COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe resigned from office on Wednesday, following the remarkable election victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was sworn in as the seventh president of the island nation two days ago.
The announcement Wednesday followed a meeting between the premier and Gotabaya, who won with a majority 1.3 million votes against his closest rival Sajith Premadasa.
Sajith represents the Democratic National Front (DNF), comprising the major United National Party (UNP), and other parties such as the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Tamil Unity Alliance and Sri Lanka Muslim Makkal Congress.
Speaking to the press, the outgoing premier, who will hand in his official resignation on Thursday morning, said that the new president, who gained a massive mandate from the people, wished to form his own government to implement his manifesto in the coming days.
Opposition leader and former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be sworn in as prime minister at 1 p.m. on Thursday, according to reliable government sources.
Although he has a majority in the Parliament, Wickremesinghe said it was better to give way for a new government under the new regime.
He added that in the past five years, he had worked to ensure democracy, freedom of expression, the right to information, equality and reconciliation in the country.
Wickremesinghe said that being able to hold the last presidential election in a free, independent, and fair manner was a credit to his premiership.
“The future will give us the correct judgment on what we have done,” he said, adding that he “valued and respected” democracy.
“I act democratically. Accordingly, I have decided to resign from the post of prime minister, allowing the new president to form a new government. I will inform the president of this decision tomorrow, Thursday,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr. S. Jaishankar paid a courtesy visit to Gotabaya before extending an invitation to visit India. Gotabaya accepted the invitation and will visit on Nov. 29.
Dr. Jaishankar was the first leader to visit Sri Lanka after the new president took office as the head of the state.
Following his swearing-in ceremony on Monday, a number of ministers submitted their resignations from their portfolios to help the new regime form a government of its own.
On Wednesday afternoon, governors from the nine provinces were forced to tender their resignations.
As soon as he took over, Gotabaya appointed allies to key positions. The president’s first appointment was former Treasury Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera as secretary to the president, followed by former Central Bank Deputy Governor S.R. Attygalle, who was appointed as treasury secretary. Finance Ministry Secretary and Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne was made the new defense secretary.
Meanwhile, a group of members of the UNP have started campaigning for the defeated Sajith to become the leader of the opposition when the new premier takes over. Sajith resigned from the post of deputy leader of UNP following his defeat at the polls.
Gotabaya, who contested the presidential election in 2019, won more than 52 percent of the nearly 16 million possible votes on this occasion.