- Sri Lankan President Wickremesinghe outlined his plans in a meeting with influential monks.
- “I want to start a new journey,” Wickramasinghe tells the monks.
- Wrote letters to all legislators asking them to join the coalition government.
Colombo: Sri Lanka’s new President Ranil Wickremesinghe has formally invited MPs to join an all-party coalition government to revive the bankrupt economy through painful reforms, his office said on Sunday.
Wickremesinghe took office earlier this month after public outrage over the island nation’s worsening economic crisis forced his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country.
In a meeting on Saturday with influential monks from the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, one of Buddhism’s holiest shrines, Wickramasinghe outlined his plans.
“As president, I want to start a new journey,” Wickramasinghe told the monks in his first meeting with the powerful Buddhist clergy after taking office.
“I want to bring all parties together and go on this journey and form an all-party government.”
He has written to all legislators to join the coalition government.
Wickramasinghe, 73, a former opposition MP, took over the prime minister’s post for a sixth term after Rajapaksa’s elder brother Mahinda resigned in May and was the only other contender for the job.
Wickremesinghe became president on July 9 after Gotabaya fled when tens of thousands of protesters, angry over the economic crisis, stormed the presidential palace.
He fled to Singapore where he resigned five days later and Wickramasinghe became interim president and later won a vote in parliament to confirm his accession.
Sri Lanka’s 22 million people are suffering from months-long blackouts, record inflation and shortages of food, fuel and medicine.
Since late last year, the country has run out of foreign exchange even for much-needed imports.
In April, Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt and began bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund.
Wickramasinghe told the monks that the economy will shrink further this year with a contraction of 7.0 percent, but a recovery is expected next year.
“I am working to restabilize this economy and build the economy in such a way that the country can grow by 2023, 2024.
“It’s a tough job, but if you don’t do it now, it’s going to get tougher. We have to think whether we should try to cure the patient with medication or the patient without medication,” he added. should be allowed to die”. .
He said that inflation is currently running at 60.8% and may increase further.
Following his election as president, Wickremesinghe has appointed an interim cabinet with the door open to others, ordering security forces to evacuate protest sites.
He has called a new session of parliament from Wednesday and is expected to expand the 18-member cabinet to include members from opposition parties.