Sri Lankan leader Sajith Premadasa vows to listen to people if elected president

Parliament will vote on new president this Wednesday


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Published: Fri 15 Jul 2022, 11:10 PM

Sri Lanka’s opposition leader, who is seeking the presidency next week, vowed Friday to “listen to the people” who are struggling through the island nation’s worst economic crisis and to hold accountable the president who fled under pressure from protesters.

In an interview with AP from his office in the capital, Sajith Premadasa said that if he wins the election in parliament, he would ensure that “an elective dictatorship never, ever occurs” in Sri Lanka.

“That’s what we should do. That is our function — catching those who looted Sri Lanka. That should be done through proper constitutional, legal, democratic procedures,” Premadasa said.

Sri Lanka's parliament will vote on a new president on Wednesday, July 20.

The former president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, slipped away aboard a military plane Wednesday before arriving in Singapore the following day. His resignation was officially announced Friday.

His departure followed months of protests that turned a dramatic corner when demonstrators seized government buildings before retreating days later. Protesters accuse Rajapaksa and his powerful political family of siphoning money from government coffers and of hastening the country’s collapse by mismanaging the economy.

The family has denied the corruption allegations, but Rajapaksa acknowledged that some of his policies contributed to Sri Lanka’s meltdown.

For now, the presidential role has been filled by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was sworn in as the acting leader. Protesters have pressed for Wickremesinghe to leave as well, and for a unity government to address the economic calamity that has triggered widespread shortages of food, fuel and other necessities.

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