Sri Lankans protest outside secretariat as parliament elects Wickremesinghe as prez

Sri Lankans protest outside secretariat as parliament elects Wickremesinghe as prez

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Former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected to be Sri Lanka’s president by country’s parliament on July 20. He will succeed former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa who fled the country amid intense civil unrest after a severe economic crisis in the island nation. About a hundred people protested outside the Presidential Secretariat as Sri Lankan lawmakers voted to choose the president.

The protesters who had demanded Rajapaksa’s ouster had wanted Wickremesinghe gone too as he is widely viewed as an ally of the Rajapaksas.

Sri Lanka is currently facing an unprecedented economic crisis that has resulted in acute shortage of fuel, food and medicines. The angry citizens have been protesting for months. Earlier in July, they occupied presidential secretariat along with president’s official residence. This forced former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country. He flew first to Maldives and then to Singapore and only then tendered his resignation.

Protesters had also stormed Wickremesinghe’s private house and office. He was prime minister then. After Rajapaksa’s resignation, Wickremesinghe had become acting president. After his election by the parliament, he will now serve remainder of Rajapaksa’s tenure.

During the election, Wickremesinghe was backed by Rajapaksa’s SLPP party, still the largest party in parliament. He is also seen as a proxy for the former leader. He has now vowed to crack down on the lawbreakers.

Hundreds of heavily armed troops and police stood guard outside the parliament, but there were no signs of demonstrators.

(With inputs from agencies)

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