Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday, 13 April, offered to hold talks with the protesters who have camped outside the President’s office in Colombo as the nation faces its worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948.
The protesters have blamed the president and the prime minister’s brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, for his handling of the worsening crisis and are demanding his resignation.
They accused the Rajapaksas of corruption and misuse of power as they camped for the fifth day at the entrance of the President’s office, and have demanded the resignation of the entire family from the government. The family has been in power for most of the past two decades.
Basil Rajapaksa, the youngest brother, was the Minister of Finance till he was sacked earlier this month by the president amidst the economic crisis.
Protesters Reject Offer
The Prime Minister’s Office in a statement said that he is “willing to talk to” the representative of the protesters near the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo.
According to a report by Associated Press, some of the protesters have declined Rajapaksa’s offer for talks.
The prime minister has said if the protestors are ready to talk, he will invite their representatives to meet for discussions, reported news agency PTI.
Rajapaksa on Monday addressed the citizens of the crisis-hit island nation and stressed "every second you protest in the road, we are losing dollars."
Sri Lanka is going through an economic meltdown of a scale unseen since 1948. Prices of essential commodities like rice, milk, and oil have skyrocketed.
The island nation has also decided to default on its $51 billion external debt, awaiting a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The main cause of the financial crisis is the shortage of foreign currency, which has led to a huge reduction in imports of essential items like petroleum, food, paper, sugar, lentils, medicines, and transportation equipment.
This has led to widespread agitations in different cities, including capital Colombo, against the government's policies.
Meanwhile, India has extended a $1 billion credit facility to Sri Lanka, which will ensure that the government can procure food, medicines, and other essential commodities.
(With inputs from Associated Press and PTI.)