Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister to Resign Amid Protests

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister to Resign Amid Protests

One of the political casualties in Sri Lanka on Saturday was Ranil Wickremesinghe, a prime minister six times over whose leadership has been equated with Sri Lanka’s economic ambitions as well as its collapse.

Mr. Wickremesinghe announced his intention to resign on Twitter, saying he had accepted the recommendation of party leaders. Protesters entered his private home late Saturday and set it ablaze, said Dinouk Colombage, a spokesman for the prime minister, adding that Mr. Wickremesinghe was not at home at the time.

A 73-year-old political veteran, Mr. Wickremesinghe was sworn in as prime minister in May, after months of protests forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to remove his elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, from the post. He quickly began discussions with the International Monetary Fund on the terms of an economic bailout.

The political alliance was immediately greeted with skepticism by protesters, who viewed Mr. Wickremesinghe as a protector of the Rajapaksas. Those concerns have not abated.

Mr. Wickremesinghe’s first turn as Sri Lanka’s prime minister came after the then president was assassinated by Tamil separatists during the country’s long civil war.

His last stint as prime minister began in 2015, in a coalition government that promised to support independent investigations into accusations of corruption and human rights abuses leveled against the Rajapaksa brothers. Instead, critics charged, the government, headed by President Maithripala Sirisena, was faulted for blunting those investigations.

Sri Lanka plunged into a constitutional crisis in 2018, when Mr. Sirisena suspended Parliament and ousted Mr. Wickremesinghe, a move that took the nation by surprise and was denounced as illegal by some government ministers.

Mr. Wickremesinghe remained in the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo with a small coterie of supporters and Buddhist monks until the Supreme Court ruled on the matter, determining that Mr. Sirisena had broken the law. Mr. Wickremesinghe was reinstated as prime minister, but the two men stopped communicating.

The Rajapaksas returned to power in landslide elections in 2019.

Before taking up the prime minister post again in May, Mr. Wickremesinghe acted as an informal adviser to the Rajapaksa government as it sought a way out of economic collapse. In accepting the job, he drew fresh ire from critics who said that without his support, Mr. Rajapaksa would have been forced to resign earlier.

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