Colombo, July 21 (EFE).- Veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe took the oath of office as president of Sri Lanka on Thursday, beginning an onerous journey toward the island country’s economic recovery.
Wickremesinghe was sworn in in the parliament complex in Colombo, a day after he won a parliamentary ballot. He received 134 votes in the 225-member house.
The lawmakers elected a new president after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country amid worsening public unrest over an economic crisis that triggered crippling shortages of essential imports like fuel, medicine, and food.
He will rule the country until 2024, finishing the term of the current parliament.
Sri Lanka’s unrest has 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.
Wickremesinghe met with the top army and police officers who secured the parliament complex for days leading to the voting on Wednesday.
“During the meeting, he said that he was thankful to everyone who contributed to upholding the country’s democracy,” the president’s media division said in a WhatsApp message to the media.
Security was beefed up at the parliamentary complex after protesters attempted to storm into it last week.
The media division said the government would engage with peaceful protesters with legitimate concerns.
Wickremesinghe was named acting president when President Rajapaksa left the country for the Maldives before flying to Singapore.
However, the election of a new president has not ended the unrest.
The demonstrators have pledged to resume their protests to force Wickremesinghe out.
On Wednesday, they burned an effigy of Wickremesinghe in front of the Presidential Secretariat.
The country is facing its worst economic crisis since independence from the British Empire in 1948.
Since the end of March, thousands of people have taken to the streets calling for Rajapaksa’s resignation, culminating in the storming of the official residences of the president and prime minister on July 9.
Wickremesinghe now faces the unenviable task of ensuring political stability to resume negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and other countries to bail Sri Lanka out of the ongoing financial crisis. EFE