Sri Lanka President Wickremesinghe rules out early elections, vows to crush anti-government street protests
Sri Lanka's president Ranil Wickremesinghe

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s Parliament is set to convene on Wednesday for the first session under new President Ranil Wickremesinghe and will approve the state of emergency imposed over a week ago to quell social unrest, an official announcement said on Tuesday.

Wickremesinghe announced the state of emergency on July 17 after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled Sri Lanka to escape a popular uprising against his government’s economic mismanagement.

The veteran politician was appointed the interim president following Rajapaksa’s departure to the Maldives and then to Singapore amid unprecedented anti-government protests.

Parliament on Wednesday elected Wickremesinghe, an ally of Rajapaksa, as the successor to Rajapaksa, who resigned after reaching Singapore. It was the first time in 44 years that Sri Lanka’s Parliament directly elected a president.

The house will meet to approve the state of emergency imposed on July 17, Parliament’s Communications Office announced.

In terms of the law, the state of emergency must be approved by Parliament within 14 days of its imposition. The emergency regulations empower police and the military to arrest and detain individuals and carry out searches at private properties.

According to government sources, talks are underway to expand the current 18-member Cabinet and form an all party government.

Cabinet spokesman and minister Bandula Gunawardena told reporters on Tuesday that Rajapaksa was not in hiding and he is expected to return from Singapore.

A massive protest on July 13 attempted to break into the parliamentary complex in continuation with the July 9 popular uprising, forcing then president Rajapaksa to leave the country to the Maldives and then to Singapore.

On July 9, anti-government protesters occupied the official residence of Rajapaksa and the private home of Wickremesinghe. The mob also torched the private residence of Wickremesinghe.

Sri Lanka has seen months of mass unrest over the worst economic crisis and many blame the former government led by Rajapaksa and his family for mishandling the island nation’s economy.

Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, leaving millions struggling to buy food, medicine, fuel and other essentials. Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.

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