The Fall of the Rajapaksas pave way for unloved Ranil Wickremesinghe

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COLOMBO – The fall of the most influential political dynasty in Sri Lanka has paved the way for three-time Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is now the acting President.

After Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to Singapore and sent his resignation letter on Thursday evening, the ruling party nominated Wickremesinghe as the candidate for the next President.

The party’s decision might stir up another protest from Sri Lankans who want a clean slate from anyone connected to the former President and his family.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Gotabaya Rajapaksa

The street of Colombo rejoiced on Thursday after the news of Gotabaya’s resignation was made public. However, the next President is a dread to the people as he had earlier described the protesters as extremists and fascists.

Gotabaya resigned after months of protests in Sri Lanka, which led to the historic scenes when the crowd broke security barriers to occupy the President’s residence.

The future of Sri Lanka is now uncertain as the new presidential candidate is largely unloved by the populace, who believed he had failed three times as Prime Minister.

The people are also accusing Wickremesinghe as a corrupt leader who had for years shielded Rajapaksa’s family from exposure and prosecution.

Ancestral home of the Rajapaksa on fire
Ancestral home of the Rajapaksa on fire

The people believed that Gotabaya stayed longer in power because Wickremesinghe agreed to become a caretaker Prime minister two months ago.

Wickremesinghe is unloved; the people had demonstrated this in recent weeks when they burnt down his house and forcefully occupied his office.

Though obvious, Wickremesinghe defied the people’s demands and announced on Friday that he would be among those vying for the office of the President.

As a member of Rajapaksa’s ruling party, Sri Lanka Podjuana Peramuna, he is likely to succeed, which begs the question of whether it will attract another huge protest.

People are angry; one of the leaders of the last protest, a Catholic priest Jeevantha Peiris, had reportedly expressed his frustration to The Guardian.

He said, “Ranil Wickremesinghe should step down because he came in defense of this corrupt system, and he has failed five times before as prime minister,” said Catholic priest Jeevantha Peiris

“As citizens, we don’t accept him; we don’t need another corrupt leader. We want to change the whole system.”

Currently, the angry protesters have renamed the chant from Gota Go home to Ranil Go Gama (Ranil Go Home) at the anti-government protest camp in the Central Colombo area of Galle Face.

Another protester back in Kandy who didn’t want to be named said, “we don’t want Ranil. He is corrupt. He might come after us because he called us extremist.”

21-year-old Mithsandi Seveviratne said, “The idea of Ranil being the replacement for Gota, with all the power that holds, is not the change we’ve been asking for and is a very scary concept going forward.

“We are worried that how he cracks down on this movement might even be a lot worse than what Gota has done.”

Sri Lankans took to the street for months after the economy took a toll. There are no cooking gas, no electricity, and school are closed as there is no fuel.

Videos of Sri Lankans who died in their vehicles waiting to buy fuel surfaced on the internet while the ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa continued to offer no assistance.

With Wickremesinghe in power, the Rajapaksa’s family will never face justice as the people believed he had shielded them and would continue if given the ultimate power.

Will Wickremesinghe go after the protesters he had described as fascists and extremists, or will he bring the hardship that had brought about the anger and frustration to an end?

Ranil Wickremesinghe As Prime Minister

Wickremesinghe was first appointed as Prime Minister from 1993 to 1994 after Dingiri Banda Wijetunga was appointed as Sri Lankan president following the assassination of the former President, Ranasinghe Premadasa.

From 2001 to 2004, he was also appointed as the Prime Minister, but his office ended when the former President Chandrika Kumaratunga dissolved his government and called for a general election.

Former President Maithripala Sirisena appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister between 2015 to 2018 after winning the 2015 general election.

In 2018, Wickremesinghe fell out of love with Sirisena leading to his dismissal, and Mahinda Rajapaksa was immediately appointed. Wickremesinghe refused to go quietly and challenged the term, leading to two concurrent Prime Ministerial claimants. Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down, and Wickremesinghe continued as Prime Minister to 2019.

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