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Sri Lanka crisis: Every second you protest, we are losing dollars: PM Rajapaksa

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Colombo, Apr 11: Amid massive protests calling for his resignation over the unprecedented economic crisis, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday addressed the nation, requesting people to have patience as the government is working to resolve the crisis.

Sri Lanka Crisis: Amid anti-govt protests, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa set to address nation on Monday

"Every second you protest on the road, we are losing dollars," Mahinda Rajapaksa said, adding that, "every second of the President and the government is being used to resolve this crisis".

He appealed youths from insulting the war heroes who fought against the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE) insurgents as he accused protestors of insulting heroes. In an emotional appeal, Rajapaksa said, "We ended the war (with LTTE) not to put the people of this country into this status, we constructed highways not to keep people in queues. We built ports not to idle oil ships in our ports until we find the dollars to pay for them. We will make all efforts to overcome this crisis".

"My family and I have received more insults than anyone, but we are seasoned with such insults. But my dear sons and daughters, please do not harass the war heroes who saved our country from terrorism," he added. Rajapaksa also used the occasion to reintroduce chemical fertilizer subsidies, which were revoked last year, in a disastrous attempt to make Sri Lanka's agricultural sector 100 per cent organic.

"This was not the best time to introduce the usage of carbonic fertiliser. We have decided to re-introduce the fertiliser subsidy," he said. Targetting the Opposition, Rajapaksa said that "although all parties represented in Parliament were urged to come forward to resolve the current crisis in the country, no one has come forward."

The Sri Lankan PM claimed that the crisis will not be solved in a day or two and assured that the government will take all possible steps to bring back the situation to normalcy. "Our responsibility through a peoples' mandate is to ensure that decisions are taken not to destroy the democratic ruling system in the country. We work towards that goal," the Sri Lankan Prime Minister said.

The anti-government protests, which started on Saturday, continued to its third day on Monday.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, continue to hold power in Sri Lanka, despite their politically powerful family being the focus of public ire. The President 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.

On the other hand, the talks between President Gotabaya Rajapaka and the group of independent MPs from his own ruling SLPP coalition over establishing an all-party interim government also remained inconclusive.

The gathering calling for the Rajapaksa family's resignation has continued their all night vigil.
Last week, the entire Sri Lankan cabinet resigned apart from Mahinda Rajapaksa at a time when the country was facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from the UK in 1948. PTI

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