Wickremesinghe's win leaves Sri Lankan streets in a sombre mood

As soon as the election results were announced, a burst of chants broke out against the newly-elected President



Ranil Wickremesinghe at a news conference in Colombo.
Ranil Wickremesinghe at a news conference in Colombo.

By Reuters

Published: Wed 20 Jul 2022, 2:07 PM

Sri Lanka's imposing Presidential Secretariat that had been stormed by a sea of protesters in early July, forcing out the then incumbent Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was almost deserted on Wednesday, as his replacement was voted in.

The Parliament's selection of Ranil Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, as Sri Lanka's next president was a deep disappointment for many protesters at the Secretariat and the adjoining protest camp in the country's commercial capital, Colombo, which has also been the epicentre of nationwide demonstrations.

"The reason why people came out against Gota[baya] was not a personal grudge. It was protesting for ideals and values he held… We see those same values, corruption and oppression in Ranil," said Buwanaka Perera, a 26-year-old protester.

A lawyer close to the Rajapaksa family with a reputation as a wily political operator, Wickremesinghe secured the presidency in the parliamentary vote despite fierce public opposition to his candidacy.

Speaking to lawmakers in the Parliament after his victory, Wickremesinghe urged opposition leaders to work together with his administration, which faces the task of pulling Sri Lanka out of its worst economic crisis in seven decades.

"Our country is facing massive challenges and we have to work on a new strategy to fulfil the aspirations of the people," he said.

A sombre mood enveloped the streets. As soon as the election results were announced, a burst of chants broke out against Wickremesinghe. It lasted only for a few minutes, before the small group of protesters left the steps of the Secretariat.

Yet, some vowed to keep up their protest against the 73-year-old leader.

"I am not surprised, but still disappointed at how corrupt and unfair the system is," Kasumi Ranasinghe Arachchige, 26, said.

"We won't back down, we won't settle for anything less… We will fight for what we deserve," she concluded.

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