Sri Lankan protesters reject PM’s offer to include them in Parliament committees on political reforms

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Youth-led protest groups in Sri Lanka, currently crippled by economic and political crisis, have rejected prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s offer to include them in parliamentary reform committees.

Mr Wickremesinghe on 29 May in a televised statement said that governance in Sri Lanka will be broad-based through parliamentary committees, with lawmakers youth and experts working together.

He added that under proposed constitutional reforms, powers of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be clipped while those of Parliament will be fortified.

He said: “The youth are calling for a change in the existing system. They also want to know the current issues. Therefore, I propose to appoint four youth representatives to each of these 15 committees.”

However, on Friday, it was reported that these leaderless groups had rejected Mr Wickremesinghe’s offer, calling it an attempt to weaken the anti-establishment movement.

Further, they criticised Mr Wickremesinghe’s “Hunger Games approach” of picking and choosing between protestors from diverse backgrounds to be appointed to these committees.

Speaking to The Straits Times, the former chief of Sri Lanka’s human rights commission Ambika Sathkunanathan said: “What Ranil is doing is dodgy. This whole Hunger Games approach is especially terrible - he’s saying ‘you decide which one of you will be in Parliament.”

Protesters have camped out outside the president’s office for more than 50 days, since March, demanding the resignation of the Rajapaksa family– including the president – as the country tethers on the brink of bankruptcy.

Sri Lanka has already defaulted on its foreign loans, and is grappling with acute shortages of essential items such as cooking gas, fuel and medicines.

Many have been forced to wait in long queues for hours to try and buy necessities, with many still returning empty-handed.

Last month, former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to resign and Mr Wickremesinghe was sworn in on 12 May.

Mr Wickremesinghe, in his first address to the country, prepared the country for tough months ahead as he aimed to steer the economy back on track.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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