The new president of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, was sworn in recently after winning a majority of support in parliament.
“Our country is in an economic crisis and we have to introduce a new programme. Our divisions are now over. I am ready to talk to all of you”, said the new President, referring to opposition leaders and other presidential candidates.
The position was vacant since former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled on a military plane to the Maldives a few weeks ago when protesters occupied the presidential palace premises.
Wickremesinghe had become prime minister on 9 May, replacing Mahinda Rajapaksa (the former president’s brother), who was forced to resign because of the violence with which the demonstrations had been suppressed, leaving nine people dead in May alone.
Organisations such as Amnesty International have demanded an “immediate end” to the violence against the population in Sri Lanka.
“The rights of the people have been seriously violated”, denounced the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) then.
The 73-year-old Wickremesinghe, who is not exempt from criticism throughout the process of protests that the country has been experiencing in recent months, has become president with the challenge of tackling the serious economic and political crisis that the country is experiencing, the most severe since its independence in 1943.
State of emergency
One of Wickremesinghe’s first measures was to approve a state of emergency, which gives more powers to the President, especially in the face of ongoing protests in the country.
The president justified the regulation as “appropriate for the interests of public safety, the protection of public order and the maintenance of essential supplies and services”.
The measure, much disputed by the population, has led to discontent and now “protesters demand his resignation as well”, the NCEASL confirmed to Spanish news website Protestante Digital.
An “unprecedented” inflation
There are many uncertainties about how the new president and his government will be able to ease the severe inflation plaguing the country.
According to data from the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the month of June closed with a CPI inflation rate of 58.9 %, while a year earlier it was 6.1 %.
“The inflation has increased to an unprecedented level and we are faced with a foreign exchange crisis, as a result of which we have not been able secure essential items like fuel, milk powder and others”, explained Raghu Balachandran, Director of the Aid and Development department of NCEASL.
The serious crisis that the country is going through indicates that “foreign intervention is inevitable”, pointed out Balachandran.
“The government has reached out to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package. The discussions between the IMF and the government have progressed so far and we expect IMF support to come within the next 6 months”, said the NCEASL official.
Furthermore, “the government has also sought the support of Japan, the USA, India and China for bridging finance”.
Evangelical churches commitment
In the midst of this situation, “the evangelical church has been supportive of the protests though they do not identify as evangelicals among the protesters”, underlined Balachandran.
“The churches are involved in providing immediate relief for the poor people. Such initiatives have also been highlighted at a national level”, he stressed.
The NCEASL calls on Christians worldwide to pray for “political and economic stability” in the country, and for “the necessary support for the poorer segments of the communities”.