Majority support in parliament is also on the cards
Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has secured the support of key countries in the world such as India, the US, Japan and China. He is expected to get majority support in parliament also, though he is the lone representative of his party, the United National Party, in parliament.
Wickremesinghe might not head a truly “national” government composed of all parties in parliament. But he might get the support enough MPs to have a majority, that is, at least 113 in the House of 225.
World’s Interest in Stability
The countries supporting Wickremesinghe have based their policy on the critical requirement of stability, as the statements put out by their envoys show.
The Indian High Commission said in its tweet, that “India hopes for political stability and looks forward to working with the Government of Sri Lanka formed in accordance with democratic processes pursuant to the swearing-in of Hon’ble Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.” It further said that “India’s commitment to the people of Sri Lanka will continue.”
In its first reaction to the situation in Sri Lanka after Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Prime Minister, India on Tuesday said that it was “fully supportive” of the island nation’s democracy, stability and economic recovery. “India will always be guided by the best interests of the people of Sri Lanka expressed through democratic processes,” said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi.
“In keeping with our Neighborhood First policy, India has extended this year alone, support worth over USD 3.5 billion to the people of Sri Lanka for helping them overcome their current difficulties. In addition, the people of India have provided assistance for mitigating the shortages of essential items such as food and medicine,” Bagchi added.
The Indian High Commissioner, Gopal Baglay, followed this up with a meeting with Wickremesinghe in the latter’s office on Friday. He presented the PM with a bouquet.
Later, asked by newsmen about Sri Lanka’s relations with India, its closest neighbor, Wickremesinghe said: “It will become much better.” During his previous stints as PM, Wickremesinghe had visited India on four occasions – in October 2016, April 2017, November 2017 and October 2018.
Asked about his agenda as the Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe said: “I have taken on a challenge of uplifting the economy and I must fulfill it.” Setting the economy right by meeting the forex shortage and getting for the population essential goods, is his single point agenda. And for that, political stability in the form of parliament’s support, is needed.
The US Ambassador, Julie Chung, also stressed the need for political stability for Sri Lanka to solve its grave economic problems. In a tweet she said: “Look forward to working w/ @RW_UNP. His appointment as PM, and the quick formation of an inclusive government, are first steps towards addressing the crisis & promoting stability.”
“We encourage meaningful progress at the IMF & long-term solutions that meet the needs of all Sri Lankans,” she added.
Chung met Wickremesinghe on Friday, and discussed the US TREAsury team’s visit to Sri Lanka. The Japanese Ambassador Mizukoshi Hideaki and the Chinese Ambassador Qi Zhenhong also met him. The cancelled Japanese urban rail project is likely to be revived as a result of the change in the government.
The Chinese envoy discussed financial assistance to Sri Lanka. Earlier, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman had said in Beijing that China believes “that with the joint efforts of all sectors of Sri Lanka, the country will regain peace and stability as soon as possible.” Again the stress was on the need for stability.
Problems in Parliament
While Wickremesinghe has strong support from the four most important countries in its foreign relations, he is yet to fathom the level of support in parliament. He has to face parliament on May 17, when the opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa, will be bringing in a Motion of No Confidence against his government, and also President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
As of now, the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is with Wickremesinghe as per the wishes of President Rajapaksa and the rest of the Rajapaksa clan. The 41 MPs from the SLPP and its allies, who had rebelled and are sitting as Independents, are expected to act independently but without the objective of toppling the government.
The group’s spokesman, Wimal Weerawansa, stated that it has no intention of sabotaging the administration. It will not indulge in “hate politics” and will not allow the country to become “anarchic”, he said.
The Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila stated that as long as PM Ranil Wickremesinghe works to “rescue the country from the abyss” the Independents would extend support while remaining in the opposition. “This country needs a government. We will not make any attempt to topple it,” the former Energy minister said.
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), a former ally of the SLPP, has decided not to accept any portfolios or be part of a government under Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. It will decide on its stand vis-s-vis the SJB’s No Confidence Motion later on Friday after internal consultations.
President asks Lankans to be resilient
In his Vesak festival message to the people of Sri Lanka on Friday, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appealed to the people to be resilient and come out of the present dire situation through collective and resolute actions.
“Resilience is essential in difficult situations. At this juncture when the country is in dire straits, all the people’s representatives must work together immediately for a solution on behalf of all citizens. The true goal should be to reach the desired target without deviating from the primary goal,” the President said.
“We must be mindful of the current situation and unite around a program that can deliver a fair determination to all. That is the Buddhist policy.”
“May the common goal of all be to build a resilient, consensus and religious society based on principles. I wish you a Happy Vesak Poya Day,” the President said.