Sri Lanka’s beleagured president sidestepped a no – confidence motion on Tuesday after his broken coalition rallied to postpone a resolution blaming him for the country’s worst economic crisis.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s shaky coalition voted against the acceptance of the unprecedented “dissatisfaction of parliament” motion.
The non-binding motion was proposed by the main opposition Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance, and says it reflects the demands of thousands of anti-government protesters who have been seeking Rajapaksa’s resignation for weeks.
Food, fuel and medicine shortages, coupled with record inflation and prolonged power outages, have brought severe hardships for Sri Lankans, in the worst financial crisis since Britain’s independence in 1948.
The president’s older brother Mahinda stepped down as prime minister last week and in an effort to defuse growing public anger, Gotabaya has appointed opposition politician Ranil Wickremesinghe to replace him.
Wickremesinghe received crucial support from the two main opposition parties to form a “unity government” to pull the country out of the dire economic crisis, but had to put together another full cabinet on Monday afternoon.
He is expected to appoint a new cabinet later, but political sources said negotiations are still underway on the division of portfolios.
Wickremesinghe said in a speech to the nation on Monday that the country’s petrol is running out and that the “next few months will be the hardest of our lives”.
Most filling stations in the capital were closed on Tuesday with long queues outside the few that were still open.
Sri Lanka’s dollars have run out to finance essential imports, Wickremesinghe said, and three oil tankers are waiting at Colombo to be paid before unloading.
The country was also made up of 14 essential drugs, including rabies vaccines, the prime minister said, adding that suppliers of medicines had not been paid for about four months.
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