Sri Lanka PM pitches reform to quell protests

World Monday 30/May/2022 16:07 PM
By: DW
Sri Lanka PM pitches reform to quell protests

Colombo: A political reform in Sri Lanka would empower lawmakers and see young protesters and activists included in parliamentary committees, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Sunday.

"The youth are calling for a change in the existing system," Wickremesinghe said, noting that young people would "be able to learn about problems and provide solutions to them on their own."

The comprehensive political reform aims to give lawmakers more power and reduce the influence of government ministers.

"According to the new system we have proposed, the President will be held accountable to the Parliament," he was quoted as saying by Sri Lanka's Daily Mirror.

The reform, according to Wickremesinghe, was inspired by the system that was in place before the island country won its independence from the UK in 1948. It would involve creating 15 parliamentary committees, with four youth representatives being appointed to each committee, three of them chosen by activist and protest groups.

Protesters, many of them younger, have been camped out outside the president's offices for more than 50 days demanding that he resign.

Police clashed with one group of students outside the president's official residence on Sunday. Rajapaksa moved to his offices at the end of March when the first crowds assembled outside his home.

His comments come as the country faces an unprecedented crisis and shortages of medicine, fuel, and electricity.

The president has so far refused to resign. However, in an apparent bid to appease the protesters, he has sacked several of his close relatives from top government positions, including two of his brothers who until recently served as the country's prime minister and finance minister.

Wickremesinghe was appointed prime minister earlier this month, and is currently also in charge of heading the Finance Ministry. He has pledged to establish a relief program and a new economic plan which would allow him to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Sri Lanka is also negotiating with Russia to arrange shipments of crude oil and other energy sources as the whole country is running out of fuel. Yesterday, a Russian oil shipment docked in Colombo after waiting for over a month for the cash-strapped country to raise the required $75 million (roughly €70 million) to pay for 90,000 tons of oil.