Colombo, Sri Lanka ( Associated Press) – The Sri Lankan prime minister said on Sunday that protesting youth groups would be invited to be part of the regime as part of political reforms proposed to solve the country’s political crisis. resulting from economic collapse.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe He said that under the proposed constitutional reforms, the powers of the President would be abolished and the powers of Parliament would be strengthened. In a televised statement to the nation, he said governance would be comprehensive through parliamentary committees where parliamentarians, youth and experts would work together.
“Youth is demanding a change in the existing system. They also want to know the current issues. Therefore, I propose to appoint four youth representatives in each of these 15 committees,” Wickremesinghe said.
Protesters consisting mainly of young people have camped outside the presidential office for more than 50 days. They are calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.Holding him and his family responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis, They also say that successive administrations since independence from Britain in 1948 have led to a change in a system of governance leading the country to economic and social crisis.
Students have led protests almost daily in the capital Colombo and elsewhere as Sri Lanka is on the verge of bankruptcy. It has already defaulted on its foreign loans, and is facing acute shortage of essential commodities. Like cooking gas, fuel and medicines. People are forced to stand in long queues for hours to buy goods and many still leave empty handed.
The country’s foreign exchange reserves have dwindled to the extent that it can buy essential imports for two weeks.
Officials announced last month that they were stopping payments of about $7 billion in foreign debt this year. Sri Lanka is to pay $25 billion by 2026. The total external debt of the Indian Ocean island nation is $51 billion.
According to Wickremesinghe’s proposal, one of the youth representatives would be appointed by the so-called “youth parliament” and the other three would come from protest groups and other active organisations. “The methodology used to select these individuals can be decided by the youth organizations themselves,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from youth groups on his proposal. New broad-based parliamentary committees could explicitly be set up under the current constitution, but sweeping reforms such as reducing the president’s powers would require Supreme Court approval and a two-thirds parliamentary majority. It is not clear when the bill will be introduced for debate.
Violence erupted on 9 May, when Rajapaksa supporters attacked peaceful protesters. Nine people, including an MLA from the governing party, were killed and the houses of cabinet ministers were burnt. The unrest nearly brought an end to the Rajapaksa dynasty after the president’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister. The president’s three siblings and a nephew had already given up their cabinet posts.
Sri Lanka has been ruled by a powerful executive presidential system for nearly 45 years, and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa further strengthened it with constitutional changes as soon as he was heavily elected in 2019.
Wickremesinghe has said that he will have an economic recovery plan ready within two weeks to get approval from the International Monetary Fund for the bailout package.