A large number of protesters gathered outside the secretariat in Sri Lanka’s Colombo Wednesday as lawmakers chose Ranil Wickremesinghe to succeed as president Rajabaya Gotapaksa – who fled the island nation as it grapples with its worst economic crisis. In visuals shared online protesters can be seen holding flags and raising slogans outside the presidential office. Protesters have said both Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe – then the prime minister – quit, and warned of more agitations if their demands aren’t met.
Colombo | Protesters gather outside the Presidential Secretariat after Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected as Sri Lanka President pic.twitter.com/KLB7huTXMY
Disheartened protesters told Reuters they see the ‘same values, corruption and oppression in Ranil as seen in Gotabaya Rajapaksa’. “We will continue the protest until Ranil goes home. It might take us a week, a month, two months, or 98 days. But we know people in Sri Lanka are not going to stand for it. We will get back on the streets and continue,” one person said.
A six-time PM, Ranil Wickremesinghe beat out dissident Dullas Alahapperuma and leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake in the presidential election to succeed Rajapaksa. He secured 134 votes in the 225-member House .
Alahapperuma got 82 votes and Dissanayaka just three.
“My effort was to support consensus-based policy-making to provide solutions to a deeply suffering population. I believe the space for that still exists and I will continue to work to strengthen that effort and work for the people,” Wickremesinghe said later.
“This is simply another milestone in my career. I hope that at least now you will cultivate the mentality to listen to the suffering masses,” he was quoted by Reuters.
The selection of a new preisdent was necessitated after Rajapaksa fled – first to the Maldives and then to Singapore – to escape widespread protests. He fled as tens of thousands of protesters stormed his home and the presidential office in Colombo.