Colombo [Sri Lanka]: Ranil Wickremesinghe, the leader of the United National Party (UNP) of Sri Lanka, took over as the country’s Prime Minister for a record sixth term on Thursday to restore stability in the island nation in the midst of a political impasse and unprecedented economic crisis.
The oath-taking ceremony takes place even as the leader of the Opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) head Sajith Premadasa said that his party would “devise a strategy” if UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe is made the prime minister of the country.
The tables have seemed to turn in Sri Lankan politics, as just four years ago, in 2018, Wickremesinghe’s fifth term in power was abruptly brought to an end when Sajith Premadasa, then supported by Ranil Wickremesinghe, was defeated by Gotabaya Rajapaksa by more than 13 lakh votes in a presidential election.
Although having taken the role of the head of the government on five previous occasions, Wickremesinghe, born in an affluent and well-connected family in 1949, has never completed his term in any of his previous stints.
Wickremesinghe was first elected to the Sri Lankan parliament in 1977 at the age of 28 years, winning the Kelaniya-Biyagama electorate, his party United National Party’s (UNP) website said.
The following year in September 1978, he was elevated to Cabinet rank by President Jayawardene as Sri Lanka’s first Minister of Youth Affairs and Employment. He was the youngest Cabinet Member in Sri Lanka at the time. While holding this portfolio, he was additionally appointed Minister of Education in February 1980, the website further said.
Having had an early start in politics, Wickremesinghe also had a young start at what would eventually become a number of small stints as the Prime Minister of his country.
In May 1993, Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka for the first time at a relatively young age of 44.
However, over the course of the next 30 years, the University of Colombo Law graduate was never able to hold on to power for the entirety of his term.
Wickremesinghe’s sixth stint in power is unlikely to be a smooth sail either, as he takes over the country amid large scale violent anti-government protests, a devastated economy as well as a severely fragmented politics.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence, with food and fuel shortages, soaring prices and power cuts affecting a large number of the citizens.
At the same time, the country continues to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail out its struggling economy.
It is to be seen how Wickremesinghe assuages the anti-government protestors in the near term, with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the central figure whose ouster is being sought by the protestors, still in place. (ANI)