The six-time former prime minister and veteran leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the eighth President of Sri Lanka on Thursday amid mass protests seeking his ouster.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya administered the oath of office to the 73-year-old politician at the Parliament complex in Colombo.
Wickremesinghe was elected by the Parliament on Wednesday, where he secured 134 votes in the 225-member House while his nearest rival and dissident ruling party leader Dullas Alahapperuma got 82.
Leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake managed to get only three votes during the voting held in Parliament amidst tight security.
However, the anti-government protesters are not happy with Wickremesinghe’s elevation as he is seen as close to former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Moreover, when he was the interim president after Gotabaya fled, Wickremesinghe gave sweeping powers to the police and armed forces to crackdown on agitators, who had been targeting legislators for the economic woes.
After being elected as the President, Wickremesinghe visited the Gangarama Temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Colombo, on Wednesday.
Refuting allegations that he is close to the Rajapaksas, Wickremesinghe said: “I am not a friend of the Rajapaksas, I am a friend of the people.”
When asked how he will be different from the Rajapaksas as he is an old friend of theirs, he replied, “How am I an old friend of the Rajapaksas? I’ve been opposing them all this time.”
He also said he would ring in the change the people want, and stressed that he is a friend of the people.
The president also vowed to take strict action against the protesters who forcibly occupied the President’s Office, and the Prime Minister’s Office during the agitation, reports PTI news agency. Protesters had burnt down Wickremesinghe’s private home.
“The Aragalaya was against the system. We must allow those who engage in peaceful dissent to do so. We can also respond to them,” he said. Aragalaya is the Sinhalese word for “struggle”.
(With inputs from agencies)
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