Sri Lankan PM rejects calls for caretaker government to tackle economic crisis

A defiant Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Saturday rejected calls for the formation of an interim government to deal with the unprecedented economic crisis in the indebted island nation, saying he would lead such a waiver anyway if that was necessary.

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets since April 9, when the government ran out of money for vital imports; commodity prices have soared and there are severe shortages of fuel, medicine and electricity supplies.

Speaking to ‘Neth FM’ radio station, the Prime Minister said: “What good are caretaker governments when people with different policies can’t agree? There must be an agreement, which is not possible. caretaker government, this should only happen under my leadership. »

Anti-government protesters in Sri Lanka are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his older brother, Prime Minister Mahinda, as they blame government policies for the worst currency crisis.

Commenting on the economic crisis, Rajapaksa, 77, said: “People have to be patient to deal with it (the economic crisis). They can keep protesting if they don’t want to have talks.

Speaking on the protesters currently occupying Galle Face, the Prime Minister said the protesters were simply continuing to occupy the square without showing up for talks.

“They should talk and discuss with government officials,” he said.

He added that if protesters wish, the gates of Temple Trees (the Prime Minister’s official residence) are open for them to enter at any time and chat with officials.

The ruling dispensation last week reached out to opposition parties and protesters for talks, but all efforts were rebuffed as agitators said they wanted the government to resign.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said he was not personally aware of any calls for his resignation.

“Even if there are demands for my resignation, it would not be from the majority, it would be from a minority group that would not know the political history of the country,” he said.

A group of over 40 parliamentarians from the ruling coalition declared independence and demanded the formation of an interim government comprising all political parties to deal with the economic crisis.

Meanwhile, India has agreed to extend an additional $500 million line of credit to help Sri Lanka import fuel.

India has already agreed to defer $1.5 billion in import payments Sri Lanka has to make to the Asian Clearing Union.

Sri Lanka needs at least $4 billion to overcome its growing economic difficulties, and talks with international institutions such as the World Bank as well as countries such as China and Japan for financial assistance are underway.

Last week, the Sri Lankan government said it would temporarily default on $35.5 billion in external debt as the pandemic and war in Ukraine made payments to foreign creditors impossible.

Sri Lanka has witnessed massive anti-government protests in recent weeks as it suffers from food shortages, soaring fuel prices and major power cuts due to the unprecedented financial crisis.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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