The government will have to prove its majority if it renews the state of emergency imposed last Friday to curb protests.
Peaceful protests have erupted in many cities demanding the resignation of Rajapaksa amid spiraling inflation and fuel and food shortages.
On Monday night, protesters surrounded the official residences of Rajapaksa and his prime minister brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Eyewitnesses told EFE that security forces used tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd.
A group of lawyers surrounded the attorney general office in Colombo to protest against the government on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka has been battling an economic crisis for months due to dwindling foreign currency to purchase food, fuel, and daily essentials.
India recently approved a $1 billion credit line for the neighboring island nation as part of its financial assistance to deal with the crisis and extended a credit line for fuel and petroleum products.
The International Monetary Fund said that Sri Lanka recorded negative GDP growth of 3.6 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic. EFE