Colombo: Former Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya, who is among the fiercest critics of the island nation’s regime, said the blame for the protests after July 9 squarely rests on Ranil Wickremesinghe and Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who remained glued to their seats as Prime Minister and President, respectively, amid the unprecedented economic crisis and despite calls for their resignation from the initial stages of the protest.
“They said that they will resign, but they did not keep their promise. People lost all confidence in them,” Mr Jayasuriya told, adding one of the ways to end the protests would be for the Prime Minister and the President to resign immediately.
“The people from the start have been demanding for the President to resign. But he left the country without resigning and gave power to the Prime Minister for the time being. So the people will not trust them anymore,” he said.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had promised at the weekend to resign on Wednesday and clear the way for a “peaceful transition of power” after fleeing his official home in Colombo just before tens of thousands of protesters overran it. But he suddenly flew to the Maldives.
On whether the President should have stayed, Mr Jayasuriya said, “It’s an individual position. The people never told him to leave the country. He was only asked to resign. It is his own decision to leave the country.”
The former cricketer said no one wants to continue the protest, but the people have been compelled to do so by the circumstances. “We have to stop somewhere quickly. We want a peaceful life soon,” he said.
On concerns over a power vacuum in Sri Lanka that could bring more instability to the island nation, Mr Jayasuriya said, “It is a concern. The only thing we can do is the Speaker of parliament needs to come up with a plan with everyone on board, including former leaders, opposition leaders…We have quite a lot of people experienced in the system…according to constitution they should find a solution.”
He said India from the start has been very helpful to Sri Lanka. “India has given a lot of help. But how long can we ask from India? We need to have our own plan to overcome this crisis. Sri Lanka and myself thank India for the help,” Mr Jayasuriya said.
Protesters today defied tear gas, water cannon and a state of emergency to storm the Prime Minister’s office, with the crowd demanding both men step down. In a televised statement, Mr Wickremesinghe said he had instructed the military and police to do “what is necessary to restore order”.
But footage showed armed security personnel standing by in the grounds of his office as protesters, some holding national flags, milled and took pictures. Other demonstrators at one point broke into state television studios, as the country’s months-long political and economic crisis appeared to be moving towards a climax, news agency AFP reported.