Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court on Wednesday extended the travel ban imposed on former Prime Ministers Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa until August 11.
That Supreme Court of Sri Lanka had previously issued an injunction barring former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa from leaving the country without the court’s permission until July 28.
Meanwhile, three suspects were arrested by the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Tuesday for allegedly setting fire to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s private residence in Colombo on July 9, according to local media reports.
According to police, as reported by the Daily Mirror, two of the three suspects were aged 18 and 22 and belonged to Madapatha and Colombo respectively. They were arrested yesterday in Piliyandala and Narahenpita areas. The details of the third suspect were not immediately available.
Four suspects had previously been arrested by police in connection with the incident and the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court remanded them until August 10, the Daily Mirror reported.
A group of protesters had entered and set fire to Wickremesinghe’s private residence on July 9, hours after he offered to step down as prime minister to make way for an all-party government amid unprecedented protests in the country against the prime minister’s resignation under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Protesters broke into the home of 73-year-old Wickremesinghe on 5th Lane in Colombo and set it on fire after a tense situation erupted between the protesters and security forces at the scene.
Wickremesinghe on Wednesday thanked India which, he said, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had given the crisis-hit island nation “a breath of life” during troubled times in Parliament, in which he invited political parties to form an all-party government.
“I would like to make a special mention of the support that India, our closest neighbour, is giving in our economic revitalization efforts. The Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has breathed life into us. On behalf of my people and so I myself would like to express my gratitude to Prime Minister Modi, the government and the Indian people,” Wickremesinghe said in his address.
The Sri Lankan Parliament held its first session under President Wickremesinghe after he was sworn in on July 21st. In his address, Wickremesinghe reiterated the formation of an all-party government to help the country emerge from its economic crisis.
He said parliament needed to be united, not divided, to address the current crisis, adding that some political parties had already expressed interest in joining the all-party, according to the Colombo Gazette, which published Wirckremsinghe’s full speech.
“An all-party government is not a government that acts on the sole opinion of one party. It is a government that incorporates the views of all parties within a common political framework and is implemented after decisions are made. I would like to reiterate House, the importance of an all-party government to resolve this crisis and bring about stability quickly,” the Sri Lankan President said.
They are preparing a national economic policy for the next 25 years that “lays the foundation for a social market economy, ensures the development of poor and disadvantaged groups and promotes small and medium-sized entrepreneurs”.
Since early 2022, Sri Lanka has been experiencing an escalating economic crisis and the government has defaulted on its foreign loans. The United Nations warned that 5.7 million people “are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance”. Peaceful protests began in March as many Sri Lankans suffer from extreme shortages of basic necessities such as food and fuel.
The protests led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother on May 9 President Gotabaya Rajapaksato leave the country on July 13 and resign the following day.
Wickremasinghe became Acting President and Parliament elected him as the new President on 20 July with support from the Rajapaksa political party, the Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna.
Meanwhile, as part of its “Neighborhood First” policy, India has always come forward to help the indebted island nation. Recently, India has granted Sri Lanka 8 Lines of Credit (LOCs) totaling US$1,850.64 million over the past 10 years.
“The Government of India has granted 8 lines of credit (LOCs) to Sri Lanka in the last 10 years amounting to US$1,850.64 million in sectors such as railways, infrastructure, defense, renewable energy, petroleum and fertilizers,” Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said in a written Answer to a question from DMK Lok Sabha MP S Ramalingam.
“In January 2022, India extended a US$400 million currency swap under the SAARC framework to Sri Lanka and deferred consecutive Asian Clearing Union (ACU) settlements until July 6, 2022. Sri Lanka became a credit line of of $500 million granted for fuel imports from India,” added the minister.
More than 25 tons of medicines and medical supplies donated by the government and people of India in the past two months are worth nearly SLR 370 million.
This is in addition to around $3.5 billion in economic aid and the delivery of other humanitarian supplies such as rice, milk powder and kerosene. These humanitarian supplies are a continuation of the Government of India’s ongoing support to the people of Sri Lanka in multiple forms such as financial assistance, foreign exchange assistance, material supplies and many more.
These efforts prove that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “neighborhood first” policy, which encourages people-to-people engagement, is still active. India is becoming a stronger and more mutually beneficial partner of Sri Lanka. Along with aid during the pandemic and fertilizer chaos, India is also donating basic products to the island nation.