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Activists spurn newly elected Sri Lankan president

Ranil Wickremesinghe is sworn in as president despite widespread opposition against him
This handout photo taken on July 21 and released by Sri Lanka's parliament shows president-elect Ranil Wickremesinghe, center, signing documents during his swearing-in ceremony as Sri Lanka's President, at the parliament in Colombo

This handout photo taken on July 21 and released by Sri Lanka's parliament shows president-elect Ranil Wickremesinghe, center, signing documents during his swearing-in ceremony as Sri Lanka's President, at the parliament in Colombo. (Photo: AFP) 

Published: July 21, 2022 10:48 AM GMT

Sri Lankan activists have vowed not to accept Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, as the newly appointed president, saying he was rejected and not voted in by the people.

He was sworn in on July 21, a day after being elected by parliament after briefly serving as acting president when former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country amid ongoing protests last week

Wickremesinghe's party lost in the 2020 parliamentary election without gaining any seats. He entered parliament with just one bonus seat in 2021.

Father Amila Jeewantha Pieris, an activist priest involved in the #GotaGoGama# protest site opposite the presidential secretariat in Colombo, said citizens must reject the deal between the Rajapaksa regime and Wickremesinghe.

"We insist that Wickremesinghe must step down. Lawmakers have taken a decision against the will of the people of the country," said the priest, adding that peaceful protests will continue against Wickremesinghe and the "corrupt system."

"The moment they heard the news, they started chanting 'Ranil Go Home'"

"Wickremesinghe was brought in again by the Rajapaksa regime. Politicians should not forget that thousands of ordinary people came to Colombo to pressure the ex-president to step down," said Father Pieris.

Word of the new president being sworn in did not go down well with the protesters. The moment they heard the news, they started chanting "Ranil Go Home."

They vowed not to accept Wickremesinghe as president since he was very close to the Rajapaksa regime which ruined the economy and created the current political crisis.

Wickremesinghe was elected to serve the rest of the term of ex-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa until 2024. Rajapaksa fled the country amid increasing protests while his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister.

Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera, an internationally acclaimed scholar, researcher and philanthropist, said the people's opinion was not represented in the election of the president and lawmakers were not sensitive to the people's struggle.

"According to the demands of religious leaders, the current administration should work to establish an all-party government, ease the suffering of the people, amend the constitution and hold a general election as soon as possible," the veteran Buddhist cleric said.

"Politicians have no feelings for the suffering people of the country"

Wasantha Mudalige, convener of an inter-university student body, said Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe to the post of prime minister to protect his family and interests.

"Wickremesinghe did nothing for the people while being prime minister six times, looting the central bank. The struggle cannot be ended by arresting and beating protesters," he said.

Damitha Abeyratne, an actress, said they will fight against the corrupt government.

“We all have been disappointed because as Sri Lankans we never expected MPs to back Wickremesinghe. Politicians have no feelings for the suffering people of the country," she said.

President Wickremesinghe, meanwhile, invited all political parties to join him in fighting the economic crisis that has led to severe shortages of essentials.

The island nation is struggling to pay for crucial imports like food, medicines and fuel for its 22 million people. Inflation has soared and food prices have skyrocketed putting many items beyond the reach of ordinary people.

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