India should keep helping our nation: Sri Lankan Opposition leader’s appeal to PM Modi

Sri Lanka’s main Opposition leader, Sajith Premadasa, has appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to continue providing help to the crisis-hit island nation, regardless of who becomes the next president.

Premadasa’s appeal came hours after the Indian government held an all-party meeting attended by representatives of 28 political parties on Tuesday, ahead of the presidential election in Sri Lanka today (July 20) to pick a successor to ousted president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

During the meeting, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar briefed the leaders of all major political parties about the situation in Sri Lanka, which has been ravaged by economic and political turmoil, and the assistance being provided by India.

“The ball is in the court of Sri Lanka and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and they are holding discussions. They need an agreement, then we (India) will see what supportive role we can play,” Jaishankar said after the meeting.

“Irrespective of who becomes the President of Sri Lanka tomorrow it is my humble and earnest request to Hon. PM Shri@narendramodi, to all the political parties of India and to the people of India to keep helping mother Lanka and it’s people to come out of this disaster,” Premadasa, also the Leader of Samagi Jana Balawegaya party, tweeted.

READ | ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’: India on extending support to Sri Lanka

For the first time in 44 years, Sri Lanka’s Parliament will directly elect a President in a triangular contest on Wednesday. Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe will face Dullas Alahapperuma and Anura Kumara Dissanayake in the election.

Last minute political maneuvering indicated an edge for Alahapperuma over Wickremesinghe after he received crucial backing from the Opposition parties as well as a majority of lawmakers from his parent party.

Premadasa, 55, withdrew from the race for presidency on Tuesday. He is tipped to become Sri Lanka’s next prime minister if Dullas Alahapperuma is elected as the next Sri Lankan president.

The new president will succeed disgraced president Rajapaksa who fled the country last week amid huge anti-government protests triggered by its economic collapse.

READ | ‘We are watching you’: Protesters to Sri Lankan Parliament ahead of presidential election

Jaishankar said that the support that India has extended to Sri Lanka since January amounts to $3.8 billion.

The worst economic crisis since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948 also sparked a political crisis in the country after a popular uprising against the government of Rajapaksa.

The island nation needs about $5 billion in the next six months to cover basic necessities for its 22 million people, who have been struggling with long queues for fuel, worsening food shortages and power cuts.

(With PTI inputs)

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