Ranil Wickremesinghe sworn in as Sri Lankan President

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Wickremesinghe, then Prime Minister, during a meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on September 15, 2015.
Image: PMO.

Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the ninth President of Sri Lanka at a ceremony in the country's Parliament in Colombo on Thursday.

Wickremesinghe, who has served as acting president in his predecessor's absence, defeated rival candidates for the presidency by 134 votes to 82, with support from MPs of the ruling Sri Lanka People's Front.

The former president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled Sri Lanka for the Maldives on July 13 and tendered his resignation from Singapore the following day. This came after months of unrest and protests over a devastating economic crisis which saw soaring inflation, blackouts and shortages of many essential supplies.

Wickremesinghe initially offered to resign alongside Rajapaksa; however following the president's exodus he assumed the role of acting president. Wickremesinghe served as prime minister under Rajapaksa, and the BBC reports many view his administration as complicit in mismanaging the economy.

Nevertheless, the transition of power drew relatively few protests. "He is here — and we will see what his actions are. If we don't get any food, any medicine, we'll be on the streets," a former protestor told the BBC.

I am not a friend of the Rajapaksas. I am a friend of the people.

—Ranil Wickremesinghe

Anbarasan Ethirajan, writing for the BBC, reported other protesters' disappointment, worrying Wickremesinghe would gradually crack down and forcibly end the protests. For his part, Wickremesinghe said he supports peaceful demonstrations, but warned against occupying government buildings and attempts to overthrow the government.

Wickremesinghe has held many senior positions during his 45-year political career, including serving six terms as prime minister. He unsuccessfully ran for President twice. Local media reports the next cabinet is expected to include ministers from opposition parties, who have agreed to work with Wickremesinghe.

The new president will strive for stability ahead of resuming talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion bailout.