Sri Lankan Prime Minister resigns amid economic crisis

Ranil Wickremesinghe told party leaders he would resign immediately, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his palace

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told party leaders on Saturday that he was ready to step down and allow a new government to be formed. His decision came after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his residence before a crowd of protesters stormed the building.

Wickremesinghe’s office announced the news in a statement, about two hours after the prime minister sat down with political leaders to seek a solution to the political crisis gripping the South Asian nation. With Wickremesinghe out of power, the speaker of parliament will likely become caretaker prime minister until elections are held.

Wickremesinghe’s tenure was short-lived, beginning in mid-May when he replaced Mahinda Rajapaksa, brother of current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The president has yet to step down, despite a horde of protesters storming his residence in Colombo earlier on Saturday.

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Protesters storm the President’s residence

Several lawmakers have demanded the resignation of Rajapaska, whose fate is currently unknown.

Sri Lanka has been in a state of turmoil for several months, with food and fuel shortages and skyrocketing prices. The country defaulted on its external debt in May for the first time in its history. Fuel rationing was introduced earlier this month, and armed police and troops have become commonplace at Sri Lankan gas stations.

Sri Lanka’s financial crisis can be partly attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen the island nation lose vital tourism revenue. High government spending and tax cuts then depleted state coffers, and attempts by the state to repay foreign bonds by increasing money printing led to runaway inflation.

Shortly after Wickremesinghe announced his willingness to step down, protests outside his house continued, with riot police reportedly seen using tear gas on protesters.


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