Mass government resignations, public protests . . .
Sri Lanka’s 26 cabinet ministers resigned from their positions on Sunday night amid protests over the country’s ongoing economic crisis and calls for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign. Rajapaksa has refused to step down and, following the mass resignations, reshuffled his cabinet to appease public discontent. But the move didn’t work; protesters continued demonstrations for a fifth straight day, leading to the new finance minister resigning after less than 24 hours in office. Protests, which began last week, have continued to grow, spreading to the Sri Lankan diaspora. In Vancouver, 200 Sri Lankan-Canadians gathered on Sunday to support the cause and urged the Canadian government to take action.
Questionable government response . . .
The government responded to the protests by imposing a state of emergency and a 36-hour curfew over the weekend. It also temporarily blocked social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram. Police fired tear gas and water cannons during a student-led protest defying the curfew in Kandy – Sri Lanka’s second-largest city – and detained 664 people. The United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees has expressed concern over methods to break up protests.
Only the beginning . . .
Sri Lankan citizens, especially impoverished communities, are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis. Many people are spending hours queuing for kerosene and food, which is impacting their ability to work, particularly for workers like rickshaw drivers. Although India has started to load fuel and food shipments to Sri Lanka, including 40,000 tonnes of rice, the aid may not be enough. Yesterday, parliament speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana explained that shortages will only worsen and were “just the beginning” of the country’s worst economic crisis since it gained independence in 1948.
- Bloomberg: How Sri Lanka landed in a political and economic crisis and what it means
- The Guardian: Why are people protesting in Sri Lanka?
- The Wall Street Journal: Anger rises in Sri Lanka as economic crisis worsens