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Indian envoy meets Sri Lankan Speaker, lauds Parliament’s role in upholding democracy there

High Commissioner Gopal Baglay's meeting with Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena comes days before Sri Lanka elects a new President on 20 July, amidst the ongoing economic & political turmoil there.

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New Delhi: On Saturday, the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay, met the Speaker of Parliament there, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. The meeting came days before the island nation will elect a new President on 20 July.

The Sri Lankan Parliament will convene Saturday, and begin proceedings to elect a new President, following the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa Thursday, who fled the country for Maldives a day before. He is currently in Singapore, though that country hasn’t given him asylum.

“High Commissioner called on the Hon’ble Speaker today (Saturday) morning. Appreciated Parliament’s role in upholding democracy and Constitutional framework, especially at this crucial juncture. Conveyed that India will continue to be supportive of democracy, stability and economic recovery in Sri Lanka,” the Indian High Commission in Colombo said in a tweet.

During his meeting with Speaker Abeywardena, the High Commissioner lauded the role played by the Sri Lankan Parliament amidst the raging socio-economic turmoil there.

“He (Baglay) appreciated the role of the Parliament in protecting democracy and the ‍constitutional framework especially at this critical time,” the High Commission said.

On Friday India completed the delivery of 44,000 MT of urea for use by the farmers of Sri Lanka, under the credit line of $55 million. This line of credit was signed between both countries on 10 June.

As protests against Rajapaksa and the political leadership in Sri Lanka gained momentum following the fleeing of former President Gotabaya, India — Sri Lanka’s biggest neighbour — had pushed for an “early solution” to the crisis in the government there.

Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs, had said Thursday that “ensuring peace, stability and prosperity” in the South Asian region remains a priority under India’s Neighbourhood First policy and SAGAR (Security and Growth For All in the Region).

Since January this year, the Indian government has delivered about $3.8 billion worth of support to Sri Lanka, which includes currency swaps and deferment of the repayment of Sri Lanka’s liabilities to the Reserve Bank of India under the Asian Clearing Union (ACU) mechanism.

This also includes credit assistance of $1.5 billion for financing imports of fuel, food, medicines, fertilisers and other essential commodities from India.

Also read‘Sinhala Only’ to remembering Tamil minority victims — How Sri Lanka changed this week

Sri Lanka to name new President on 20 July

Late Friday evening, Speaker Abeywardena officially announced that Sri Lanka will elect a new President on 20 July.

The secretary general of the Parliament Saturday informed the House that the office of President of Sri Lanka has fallen vacant and that the nominations for the post should be submitted to him by 19 July.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed the acting President Friday. Wickremesinghe had also been announced acting President  Wednesday after the Speaker had said Rajapaksa had appointed him to that post. The announcement had led to intensifying of agitation, as protestors want to have him removed as well.

Meanwhile, several hopefuls have expressed their interest in running for the presidency. Apart from Wickremesinghe himself, some of the prominent names who have thrown their hat in the ring are former army chief Sarath Fonseka, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party’s Anura Kumara Dissanayake  and leader of opposition in Sri Lankan Parliament Sajith Premadasa.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read‘Run Sri Lanka like Hitler’, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was once told. Now he’s on the run himself


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