President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's ruling has coalition suffered a string of defections ahead of the parliamentary session, undermining his ability to ratify a state of emergency imposed last week to quell the growing public protests.

Protesters have called for Rajapaksa and members of his powerful ruling family to resign.
Protesters have called for Rajapaksa and members of his powerful ruling family to resign. (AP)

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's ruling coalition has lost its majority in parliament after at least 41 lawmakers walked out of the alliance amid growing unrest over an economic crisis, according to parliamentary proceedings.

"Our party is on the side of the people," said Maithripala Sirisena, leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party which withdrew its support for Rajapaksa's coalition on Tuesday.

The shift left Rajapaksa with a minority government, which could make decision making more challenging, although independent lawmakers can still continue to support government proposals.

The development came as Sri Lanka's parliament met for the first time after Rajapaksa dissolved his cabinet and sought to form a unity government to find a way out of the island nation's worst economic crisis in decades and quell public anger.

Opposition parties and even members of Rajapaksa's ruling alliance rejected the move for a unity government, setting the stage for a test of strength in parliament.

The country of 22 million people has been suffering from a shortages of food, fuel and prolonged power cuts lasting up to 13 hours, triggered by a lack of foreign exchange that has stalled imports.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka imposes 10-hour power cuts as economic crisis deepens

Finance minister quits

Sri Lanka's ruling coalition won 145 out of 225 seats in the last parliamentary election. 

However, some of its 11 coalition partners that collectively hold 30 seats have indicated they will sit independently in parliament.

Moreover, Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ali Sabry also resigned just a day after he was appointed to the post.

"Whilst I regret the inconvenience caused, I believe I have always acted in the best interests of the country," a statement from Sabry said, adding that "fresh and proactive and unconventional steps" were needed to solve the country's problems.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka cabinet resigns after anti-government protesters defy curfew

Unprecedented protests

In a wave of unprecedented spontaneous demonstrations across Sri Lanka, including large gatherings in the commercial capital Colombo, protesters have called for Rajapaksa and members of his powerful ruling family to resign. 

His brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is the prime minister.

"A lot of people are finding it difficult to get a square meal. You have to queue up to get gas and milk powder. Queues for everything," said Upali Karunatilake, 54, a school van driver.

"Even small children are saying that Gotabaya (the president) must be removed," Karunatilake said.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka capital under heavy security following night of unrest

Source: TRTWorld and agencies