Sri Lanka crisis: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa loses parliamentary majority

New Delhi: Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Tuesday lost his parliamentary majority, as a group of lawmakers from the ruling party and its allies sat independently in the House, deserting the government that faces enormous public criticism for “mishandling” the economic crisis.

Over 42 MPs, including from key partner Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), quit the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People’s Front)-led alliance, and the government lost its majority in the 225-member legislature. Thier defection signalled the collapse of the government ‘s popularity that, in 2020, fetched it a formidable two-thirds majority. However, there is no vote of confidence scheduled yet to test the strength of the government or Opposition .

In his address to Parliament on Tuesday, Leader of Opposition Sajith Premadasa blamed the government for the current crisis, and said it was time for the country to abolish Executive Presidency that allows the President sweeping powers to take unilateral decisions. Opposition legislator and Jaffna MP M.A. Sumanthiran too intervened, challenging the government to put its recently imposed Emergency regulations to vote in the House, as is mandated in the Constitution.

The Parliament will convene on Wednesday to debate the country’s economic crisis that has resulted in severe shortage of essentials for citizens and skyrocketing prices. It has also led to a spontaneous eruption of street protests, with citizens demanding that the President step down.

The President’s attempt to appoint a “new” Cabinet after mass resignations appears to have backfired, with the newly appointed Finance Minister Ali Sabry resigning barely 24 hours after his appointment. Top bureaucrat and Secretary to the Treasury and Finance Ministry resigned on Tuesday, resulting in two crucial positions falling vacant at a time of a dire economic crisis.