New Delhi: As the Sri Lankan Parliament Wednesday elected former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as their new President, India said it will continue to remain “supportive” of the country and help in the island nation’s “stability and economic recovery”.
Wickremesinghe was named the eighth executive President of Sri Lanka days after Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned, following months of sustained protests by the public over a crushing economic crisis that has seen prices of essentials soar besides leading to hours-long power cuts.
Rajapaksa first fled to the Maldives a week ago before landing in Singapore.
“The Parliament of Sri Lanka, in exercise of the provisions of the Sri Lankan Constitution, has today elected H.E. Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe as the President of Sri Lanka,” the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka said in a statement.
“As a close friend and neighbour of Sri Lanka and a fellow democracy, we will continue to be supportive of the quest of the people of Sri Lanka for stability and economic recovery, through democratic means and values, established democratic institutions and constitutional framework,” it added.
Earlier in the day, New Delhi was busy denying claims that it was making efforts to influence Sri Lankan political leaders regarding the president’s appointment.
“They are clearly a figment of someone’s imagination,” the high commission said. “It is reiterated that India supports the realisation of aspirations of the people of Sri Lanka in accordance with democratic means and values, established institutions as well as constitutional provisions, and doesn’t interfere in internal affairs and democratic processes of another country.”
Wickremesinghe was among the top three candidates for the presidential election, in which 225 members of the House were eligible to vote.
The other two candidates were Dullas Alahaperuma, a parliamentarian of the Rajapakasas’ Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), and National People’s Power (NPP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
The country’s main opposition leader Sajith Premadasa withdrew his candidature from the race a day before the election was held.
‘Period of division over’
Wickremesinghe hit the ground running as President, urging all leaders to work with him in resolving the economic and socio-political crisis in Sri Lanka.
“The people are not asking us for old politics. I request opposition leader Sajith Premadasa and other opposition parties including former presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena to work together,” he said.
“We were divided for the last 48 hours. That period is now over. We have to work together now.”
Opposition leader Premadasa had urged India Tuesday to support the new government.
Meanwhile, local media reports suggest Wickremesinghe’s appointment has not quelled public anger, with some protesters quoted as saying that the parliament “has taken a decision against the wishes of the people”.
— Vidiyal.lk 🇱🇰 (@Vidiyallk) July 20, 2022