Ranil Wickremesinghe Elected New Sri Lankan President, To Succeed Gotabaya Rajapaksa

New President Of Sri Lanka: Ranil Wickremesinghe defeated SLPP dissenter Dullas Alahapperuma and leftist leader Anura Dissanayake to succeed Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to Singapore amid protests against family.

By Aalok Sensharma
Updated: Wed, 20 Jul 2022 01:02 PM IST
Minute Read
Ranil Wickremesinghe Elected New Sri Lankan President, To Succeed Gotabaya Rajapaksa
A file image of Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe speaking at a news conference in Colombo. (Reuters Photo)

Ranil Wickremesinghe, a six-time Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, was appointed as the country's next President on Wednesday, shortly after the voting in the Parliament to elect the island nation's new head concluded.

Ranil, 73, defeated Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) dissenter Dullas Alahapperuma and leftist leader Anura Dissanayake to succeed Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who fled to Singapore amid protests against family.

However, a win for Ranil could lead to more demonstrations by people furious with the ruling elite after months of severe shortages of fuel, food and medicines, several protesters have said.

Hundreds of police, paramilitary and military troops were deployed around the parliament building, about 13 km (8 miles) away, and an approach road had at least three barricades. Security personnel in speed boats patrolled a lake around the building, and military jeeps and armoured vehicles stood parked within the perimeter.

Protesters occupied the presidential secretariat earlier this month along with the official president's residence, forcing the then incumbent Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country.

Many protesters see Wickremesinghe as an ally of the Rajapaksa family, and his private house and office were also stormed by people demanding his ouster.

Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, became acting president last week after Rajapaksa fled on a military plane to the Maldives and then took a commercial flight to Singapore.

He will now complete Rajapaksa's term that was scheduled to end in 2024.

Hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and tax cuts by the Rajapaksa government, tea-growing Sri Lanka is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since it won independence from Britain in 1948.

Inflation of over 50% and shortages of food, fuel and medicines have brought thousands onto the streets in months of protests that culminated in Rajapaksa's ouster and forced the country to seek help from overseas.

India is willing to make more investments in Sri Lanka after supporting it with $3.8 billion this year, New Delhi's envoy in Colombo told the Indian Express newspaper.

"The idea is to respond to Sri Lanka's requests for enabling them to meet their foreign exchange crisis," said Gopal Baglay, India's high commissioner in Sri Lanka.

"We would like to continue to bring more investment into Sri Lanka because that will help create medium- and long-term capacity to respond within the Sri Lankan economy."

Sri Lanka has also sought assistance from its fourth-biggest lender and India's rival, China.

(With Reuters inputs)

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