Sri Lankan religious leaders criticise new PM’s appointment as protests continue

Sri Lankan religious leaders

Sri Lankan religious leaders, including Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, have criticised the president’s appointment of a new prime minister as unconstitutional and unethical.

“The decision to appoint [Ranil] Wickremesinghe as the prime minister is in complete opposition to the will and aspirations of the people,” said Cardinal Ranjith after the announcement was made through the media on May 12.

Buddhist monk Ven Omalpe Sobhitha Thera said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s decision to appoint Wickremesinghe as prime minister was unconstitutional.

“The interim government should be established under a person who has the will of the people. The appointment is a step taken to protect the Rajapaksas,” he said.

Wickremesinghe was seen as a relatively safe replacement. He had previously served as Sri Lankan prime minister five times.

Wickremesinghe replaced Mahinda Rajapaksa (the president’s brother), who resigned after months of protests over the country’s deepening economic crisis.

The economic situation in Sri Lanka remains dire, with the country virtually bankrupt.

It has already defaulted on its billions in foreign loans and is in discussions with the International Monetary Fund for an emergency loan and financial assistance to get the country back on its feet.

Rajapaksa’s resignation came hours after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, which prompted authorities to impose a nationwide curfew and deploy troops in the capital.

Even though Colombo was under curfew, the waterfront boulevard was still thronged with people united in their grievances against the government and a row of Catholic nuns fanned themselves next to robed Buddhist monks.

Pope Francis on Wednesday appealed for calm in Sri Lanka. He called on authorities to “listen to the aspirations of the people” as the island reels from deadly violence and rioting.

“I offer a special thought to the people of Sri Lanka, in particular to the young, who in recent times have made their cry heard in the face of the country’s social and economic challenges and problems,” he said at the end of his weekly audience.


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