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The Sri Lankan political and economic crisis: What’s next for the island nation?


New Delhi / Colombo: Sri Lanka is going through the worst economic and political crisis in the country’s history. The crisis has been a culmination of poor financial policies, unregulated government expenditures, mismanagement of forex reserves, policies related to agriculture, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the skyrocketing fuel prices, electricity shortage, large-scale unemployment, and nationwide protests, the Sri Lankan government’s top brass are witnessing a series of resignations to pave the way for an all-government party to dig the country out of its economic and political crisis.

The next PM

On May 9, Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from his post as the prime minister. Following this resignation, Ranil Wickremesinghe assumed the role of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister. However, the demands for the resignation of Gotabaya persisted. Despite the nationwide protests and chants of slogans like ‘Go home, Gota’ Gotabaya refused to vacate his position as the Sri Lankan President.

On July 9, protesters in Colombo stormed into the Presidential palace, forcing President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to escape from his official residence. A boisterous crowd then took over the palace, occupying its rooms, lawns, bathrooms, and swimming pool.

Following the escape, Gotabaya boarded a military jet and left for the Maldives. He was expected to resign from his post as the President of Sri Lanka and seek exile in Singapore. According to a Maldives government official, Gotabaya left for Singapore aboard a Saudi airline and is planning to fly to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

‘waldorf astoria ithaafushi’ hotel

The interim President

Following Gotabaya’s escape, he appointed Wickremesinghe as the acting President. However, PM Wickremesinghe has now offered to step down from his post to nominate a candidate from the planned ‘all-party government.’

This proposed action did not help calm the fury amongst the protesters throughout the nation. Protesters stormed into PM Wickremesinghe’s official residence on 9th July. Hundreds broke into the PM’s home in Colombo and eventually set the place on fire.

On July 13, protesters primarily composed of university students broke into PM Wickremesinghe’s office as the proposed deadline for Gotabaya’s resignation arrived on Wednesday. Following attempts to disperse the crowd by tear gas and water hosing, the police and military had to step aside and allow them to barge into the office through the front gate and the metal fences.

Also Read: What resulted in the biggest economic and political crisis of Sri Lanka?

On the same day, PM Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency and ordered the military to disperse the protesters by any means necessary. Furthermore, he imposed a curfew that was only lifted at dawn.

The protesters camping at the presidential palace and the PM’s home announced that they would be vacating the premises by July 15. Some campaigners have advised continuing the struggle against the government without damaging the historical art, buildings, and artifacts that are housed in the palace. A monk protester named Omalpe Sobitha said, “the presidential palace is a national monument and it should be preserved.”

President Gotabaya’s stay in the Maldives attracted widespread scrutiny. The president and his family had been staying at the Waldorf Astoria, a high-end resort in the Maldives. Protesters in the Maldives took to the streets to demonstrate their opposition against the President and his presence in the island nation. Campaigners in Sri Lanka have been highlighting the hypocrisy of the Presidential family by contrasting the opulent accommodation given to the family with the economic crisis of the country.

On July 15, Gotabaya Rajapaksa officially resigned as the president of Sri Lanka. PM Wickremesinghe was formally appointed as the interim President of the nation as the parliament prepares to hold a secret ballot to elect a new president in the next 7 days. One of the first actions the interim President undertook was to declare a state of emergency late on Sunday. President Wickremesinghe claimed that this was to maintain public order and supplies of goods in the country. Following the resignation, Gotabaya and his family moved to Singapore.

Urgent measures

Protests continue to grip the nation as citizens still tackle soaring fuel prices and electricity shortages. Irrespective of who gets elected as the full-time President of Sri Lanka, the new leader will have the responsibility of implementing policies to arrest the rapid decline of the country’s economy.


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