'Prez can't 'do nothing' when govt destroying country'

Sri Lanka's disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa signs his resignation letter at his residence in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Saturday. AP/PTI photo

Appreciating President Maithripala Sirisena's "bold decision" of appointing him as Sri Lankan Prime Minister, embattled Mahinda Rajapaksa who resigned on Saturday within just over a month after taking office slammed the Ranil Wickremesinghe government and said a president "cannot stand by and do nothing" when the country was being destroyed by the ruling dispensation.

The 73-year-old former strongman was appointed prime minister by Sirisena on October 26 by ousting Wickremesinghe of the United National Party (UNP), a move which plunged the island nation into a constitutional crisis.

Rajapaksa resigned after two crucial Supreme Court decisions made his efforts to cling to premiership untenable, paving the way for the return of 69-year-old Wickremesinghe who had refused to step down asserting that his sacking was illegal.

"A President cannot stand by and do nothing when the whole country was facing destruction at the hands of the people running the government. We appreciate the difficult and bold decision that the President made on October 26," Rajapaksa said in his address to the nation before announcing his resignation.

"The UNP government borrowed USD 20.7 billion in foreign currency loans alone within a period of three-and-a-half years, and we have no idea as to how much more they will borrow in the coming months," he said.

"All appointees to high office over the past four years belonged to the same group. The whole country is now suffering the consequences of that situation," the former president said.

Rajapaksa said since a general election can no longer be held, his government cannot implement any of the measures they had planned to take to prevent Lanka from "becoming another Greece".

The former president had sought to secure a majority in the 225-member Parliament but failed. Sirisena, 69, then dissolved Parliament and called snap elections on January 5.

However, the Supreme Court overturned his decision and halted the preparations for snap polls.

Rajapaksa said though people have been "deprived" of the general election that had already been declared, the events that took place during the period of his premiership have "benefitted the public in other ways".

"Even though a general election will not be held, it must be said that the events that took place after the 26th of October have benefitted the public in other ways," he said.

"The most important thing that happened during this period was that the two-thirds majority in Parliament that was available to the UNP to be used at will, is now no longer available to them," he added.

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'Prez can't 'do nothing' when govt destroying country'

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