People shout slogans against Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and demand that Rajapaksa family politicians step down, during a protest amid the country’s economic crisis, at Independence Square in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 4, 2022. (REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte)
SRI LANKA’S president offered to share power with the opposition on Monday (4) as protests escalated across the country demanding his resignation over worsening shortages of food, fuel and medicines.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s appeal to legislators came as heavily armed security forces looked to quell more demonstrations over what the government itself has acknowledged as the worst shortages of essentials since independence from Britain in 1948.
“The president invites all political parties in parliament to accept cabinet posts and join the effort to seek solutions to the national crisis,” Rajapaksa’s office said in a statement.
It stressed that solutions to the deepening crisis should be found “within a democratic framework”, as hundreds were joining spontaneous demonstrations in cities, towns and villages.
The invitation came after 26 cabinet ministers – every member except Rajapaksa and his elder brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa – submitted letters of resignation at a late-night meeting on Sunday (3). The country’s central bank governor Ajith Cabraal joined the long list of resignations on Monday (4).
The move cleared the way for the country’s ruling political clan to seek to shore up its position.
Trading was halted on the country’s stock exchange seconds after it opened as shares fell by more than the five per cent threshold needed to trigger an automatic stop.
The south Asian island nation is in the grip of unprecedented food and fuel shortages along with record inflation and crippling power cuts, with no sign of an end to the economic woes.
The government has announced it will seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, but talks are yet to begin.
Troops and police were placed on high alert as a 36-hour curfew ended at dawn on Monday despite intelligence reports warning of more unrest, a top security official said.
‘Go home Gota’
“Go lunatic, Gota lunatic,” crowds chanted on Monday in Kiribathgoda, referring to the president, who imposed the state of emergency a day after a crowd attempted to storm his residence.