sri lanka president revokes emergency order govt in disarray as economic crisis deepens - Sri Lanka president revokes emergency order, govt in disarray as economic crisis deepens

COLOMBO (REUTERS) – Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa revoked a state of emergency late on Tuesday (April 5) after dozens of lawmakers walked out of the ruling coalition, leaving his government in a minority in parliament as it struggled to quell protests amid the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.

In another setback for the administration, Finance Minister Ali Sabry resigned a day after his appointment and ahead of crucial talks scheduled with the International Monetary Fund for a loan programme.

Rajapaksa dissolved his Cabinet on Monday and sought to form a unity government as public unrest surged over the ruling family’s handling of the debt-heavy economy that has led to shortages of food and fuel and prolonged power cuts. A doctors’ body also told the government there was an acute shortage of medicines that could collapse the health system.

In a gazette issued late on Tuesday, Rajapaksa revoked the emergency rule ordinance that went into effect last Friday.

“I, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of the Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, hereby revoke the gazette with effect from midnight on April 5, 2022,” the gazette said, referring to the previous order.

Politically, the possible next steps could include the appointment of a new prime minister replacing the president’s elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, or snap parliamentary elections way ahead of a scheduled vote in 2025.

There was no immediate indication of what was being planned.

Sabry said in his resignation letter to the president that he believed he had “acted in the best interests of the country”.

“At this crucial juncture the country needs stability to weather the current financial crisis and difficulties,” he said in the letter seen by Reuters, also offering to resign from his parliamentary seat if the president wanted to bring in someone from outside to replace him.

Street demonstrations against the food and fuel shortages, triggered by a lack of foreign exchange for imports, began last month but have intensified in recent days, leading to clashes between protesters and police in some instances.

Dozens of protesters peacefully gathered near the residence of the prime minister on Tuesday.

‘With the people’

The names of the 41 lawmakers to leave the coalition were announced by party leaders in parliament.

They have now become independent members, leaving Rajapaksa’s government with fewer than the 113 members needed to maintain a majority in the 225-member house.

There has been no vote count yet, although Rajapaksa’s minority government could find decision-making more challenging.

Independent parliamentarians, however, could continue to support government proposals in the house.

“There are endless shortages of essentials including fuel and cooking gas. Hospitals are on the verge of closing because there are no medicines,” Maithripala Sirisena, leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party that withdrew its support for Rajapaksa’s coalition, told parliament.

“At such a time, our party is on the side of the people.”