Religious groups, including priests and nuns, have joined protests in Sri Lanka over the worsening economic condition in the country.
Members of the Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM) marched with activists over the weekend to demand the resignation of the country’s leader, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
“A government that cannot provide food, fuel, gas, and electricity that people need cannot remain in power,” said Father Sarath Iddamalgoda, a member of CSM.
“If the country’s land and forests cannot be protected, this government does not have the moral right to remain in power,” said the priest in a report on AsiaNews.
“We publicly ask the president to step down,” he added in an address in front of demonstrators in the city of Negombo on Saturday, April 2.
The AsiaNews report quoted activist Fathima Cader saying that it is “anger … that pushes me to do my duty for the people.”
Sister Ramani Fernando, a member of the Religious of the Holy Family, said political leaders “should all be held accountable for the crisis people are suffering today.”
“People cannot be allowed to die, we must act to change this system,” she said.
Political opposition rejects unity gov’t offer
Sri Lanka’s political opposition on Monday dismissed the president’s invitation to join a unity government as “nonsensical.”
They instead demanded that he resign over the country’s worsening shortages of food, fuel, and medicines.
President Rajapaksa’s overture came as armed troops looked to quell more demonstrations over what the government acknowledges is the country’s most severe economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of protesters trying to storm the private home of the prime minister — the president’s elder brother and the head of the family political clan — in Tangalle, once a bastion of support for the Rajapaksas in the country’s south.
The president asked opposition parties represented in parliament to “join the effort to seek solutions to the national crisis,” after the late-night resignation of nearly all cabinet ministers to pave the way for a revamped administration.
But the leftist People’s Liberation Front (JVP) responded by urging Gotabaya Rakapaksa and his once popular and powerful family to immediately step down.
“He really must be a lunatic to think that opposition MPs will prop up a government that is crumbling,” JVP lawmaker Anura Dissanayake told reporters in Colombo.
The main minority opposition party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), also dismissed the idea of their joining a Rajapaksa-led administration.
“His offer to reconstitute the cabinet with opposition MPs is nonsensical and infuriates the people who have been demanding his resignation,” TNA spokesman and lawmaker Abraham Sumanthiran told AFP.
The main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) party made no formal statement, but its leader Sajith Premadasa vowed Sunday that it would not join any government featuring members of Rajapaksa’s family.
Every member of Sri Lanka’s cabinet except the president and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned late Sunday.
The country’s central bank governor Ajith Cabraal — who has long opposed the International Monetary Fund bailout now being sought by the country — also stepped down on Monday.
The departures cleared the way for the country’s ruling political clan to seek to shore up its weakening position and attempt to stem growing public protests.
But the president has already reappointed four of the outgoing ministers — three of them to their old jobs — while replacing brother Basil Rajapaksa as finance minister with the previous justice chief. – with a report from AFP