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Loyalists turn on Sri Lanka PM as protest pressure grows

Sri Lanka’s beleaguered prime minister came below increasing stress to step down on Saturday, as staunch allies broke ranks and sponsored street protests calling for resignations over a worsening economic crisis.

Media minister Nalaka Godahewa introduced his assistance to the thousands outdoor President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s workplace who was worried he and different members of his family relinquish electricity.

Sri Lanka is struggling with its most painful monetary downturn in view that independence in 1948, with months of blackouts and acute shortages of meals, gasoline, and other essentials.

The crisis has sparked nationwide protests, with angry demonstrators camped outside Rajapaksa’s office for more than two weeks.

Under pressure, the president dropped two of his brothers — Chamal and Basil — and nephew Namal from the cabinet this month, but protesters rejected the changes as cosmetic.

Godahewa, previously a staunch Rajapaksa loyalist, said the president should sack his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa — the political head of the family — and allow an all-party interim government to take over.

He said the government had lost its credibility after the police killing of a protester on Tuesday. Godahewa said he had offered his resignation but President Rajapaksa had not accepted it.

“We need to restore political stability to successfully meet the economic crisis,” Godahewa said in a statement on his Facebook page.

“The entire cabinet, including the prime minister, should resign and (there should be) an interim cabinet that can win the confidence of all.”

Several other senior ruling party members, including Dallas Alahapperuma, a former media minister and cabinet spokesman, have asked the premier to step down.

“I urge the president to appoint a smaller cabinet with a genuine consensus representing all parties in parliament for one year maximum,” Alahapperuma said Saturday.– ‘Be patient –

But the prime minister rejected their demands, insisting a majority of ruling party lawmakers still supported him.

“A majority of MPs want me, there may be a few who want me to go,” Mahinda Rajapaksa told Neth FM radio.

“People must be patient to overcome this crisis,” the 76-year-old added, rejecting calls for a unity cabinet.

“There cannot be any interim government without me as its prime minister.”

Police and the military stepped up security in the central town of Rambukkana on Saturday for the funeral of 42-year-old Chaminda Lakshan, who was shot dead when police broke up a protest against spiraling fuel prices.

Saffron-robed Buddhist monks chanted teachings ahead of the sunset burial at Lakshan’s family home.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa visited to offer his condolences to his widow and two children, while a large number of villagers attended.

Police said they had arrested a 28-year-old man who allegedly attempted to torch a fuel tanker before officers opened fire on the crowd, killing Lakshan.

Hundreds of people had been protesting a 64 percent increase in the price of diesel, commonly used for public transport.

Food, oil, and electricity have been rationed for months and the country is facing record inflation.

Hospitals are short of vital medicines and the government has appealed to Sri Lankans abroad for donations.

Finance minister Ali Sabry, who is in Washington to negotiate a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, warned on Friday that the economic situation in the South Asian nation will likely deteriorate even further.

“It is going to get worse before it gets better,” Sabry told reporters. “It is going to be a painful few years ahead.”

The IMF said in a statement it held “fruitful technical discussions” with the Sri Lankan delegation on the bailout request for the duration of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in the US capital.

“Going ahead, the IMF group will guide Sri Lanka’s efforts to conquer the present-day financial disaster through operating carefully with the government on their monetary software, and through attractive with all different stakeholders in assist of a timely decision of the disaster,” the IMF statement said.

Courtesy Bol News

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