Friday (July 21st): Wickremesinghe is Sri Lanka’s new President

Ranil Wickremesinghe
Ranil Wickremesinghe

Name? Ranil Wickremesinghe

Westphalian identity? Sri Lankan

Age? 73

Why is he in the news? As of today, the Minister of Finance Wickremesinghe has also taken on the position of president of Sri Lanka, despite protesters’ distaste for the politician. Seen as an ally of the Rajapaksa family, Wickremesinghe is hardly a new player on the political scene in Sri Lanka. Although unpopular with the public, Wickremesinghe is a six-time prime minister of Sri Lanka, making him widely respected in both political and diplomatic circles. In 2020 his party got only 3% of the vote and not one MP got a seat, he managed to secure a seat through perks of the proportional representation system.

Why do we care? While many had hoped that the election of a new president would quell the ongoing economic and political unrest in Sri Lanka, this seems an unlikely scenario given Wickremesinghe’s promotion. Just last week protestors stormed Wickremesinghe’s private residence and office in the same manner as they stormed former president Gotabaya’s residence. In short, with Wickremesinghe as president, unrest will continue to unfold on the island.

Why should you care? As acting president, Wickremesinghe had imposed a state of emergency “in the interests of public security;”. If that weren’t enough, as official president, Wickremesinghe sent the military on raids where they “brutally assaulted” protestors. You should care 7/10 about the impact of Sri Lanka’s new, potentially more oppressive president.

Who else cares? Indian Prime Minister and Chinese President Xi. As Wickremesinghe continues to seek assistance from abroad for Sri Lanka, Modi and Xi are both struggling with each other to expand their influence. Modi is currently leading the race as India is providing more humanitarian aid, while China still refuses to relieve Sri Lankan debt.

Any further comments? Upon taking office, Wickremesinghe’s attention will likely focus on the ongoing talks between Colombo and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), especially as negotiations are nearing completion.

Sarah McFadden

General Coordinator