Sri Lanka opposition rejects President Rajapaksa’s offer to form interim government – Times of India


COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s main opposition, SJB, said on Sunday it has rejected an offer from embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to his leader Sajith Premadasa to lead an interim government amid lingering political uncertainty in the country now under state of emergency.
“Our leader refused to accept the president’s offer,” Tissa Attanayake, the national organizer of Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), told reporters.
Rajapaksa had telephoned both Premadasa and Harsha de Silva, the SJB’s economic guru, about the prospect of forming an interim government, a demand endorsed by both the powerful Buddhist clergy and the group that had broken away from ruling Sri Lanka. Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) coalition.
The SJB announced on Saturday that it would support the proposal of the law firm BASL, which had called for the creation of an 18-month interim government with the aim of abolishing the presidential governance system.
They had also called for the repeal of the 20th Amendment to the constitution, which granted unfettered powers to Rajapaksa in 2020.
The Sri Lankan Bar Association (BASL) calls for the restoration of the 19th amendment to the constitution that had given parliament more power over the president.
The SJB is discussing this proposal with the BASL, said SJB leader Harin Fernando.
The 19A passed in 2015 pruned presidential powers by empowering Parliament over the executive president.
However, the 19A was demolished after Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the November 2019 presidential election.
Meanwhile, former President Maithripala Sirisena also met with Premadasa on Saturday to ask the SJB to take over the interim government.
Premadasa, 55, has already announced that he would not be a party to a government led by the two Rajapaksas – Gotabaya and Mahinda.
The SJB, which has handed over motions of no confidence against the SLPP coalition government and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the Speaker of Parliament, is pressuring Parliament Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena to bring forward the date of the debate.
The Buddhist clergy have also stepped up pressure on Rajapaksa to implement the preliminary government plan.
The government, which has been curtailed by a month of street protests, has declared a state of emergency, which gives security forces sweeping powers to deal with dissidents.
Sri Lanka is currently in an unprecedented economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 as the government ran out of money for essential imports; the prices of essential raw materials have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages of fuel, medicines and electricity.
Despite mounting pressure, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his older brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa have refused to resign from office.
In a special cabinet meeting on Friday, President Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency effective Friday midnight. This is the second state of emergency declared in just over a month.
Rajapaksa had also declared a state of emergency on April 1 after a mass demonstration in front of his private home. He had withdrawn it on April 5 after fierce criticism of his move.

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