Sri Lanka's interim president vows to take legal action against 'insurgents'
A tenuous calm was restored in the capital of Colombo on Thursday after protesters who had occupied government buildings retreated, but with the political opposition deeply fractured, a solution to Sri Lanka's many problems seemed no closer.
AdvertisementAs people celebrated in the streets, Parliament speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana promised a swift and transparent political process that should be done within a week.The new president could appoint a new prime minister, who would then have to be approved by Parliament. After Mr Rajapaksa resigned, pressure on the prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was rising.
In a televised statement, Mr Wickremesinghe said he would initiate steps to change the constitution to curb presidential powers and strengthen Parliament, restore law and order and take legal action against "insurgents".
The prime minister's office said Mr Wickremesinghe was sworn in Friday as interim president by Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya.
Sri Lanka's 'hard journey' through economic crisisSri Lanka has run short of money to pay for imports of basic necessities such as food, fertilizer, medicine and fuel for its 22 million people. Its rapid economic decline has been all the more shocking because, before this crisis, the economy had been expanding, with a growing, comfortable middle class.
The protests underscored the dramatic fall of the Rajapaksa political clan that has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.
"I am happy that Gotabaya has finally left. He should have resigned earlier, without causing much problems," Velayuthan Pillai, a 73-year-old retired bank employee, said as patriotic songs blared from loudspeakers.
The protesters accuse Mr Rajapaksa and his powerful political family of siphoning money from government coffers and of hastening the country's collapse by mismanaging the economy.
The demonstrators initially vowed to stay until a new government was in place, but they shifted tactics Thursday, apparently concerned that an escalation in violence could undermine their message following clashes outside Parliament that left dozens injured.
Protesters' work 'far from over'Protester Mirak Raheem noted that the lack of violence was important, though their work was far from over."This is really something amazing, the fact that it happened on the back of largely peaceful protest". "But obviously this is just a beginning, that there is a longer journey in terms of the kind of work that has to be done, not just to rebuild the economy but to create public confidence in this political system".
Mr Rajapaksa and his wife slipped away in the night aboard a military plane early Wednesday.
Despite accusations of wartime atrocities, including ordering military attacks on ethnic Tamil civilians and abducting journalists, Rajapaksa remained popular among many Sri Lankans. He has continually denied the allegations.