Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa pleaded for “patience” Monday as thousands continued to take to the streets to protest his family’s rule, with public anger at a fever pitch over the country’s crippling economic crisis, AFP reported.
Sri Lanka’s 22 million residents have seen weeks of power blackouts and severe shortages of food, fuel and even life-saving medicine in the country’s worst downturn since independence in 1948.
Protesters have rallied daily since Saturday against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – Mahinda’s younger brother – in Colombo and across the island nation, chanting “Gota go home” and calling for his government’s removal.
In his first address since the crisis, Mahinda – the patriarch of the powerful Rajapaksa family omnipresent in Sri Lanka’s politics for two decades – said he needed more time to pull the nation out of the deep end.
“Even if we can’t stop this crisis in two or three days, we will solve it as soon as possible,” Rajapaksa said.
“Every minute you protest on the streets, we lose an opportunity to earn dollars for the country,” he said.
“Please remember that the country needs your patience at this critical moment.”
Pressure on the powerful Rajapaksa family has intensified in recent days, with the country’s vital business community also withdrawing support for them over the weekend.
Mahinda did not directly address the growing calls for him and Gotabaya to step down, but he defended his administration by saying that opposition parties had rejected their offer to form a unity government.