Sri Lanka's main Opposition party SJB on Friday announced that it will move a no-confidence motion against the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and is prepared to impeach the embattled leader if he fails to address the concerns of the public-facing hardships due to the worst economic crisis.
As protests continued across the country, demanding the resignation of the President and the entire Rajapaksa family from the government, Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa also called for the Executive Presidency to be abolished, saying power should be divided between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
"The government must pay heed to the public demand for the Rajapaksas to quit, if not we will bring a no-confidence motion," the leader of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) told Parliament.
The SJB has begun to collect signatures from MPs for the no-confidence motion, according to media reports.
Rajapaksa earlier proposed the creation of a unity government, but the main Opposition party Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) rejected the idea.
Premadasa said that he cannot agree to an interim government with President Rajapaksa remaining as President. The SJB said that it is also prepared to impeach the President. He also submitted a set of proposals to Parliament on behalf of the SJB to address the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
The Opposition backs the public protests happening all over the island, demanding the resignation of the President and the entire Rajapaksa family from the government. Opposition JVP legislator Vijitha Herath said if Rajapaksa does not resign there needs to be a motion of impeachment for his removal as the President.
?If he is not responsive to the problems of the people, let's be ready to impeach and remove him," he said.
Thousands of people from all walks of life have been demonstrating, demanding a solution to the crisis and calling for Rajapaksa to resign over economic mismanagement. Rajapaksa has resisted the demands to step down, even after members of his own coalition joined the anti-government demonstrations this week, with governing party lawmakers calling for the appointment of an interim government to avoid possible violence.
Parliament has failed to reach a consensus in three days of debate on how to deal with the economic crisis.
The President and his older brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, continue to hold power, despite their family being the focus of public ire. Five other family members are lawmakers, including Basil Rajapaksa, Irrigation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa and a nephew, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa.
The government speakers defend the ruling family, saying the President need not resign as protests were meant to achieve "extra constitutional aims".
Meanwhile, newly-appointed Finance Minister Ali Sabry, who resigned from the post within 24 hours of his appointment, returned to the position and would head the government's negotiating team at the IMF as the island nation struggles to combat the unprecedented shortage of foreign reserves.
Former Justice Minister Sabry told Parliament that he had resigned from the post to give way for someone more suitable to accept the post. However, since no one came forward to accept the post he decided to continue as the Finance Minister. "I will remain as the Finance Minister to do the needful to save the economy," Sabry told Parliament.
President Rajapaksa had appointed Sabry as the Finance Minister on April 4 after sacking his younger brother Basil Rajapaksa, who was at the centre of anger within the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) coalition.
However, he submitted his letter of resignation to the President within 24 hours amid mass protests against the government over alleged economic mismanagement. President Rajapaksa had not accepted Sabry's resignation.
The government issued a gazette with names of the 24 members of the Cabinet who had resigned last week to facilitate Rajapaksa's attempt to form a Unity cabinet with the Opposition. All Opposition parties, however, rejected the offer.
Sri Lanka is scheduled to start talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on April 11. The talks would lead to a possible bailout, including assistance on restructuring foreign debt.
The European Union's Colombo office on Friday in a statement underlined the importance of an IMF programme for the island's economy.
?We stress the extreme urgency of the situation which requires the authorities to start in depth discussions with the International Monetary Fund on the reforms needed to bring the Sri Lankan economy back to a sustainable path," it said.
The Sri Lankan government has appointed an advisory committee comprising eminent economic and fiscal experts to provide guidance on addressing the current debt crisis and engaging with the IMF and other lenders as the island nation struggles to combat the economic crisis.
Foreign Minister Peiris told the foreign diplomats in the country on Wednesday that the government is ready to provide solutions to the existing problems in accordance with the country's Constitution.
Briefing the Diplomatic corps on Wednesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister Peiris said that the Government of Sri Lanka was fully aware of the severe hardships of the people and its magnitude with the most pressing issues being power cuts, shortage of gas, fuel and essential medicines.
Sri Lanka may run out of diesel by the end of this month with the USD 500 million line of credit extended by India for fuel purchase exhausting fast amidst the unprecedented shortage of foreign reserves.
According to officials, fuel shipments to Sri Lanka started coming in late March due to the urgency of the situation although they were scheduled to start from April 1.
Three more Indian shipments are due on April 15, 18 and 23 and the facility would be fully exhausted by then unless the Sri Lankan government sought for a further extension from India, they said.
The Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) has also warned President Rajapaksa about the shortage of even the most essential medicines in the island nation due to the forex-related economic crisis.
The SLMA says medicine, equipment and reagents are in short supply in the health sector. They have stopped routine surgery in order to reserve the available facilities for life-threatening emergencies. It has sought a meeting with the president to discuss a contingency plan.
Leaders from 23 business associations representing export, import and logistics firms also asked the lawmakers to "act responsibly and resolutely to implement remedial solutions to halt and then reverse the rapidly deteriorating situation."
The associations warned that their industries, which collectively earn around USD 16.7 billion annually through merchandise and service exports, would come to a standstill if the current situation continues.
President Rajapaksa has defended his government's actions, saying the foreign exchange crisis was not his making and the economic downturn was largely pandemic driven with the island nation's tourism revenue and inward remittances waning. The government has blamed the public protests as politically motivated and accused the Opposition party JVP of organising them.
On Thursday night, a group of protesters tried to break barricades opposite the Temple Trees in Colombo, the prime minister's office-cum- residence.
Public and semi-public sector employees on Friday launched an island-wide one-day strike to protest against the government. Many government institutions across the country have become inactive due to the token strike by the employees of state and semi-state institutions.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from the UK in 1948. An Indian credit line in a special economic relief package has only provided a temporary solution.