In what appeared to be a dramatic turn of events related to the regime change after Galle Face Aragalaya, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said he was pressurised to resign from his then post of premiership on the day after his house was set ablaze by angry mobs at the instigation of what he called ‘ a media outlet’.
His remarks have sparked a controversy now with people wondering who applied Wickremsinghe to step down from premiership at that riotous moment with the activists of Aragalaya going berserk demanding a change of the government. The President even said there was a request for Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardane to take over as provided for by the Constitution.
Controversy swirls around such utterances by the President at the function to mark the 40th anniversary of the International Democrats Union (IDU) in London because they were made in the backdrop against an investigative book published by National Freedom Front (NFF) leader MP Wimal Weerawansa with a host of allegations related to the alleged external involvement in domestic affairs at that time.
At the launch of his book at a well-attended function, Mr. Weerawansa alleged that the US and Indian governments appealed to then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on his flight for safety, to sack Mr. Wickremesinghe from premiership. At that moment, Secretary to the President Gamini Senarath sent two letters, but Mr. Rajapaksa signed his letter of resignation only.
As a result, Mr. Weerawansa claimed US Ambassador Julie Chung personally called on Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena at the Speaker’s official residence and urged him to take over as Acting President.
Mr. Weerawansa said the speaker refused to take over saying the prime minister would succeed in the event of the president’s resignation.
The US ambassador immediately denied allegations made in the book by Mr. Weerawansa.
In a Twitter message, she said, “I am disappointed that an MP has made baseless allegations and spread outright lies in a book that should be labeled ‘fiction’. For 75 years, the US [and Sri Lanka] have shared commitments to democracy, sovereignty, and prosperity – a partnership and future we continue to build together,” Nevertheless, the President has now said that there was pressure for him to resign making way for the speaker to take over.
It is wondered whether the President’s remarks are an attestation of what is mentioned in Mr. Weerawansa’s book.
The President, in his remarks, said the protestors managed to bring a considerable number of people to Colombo and invaded the President’s House compelling his predecessor to flee to the harbour and in a ship belonging to the Sri Lankan Navy.
“Later that afternoon, party leaders convened a meeting, during which they demanded the President’s resignation and proposed that I assume the role of acting President.
However, the opposition insisted that I should also resign. I stood firm and reminded them that according to the constitution, a person with a majority vote in Parliament must be found before I could resign.
Meanwhile, urged by some media outlets, the protesters targeted my house and set it on fire, assuming I would be compelled to leave. However, I remained steadfast and refused to back down,” he said. (Kelum Bandara)