Sri Lankan opposition seeks no-confidence vote against Rajapaksas

Sri Lanka’s main opposition party on Tuesday issued a no-confidence statement aimed at overthrowing the prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and be cabinet and accuse them of failing in their constitutional duty to ensure a decent standard of living amid the island nation’s worst economic crisis on record.

A group from the United People’s Force Party, led by leader Sajith Premadasa, presented the motion calling for a vote of no confidence in Parliament to Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena.

The move came amid nationwide protests calling for the resignation of Rajapaksa and his younger brother, the president Gotabaya Rajapaksawho blame the demonstrators for the economic crisis.

Removing Rajapaksa and the cabinet from power would require a majority vote in the 225-seat parliament. The United People’s Force has only 54 votes but is hoping to win votes from smaller opposition parties and defectors from the ruling Sri Lanka People’s Front Party. The ruling party had almost 150 votes, but that strength has waned amid the economic crisis and defectors are possible in a no-confidence vote.

A decision on when to hold the no-confidence vote is expected to be made after MPs’ session begins on Wednesday.

The United People’s Force has also tabled a motion of no confidence in the president, but it would not force him to leave office even if a majority of lawmakers voted against him.

Sri Lanka is on the brink of bankruptcy after the country recently announced it would suspend payments on its foreign loans. The country must repay $7 billion in foreign loans this year, out of the $25 billion it is expected to repay by 2026. Sri Lanka has less than US$1 billion in foreign exchange reserves.

The foreign exchange crisis has restricted imports and led to severe shortages of essential goods such as fuel, cooking gas, medicines and food. People stand in long lines for hours to buy what they can, and many return home with little or nothing of what they were looking for.

The United People’s Force motion also accuses senior government officials of excessively printing money, harming agricultural production by banning chemical fertilizers to make production fully organic, failing to order COVID-19 vaccines on time and delivering them later to buy at higher prices.

The protesters were on Tuesday, the 25th day of their occupation of the entrance to the President’s office, demanding the resignation of Rajapaksa’s family members, who have ruled Sri Lanka for the past two decades. Sri Lankan opposition seeks no-confidence vote against Rajapaksas

Bobby Allyn

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