Sri Lanka: Ex-PM Mahinda Rajapaksa says he will continue to support Wickremesinghe

Ousted prime minister addressed his first public meeting since May on Saturday



By PTI

Published: Sat 8 Oct 2022, 6:42 PM

Sri Lanka's former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed his first public meeting on Saturday since he was forced to resign in May and ouster of his younger brother and former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July.

While addressing a public meeting organised by his party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) at Kalutara here, 77-year-old Mahinda initially got confused as to who was the current president of the country.

An aide whispered to him to correct him when he mentioned Gotabaya as the president.

Quickly correcting his mistake, Mahinda said, "We will continue to support President Ranil Wickremesinghe to defend this government. He was our opponent, now he is with us."

The entire Rajapaksa clan was forced to resign from the government earlier this year following violent countrywide protests against them for leading the island nation to its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

On May 9, Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after his supporters attacked anti-government protesters, triggering deadly clashes across the country. Dozens of houses of politicians were torched, including some owned by the Rajapaksas.

Mahinda had to be evacuated by the military from Temple Trees, his official residence, after it was besieged by angry crowds.

He was holed up in a naval base in Trincomalee in the country's north-east for his safety. A court in Colombo has also banned him from leaving the country.

At least nine people died and over 200 were injured in clashes on May 9 after Mahinda, who was twice president and thrice prime minister, resigned. Some 58 of his government colleagues have seen arson attacks on their personal properties.

Mahinda was replaced by Wickremesinghe, a member from the Opposition and a long standing rival of the Rajapaksas, as prime minister.

In mid-July, Gotabaya fled Sri Lanka to the Maldives and then proceeded to Singapore, from where he sent in his resignation on July 14. Later, he flew to Thailand, seeking temporary shelter.

Subsequently, Wickremesinghe became the president for the rest of the Gotabaya's term till 2024 as provided for in the Constitution.

With Wickremesinghe assuming the presidency, the protests ended and legal action was taken against the protesters for forcible occupation of state buildings during the protests.

Meanwhile, Gotabaya also returned to Sri Lanka on September 3.

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