Ensure peaceful transfer of power in Sri Lanka, urges UN coordinator

COLOMBO – The head of the United Nations country team in Sri Lanka has urged senior politicians to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in accordance with the national Constitution, after weeks of protests that ultimately resulted in the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa Thursday.

In a statement released on behalf of the UN in Sri Lanka on Friday, Resident Coordinator Hanaa Singer said it was “imperative that the transition of power be accompanied by broad and inclusive consultation within and outside parliament. “.

According to reports, Rajapaksa offered his resignation after fleeing the country and arriving in Singapore, after flying to the Maldives for the first time on Wednesday after tens of thousands of protesters stormed his official residence in the capital Colombo earlier in the week.

The former president and his family have been accused by protesters of failing to prevent a major economic crisis that has created severe shortages of food, fuel, medical supplies and left the country on the brink of economic ruin, after started discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on an emergency rescue plan.

Rajapaksa’s resignation led to jubilant celebrations in the streets of the capital and marked the end of nearly 20 years of rule by the powerful family.

Despite the relative calm on Friday morning, there were reportedly long lines for petrol again.

In her statement, Ms. Singer recalled that Secretary-General António Guterres had stressed the importance of addressing the root causes of the current instability and people’s grievances.

Dialogue with all stakeholders is the best way to address the concerns of meeting the aspirations of all Sri Lankans,” she said.

She added that the authorities must now “ensure that, in maintaining public order, the security forces exercise restraint and operate in strict compliance with human rights principles and standards”.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe – who has held the post a total of six times – was sworn in as interim president on Friday, and Sri Lankan parliamentarians are due to begin the process of selecting a new president on Saturday, before taking the a formal vote on July 20.

Wickremesinghe’s residence was also occupied by protesters earlier in the week, and his office later, but he reportedly pledged to act quickly to restore the presidency in accordance with the Constitution, and protesters dispersed peacefully, businesses reopening in the capital, after an overnight curfew was lifted, although soldiers controlled checkpoints around the city.

Ms Singer said the United Nations stood ready to “support the government and people of Sri Lanka, to meet immediate and long-term needs”.

Sri Lanka’s multiple crises have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen the collapse of the crucial tourism industry, which provides foreign exchange for imported fuel and medical supplies, and shaken by the crisis of supply chain precipitated by war in Ukraine.

Some 22% of the population is food insecure and in need of assistance, the World Food Program said last month, and the UN launched a joint plan on humanitarian needs and priorities, asking for more than 47 million to help approximately 1.7 million of those most affected. . — UN News