Sri Lanka’s opposition political parties will meet to agree on a new government a day after the country’s president and prime minister agreed to resign in the country’s most chaotic day following months of political turmoil.

Sri Lanka's economic crisis developed after the Covid-19 pandemic hammered the tourism-reliant economy and it has been compounded by large and growing government debt.
Sri Lanka's economic crisis developed after the Covid-19 pandemic hammered the tourism-reliant economy and it has been compounded by large and growing government debt. (Reuters)

Calm has returned to the streets of Sri Lanka's commercial capital Colombo as opposition political parties have announced plans for a meeting to agree on a new government following the country’s most chaotic protest in months.

Opposition lawmaker M. A. Sumanthiran said on Sunday that all opposition parties combined could easily muster the 113 members needed to show a majority in Parliament, whereupon they will request President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to install the new government and then resign.

Protesters were still milling about on Sunday in the president's residence, parts of which had been smashed. Some took selfies of the polished interiors, a striking contrast to the misery many have endured.

Members of the security forces, some with assault rifles, stood outside the compound but did not stop people going in.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he will leave office once a new government is in place, and hours later the speaker of Parliament said Rajapaksa would step down on Wednesday.

Pressure on both men had grown as the economic meltdown set off acute shortages of essential items, leaving people struggling to obtain food, fuel and other necessities.

If both president and prime minister resign, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena will take over as temporary president, according to the constitution.

READ MORE: US urges Sri Lankan authorities to ‘work quickly’ to solve problems

Bankrupt state

Thousands of protesters who stormed the president’s official residence, his office and the prime minister's official residence on Saturday spent the night there, saying they will stay until the leaders officially resign.

Protesters had swarmed into the president's whitewashed colonial-era residence on Saturday, jumped into the swimming pool and sat on a four-poster bed. Others set fire to the private home of the prime minister.

The nation of 22 million people is short of food and fuel, and inflation hit a record 54.6 percent in June. Sri Lanka's economic crisis developed after the Covid-19 pandemic hammered the tourism-reliant economy and slashed remittances from overseas workers.

It has been compounded by large and growing government debt, rising oil prices and a ban on importing chemical fertilisers last year that devastated agriculture. The fertiliser ban was reversed in November.

The country is relying on aid from India and other nations as leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. Wickremesinghe said recently that negotiations with the IMF were complex because Sri Lanka was now a bankrupt state.

Sri Lanka announced in April that it was suspending repayment of foreign loans due to a foreign currency shortage. Its total foreign debt amounts to $51 billion, of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027.

Months of demonstrations have all but dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades but is accused by protesters of mismanagement and corruption.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka president agrees to 'step down', PM's home set afire in protests

Source: TRTWorld and agencies