Sri Lanka president loses parliament majority, protests mount
Demonstrations in Sri Lanka continue for the fifth day in a row, as the government warns of retaliation if rallies turn violent.
Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa lost Tuesday his parliamentary majority as former allies urged his resignation following days of street protests over the island nation's economic crisis.
Unprecedented shortages of food and fuel along with record inflation and blackouts have inflicted widespread misery in Sri Lanka since its independence from Britain in 1948.
Rajapaksa's once-powerful ruling coalition is in turmoil after a string of defections, as earlier, the new Finance Minister submitted his resignation just one day after taking office.
Government warns of military action
As anti-Rajapaksa demonstrations continued for a fifth straight day, the government warned of military action if rallies turned violent.
"Security forces will not hesitate to enforce the law against those involved in violence," Defense Ministry Secretary Kamal Gunaratne said in a statement.
More than 60 people had been arrested in connection with unrest since Friday and many have claimed they were tortured in police custody.
UNHRC closely watching deteriorating situation
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) confirmed that it was closely watching the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka, which is already facing international censure over its human rights record.
"The drift towards militarisation and the weakening of institutional checks and balances in Sri Lanka have affected the state's ability to effectively tackle the economic crisis," the UNHRC indicated.
Public anger is at a fever pitch in Sri Lanka, where crowds have since the weekend attempted to storm the homes of several senior government officials.
Opposition rebuffed president's call for unity administration
Tuesday's parliamentary session was the first since dozens of MPs withdrew their support for Rajapaksa's government, including 16 lawmakers from his own Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP).
The government is now at least five short of a majority in the 225-member house, but there has been no clear signal that legislators will attempt a no-confidence motion to topple it.
Opposition parties have already rebuffed Rajapaksa's call to join a unity administration led by him and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Ruling party no longer had mandate to govern
The government imposed a state of emergency last week in an effort to contain street protests, but the ordinance is set to expire next week unless ratified by parliament.
Rejecting calls for a vote on the emergency decree, the government cut short Tuesday's proceedings by two hours, but promised a debate on Wednesday.
Nimal Lanza, a former minister who has also abandoned Rajapaksa's administration, conceded that the ruling party no longer had a mandate to govern.
"I beg and appeal to you to take the side of the protesters," he told parliament, addressing the prime minister, who attended the session but remained silent.
Every member of Sri Lanka's cabinet resigned
Every member of Sri Lanka's cabinet except the president and prime minister resigned late Sunday.
Former justice minister Ali Sabry was appointed as finance minister on Monday, replacing the president's brother Basil Rajapaksa, but abruptly resigned after just one day in office.
The finance ministry's top civil servant also resigned Tuesday, a day after the central bank governor quit.
No sign of an end
A critical lack of foreign currency has left Sri Lanka struggling to service its $51 billion foreign debt, with the pandemic cutting vital revenue from tourism.
The result has seen unprecedented shortages with no sign of an end to the economic woes.
Some economists say Sri Lanka's crisis has been exacerbated by government mismanagement, years of accumulated borrowing, and ill-advised tax cuts.
The foreign exchange shortage forced the government to announce the shutting of three of its diplomatic missions in Norway, Iraq, and Australia. Three others in Nigeria, Germany, and Cyprus were shut in January.