President Defies Calls to Step Down, Despite Mounting Pressure

President Defies Calls to Step Down, Despite Mounting Pressure

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has defied intensifying calls for his departure, even as public pressure over the past five months has forced several members of his family, including his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was the prime minister, to resign.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the family patriarch who previously served two terms as president, also dragged his feet in the face of protests. He resigned as prime minister only after protesters stormed his residence in May, forcing him to seek protection at a military base in the middle of the night.

Officials close to Gotabaya Rajapaksa have tried to buy time by shifting much of the blame for the mismanagement to members of the family who have been forced out of the government.

Four Rajapaksa brothers, and their sons and relatives, controlled the most important government ministries and portfolios. But protesters have continued to demand Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation, maintaining a protest camp for more than three months just outside the presidential secretariat.

In recent months, the government has been mostly running on credit and financial assistance from partners like India, but it appears that the government has exhausted those options as well. Officials remain in talks with the International Monetary Fund to restructure Sri Lanka’s huge foreign debt so it can receive some relief funding for urgent needs.

Sri Lanka has repeatedly run out of fuel in recent months, with citizens lining up at gas stations, often in vain. Local news media have reported the deaths of at least 15 people in fuel lines, from heatstroke and other causes, since the beginning of the crisis.

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