COLOMBO    -    Sri Lanka’s new president Ranil Wickremesinghe has formally in­vited MPs to join an all-party unity government to revive the bankrupt economy by undertaking painful re­forms, his office said on Sunday.

Wickremesinghe took office earli­er this month after public anger over the island nation’s worst economic crisis forced his predecessor Gotaba­ya Rajapaksa to flee the country and quit. In a meeting on Saturday with the influential monks of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, one of Bud­dhism’s most sacred shrines, Wick­remesinghe outlined his plans.

“As the president, I wish to start a new journey,” Wickremesinghe was quoted as telling the monks in his first meeting with the powerful Bud­dhist clergy since taking office.

“I would like to get all the parties together and go on that journey as well as to form an all-party govern­ment.” He has written to all lawmak­ers asking them to join a unity gov­ernment. A former opposition MP, Wickremesinghe, 73, took up the premiership for the sixth time in May after Rajapaksa’s elder brother Ma­hinda resigned and there were no other takers for the job. Wickremes­inghe went onto become the presi­dent after Gotabaya escaped on July 9 when tens of thousands of pro­testers angry at the economic crisis stormed the presidential palace.

He fled to Singapore from where he resigned five days later and Wick­remesinghe became interim presi­dent and later won a vote in parlia­ment confirming his ascension.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million people have endured months of lengthy black­outs, record inflation and shortages of food, fuel and medicines. Since late last year, the country has run out of foreign exchange to finance even the most essential imports.

In April, Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt and opened bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund.