President Wickremesinghe asks parties to join unity govt to prevent Sri Lanka from being used as ‘tool of interference’

President Wickremesinghe asks parties to join unity govt to prevent Sri Lanka from being used as ‘tool of interference’


COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday appealed to all parties to join the unity government to tackle the island nation’s worst-ever economic crisis and prevent “strong economies” from using it as a “tool of interference,” days after India and China verbally clashed over the docking of a high-tech Chinese ship at a port in the country.
His remarks came as he presented the revised budget for 2022 in his capacity as the minister of finance.
“We can no longer be a nation dependent on loan assistance. We can also no longer be used as a tool of interference by other countries with strong economies,” Wickremesinghe said without naming any country.
However, his remarks came days after China and India verbally clashed over the docking of ‘Yuan Wang 5’ at Sri Lanka‘s Hambantota port.
“All this can be achieved, only if we work together in unity with common consent. I reiterate the invitation to all the parties represented in this Parliament to join an all-party government. Since this unprecedented situation is the responsibility of us all, and therefore need to prioritise the necessities of the country”.
Sri Lanka granted the port access to the vessel from August 16 to 22.
There were apprehensions in New Delhi about the possibility of the Chinese vessel’s tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian defence installations while being on its way to the Sri Lankan port.
India on Saturday hit back at China for alleging that it was “interfering” in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs, firmly telling Beijing that what Colombo needs now was “support, not unwanted pressure or unnecessary controversies” to serve another country’s agenda.
Since becoming stop-gap president to fill in the void left by his ousted predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa mid-July, Wickremesinghe’s efforts to bring in a government of unity had so far failed.
“Some parties say that they will not join an all-party government due to action by the government which they cannot condone. Others express a reluctance to join due to their opposition to the policies,” he said.
The proposal for an all-party government was mooted in early April amidst widespread public unrest over the previous government led by former President Rajapaksa’s mishandling of the economic crisis.
Rajapaksa’s call to form an all-party government was ignored by the opposition parties.
Sri Lanka has been witnessing one of the worst economic crises since its Independence in 1948. They have defaulted on international loans as well.
Sri Lanka’s economic crisis turned into a political crisis after thousands of youth-led apolitical protesters started street demonstrations in March this year, demanding the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his cabinet to resign after their failure in economic and fertilizer policies.
The United Nations has warned that 5.7 million people “require immediate humanitarian assistance,” with Sri Lankans experiencing extreme shortages of essentials including food, fuel and medicines.
The new Sri Lankan government faces the task of leading the country out of its economic collapse and restoring order. Sri Lanka has seen months of mass unrest over the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honour its international debt.


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