Sri Lanka Political Crisis Update: In Sri Lanka, protests by some people, which started in isolated places demanding to meet basic needs, quickly turned into a tsunami that overthrew the once powerful Rajapaksa family from power. This development appears to be the period of the ‘Arab Spring’, when power changes took place in several Arab countries one by one. However, the way out of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis seems to be very long and difficult.
Sri Lanka is going through the most severe economic crisis since its independence from British rule in 1948. Due to severe shortage of foreign exchange reserves in the country, the import of essential commodities like food products, fuel, and medicines has been badly affected. The foreign debt has exceeded 50 billion US dollars. This year Sri Lanka has to repay a debt of 7 billion US dollars. The crisis in Sri Lanka began in March, when a small group of people gathered in a small group to protest for basic demands like milk powder and regular electricity supply.
waiting in queues several miles long
Within a few days, this economic crisis took a formidable form and people were forced to wait in long queues for many miles to get fuel and cooking gas. Also, there was a power outage for several hours. Around 20 people died as they stood in long queues in the scorching sun. The difficulties of the people were increasing day by day and they were waiting for the government’s response, positive response, but the Rajapaksa government did not offer any solution and the problems of the people kept increasing.
had to pay to stand in the queue
In mid-April, the government refused to pay off the international debt, declaring the country bankrupt. In these circumstances, black marketing started increasing and people had to pay money to queue up. Simultaneously, the fuel was sold at four times the legal retail price. When there was no way out, people all over Sri Lanka took to the streets and demanded the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his elder brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The powerful Rajapaksa family, which ruled Sri Lanka for nearly two decades, was blamed for the country’s economic ruin.
‘Aragalaya’ movement started
Irrespective of the strength of the Rajapaksa family, people gathered in the Galle Face Green area in the heart of Colombo, chanting ‘Gogotagama’ during a peaceful protest. These people went ahead and started the ‘Aragalaya’ movement, which in Sinhalese means ‘struggle’. The protesters demanded the resignation of President Gotabaya and his elder brother Mahinda. The slogan attracted students, activists, youth and people from all walks of life, who joined the protests, bypassing the deep caste and religious divide in the country.
Violence against confidants of the Rajapaksa family
Amid mounting pressure, President Gotabaya dropped his elder brother Chamal and eldest nephew Namal from the cabinet in mid-April. In May, when supporters of Prime Minister Mahinda attacked anti-government protesters, he also resigned from the post. With this, violence started in different parts of the country against the trusted people of the Rajapaksa family. President Gotabaya was forced to flee his official residence due to massive protests in July. However, before that he tried to deal with the crisis for a few weeks with the newly-appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Driver Anand Arunajit said, “We are tired of the situation in the country. They don’t have any solution.”
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President Gotabaya fled to Maldives on 13 July
On one hand, Arunajit was standing in the queue for petrol and on the other hand his wife Sumali was waiting in the queue for cooking gas. Shehan Perera, a mid-level employee of the IT industry, says that jobs are being threatened due to the fuel crisis. “Companies are now trying to run with minimal human resources,” he says as he puts his car in a long queue in the city. Yohan Pereira, a young apprentice in the hospitality industry, said, “Our generation has been affected by this fuel crisis. Almost unemployed. I also queue up throughout the day to get some fuel for my scooty and take rest at night.” President Gotabaya fled to Maldives on July 13 and then went to Singapore, from where he sent his resignation letter. .
The new government will have this challenge
Sri Lanka’s parliament held a special session on Saturday to begin the process of electing a new president, who will head the next government. The new president will face a difficult challenge to revive the country’s bankrupt economy. The turning of the economic crisis into political turmoil has raised concerns that there will be delays in taking steps such as seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund to resolve the crisis. The World Food Program said in a status report on Friday that 6.3 million people in Sri Lanka, or 28.3 percent, face food insecurity and that number could increase as the crisis deepens. In such a situation, there is no possibility that the future government will be able to improve the economic situation in a short time. The process of economic reform seems to be quite long and difficult.
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