Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will resign from his post this morning, paving the way for Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to be sworn in as the new Premier later in the day.
Wickremesinghe will officially inform President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of his decision this morning.
While the United National Front (UNF), headed by Wickremesinghe, commands the majority in Parliament, the decision to step down was taken as “We accepted the mandate of the people and decided to extend our cooperation to him (President Gotabaya Rajapaksa) to form a Government,” Wickremesinghe said in a special statement last evening.
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa will take oaths as the new Prime Minister before his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, at 1.00 p.m. today at the Presidential Secretariat, before assuming duties at the Office of the Prime Minister later in the day. This is Mahinda Rajapaksa’s third stint as Prime Minister, the first being in 2004, and the second during the short-lived constitutional coup between October and November 2018.
A 15-member Cabinet will also be sworn in by the President along with the Prime Minister.
For Wickremesinghe, who is stepping down today, it will be the end of his third and longest stint as Prime Minister. He served as Prime Minister from 1993-’94 and 2001-2004, and from January 2015 till today.
“I respect and value democracy. I work democratically. Therefore, in order to enable the new President to form a Government, I have decided to resign from the post of Prime Minister,” Wickremesinghe said in a statement last evening.
He said that during the past five years, the Government strove to ensure democracy, personal freedoms, the right of expression, the right to information, equality, and reconciliation in the country, and took the nation along the path to sustainable development.
“Likewise, through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, we freed all institutions from politicisation. One outcome of this was the ability to hold the recent Presidential Election in a free, fair, and independent manner,” the outgoing Prime Minister said.
On a personal note, Wickremesinghe said that he had experienced appreciation as well as insults and heard both the good and the bad during his tenure in office.
“I thank all those who appreciated me and those who insulted me, those who said positive things and those who said negative things. I am also thankful to all those who assisted me in performing my official duties,” he said in the statement.