The crisis in Sri Lanka

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For months, Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, has been dealing with a foreign exchange crisis and acute shortages of basic necessities. Tensions have been building as long lines for food and fuel have resulted in deaths and power outages have become the norm. According to reports, the island nation is $3 million in debt, of which $1 billion has to be paid by July. The pandemic exacerbated the crisis in the country, which is heavily reliant on tourism. Analysts have blamed the current economic situation on mismanagement by the government (which has two-thirds of the power in the parliament).
Thousands of protesters gathered outside Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private home in Mirihana, southeast of the capital Colombo, on March 31st. The protest came after announcements that Rajapaksa and members of parliament, as well as hospitals and power plants, would be exempted from the 13-hour power cuts intended to ration the country’s dwindling power reserves. The situation highlights the growing abyss between Sri Lanka’s political elite and the general public. Even hospitals were not immune to power outages. Due to power outages, some surgeries and diagnostic tests have had to be cancelled. Rajapaksa’s detractors have grown in number. The Pandora Papers, a massive collection of leaked documents on money ties among the world’s rich and powerful that was published late last year, revealed a history of Rajapaksa’s family stashing wealth and accumulating assets while the country was in civil war from 1983 to 2009. In 2015, the family’s assets were estimated to be worth around $18 billion, which the family denied. In Sri Lanka, the median annual household income is less than $2,000. People are criticising Rajapaksa for, among other things, corruption, mishandling of food policies, and debt restructuring, and there are growing calls for him to resign.
However on the 31st, a group from the rival parties turned the peaceful protest into a full fledged riot, burning buses, hurling stones and breaking barricades, which was then quelled by the police and armed forces. This led to a curfew the very next day, imposed by the President to bring about peace and order, as well as banning social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. This, however, was later restored in the day due to growing criticism. The curfew did not stop the protests, however, as the people, both young and old came to the roads and proclaimed their utter disdain over the actions of the current government. As someone said, “the power of the people is stronger than the people in power”.
Rather than imposing curfews or reshuffling the ministers of the Cabinet, at least now the government should organise a team of good economical advisors who would bring forth a credible fiscal plan and monetary policy. This should be done in order to solve the economic crisis, which is the primary cause of concern in the country. The president too, if he decides to resign, must not do so without arranging a proper national government, otherwise there would be a huge power struggle and then again, the economic problem would take a backseat. The result of that would be the people suffering again. Fixing the economy is the most urgent action to do, not changing regimes. If the government was able to provide the three doses of vaccines to the people to ensure their safety and wellness, then they should be able to do this as well.
The people of my country have spoken. They want change and they want it now. Enough is enough.

Written by: Relaks Radio

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