Lankan President Wickremesinghe thanks India for giving ‘breath of life’ to island nation in crisis: Newsdrum
Colombo, Aug 3 (PTI) President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday thanked India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for giving Sri Lanka “a breath of life” by providing timely economic aid to his country as it facing the worst economic crisis in decades.
President Wickremesinghe made the remarks during a formal sitting of parliament which resumed on Wednesday after a seven-day adjournment.
“I want to make special mention of the assistance provided by India, our closest neighbor, in our economic revitalization efforts,” he said.
“The government of India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi has given us a breath of life. On behalf of my people and mine, I express our gratitude to Prime Minister Modi, the government and the people of India,” Wickremesinghe added. .
Last week, Modi praised President Wickremesinghe and said India would continue to support the island nation’s people’s quest for stability and economic recovery, through established democratic means.
Sri Lanka’s new government faces the task of pulling the country out of economic collapse and restoring order after months of mass protests that forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and resign.
Indian government aid to Sri Lanka has reached nearly $4 billion since January this year.
Sri Lanka needs about $5 billion over the next six months to cover the basic needs of its 22 million people, who are struggling with long queues, worsening shortages and power cuts.
The country is currently in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other foreign countries on financial assistance to overcome the current economic crisis.
In his speech, Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka must move towards long-term solutions to turn the economy around.
He said the debt restructuring plan is in its final stages of preparation and added that the economic restructuring plan will be presented in the interim budget to be presented soon.
Sri Lanka wants a 4-year program with the IMF. Work to finalize the debt restructuring plan is underway and will soon be presented to the IMF.
Wickremesinghe said the Sri Lankan economy has been hit by opposition to foreign investment projects.
“When we tried to develop the oil tank complex at Trincomalee with India, it was declared to be a sale to India, and the project was halted. If at that time we were allowed to develop the oil tank complex, today people would not have to spend several days in queues for fuel,” he said.
Wickremesinghe said he would establish an office to protect and support peaceful protesters.
“I will not allow any harm to peaceful activists,” he said, while noting that some groups are trying to spread propaganda through social media that he stalks protesters, which is not true.
He said he would not allow violence and terrorism. However, will protect non-violence and democracy. “Peaceful struggle is a fundamental right. I accept these rights,” he said.
He said that all countries are friends of Sri Lanka. “We have no enemies. We do not belong to any group”.
Wickremesinghe was elected president by lawmakers on July 20 – the first time since 1978.
The 73-year-old president was appointed for the remainder of the term of Rajapaksa who fled the country and resigned on July 13 in the face of a popular uprising against his government over mismanagement of the island nation’s economy. The worst economic crisis since 1948 has resulted in severe shortages of fuel and other essentials.
Sri Lanka endured months of massive unrest during the worst economic crisis, with the government declaring bankruptcy in mid-April by refusing to honor its international debt. PTI CORR ZH AKJ ZH ZH ZH