Home NEWS Sri Lanka crisis: How do you fix a broken country?-EnglishHindiBlogs-News

Sri Lanka crisis: How do you fix a broken country?-EnglishHindiBlogs-News

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But that all changed on 9 July, when protesters stormed and took control, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, before turning the palace upside down.

“It was the home of the most powerful man in the country,” said Sri Lankan author and analyst Asanga Abegunasekera. “It was never opened to the public.”

He has since moved to Singapore after arriving on a “private visit” confirmed by officials. Sri Lanka’s parliamentary speaker on Friday accepted Rajapaksa’s resignation, ending his nearly three-year term.

“Resignation was really the only option he had,” Abegunsekara said. “People are tired, hungry and angry … and they are demanding change and accountability because they are sick of seeing the same face in charge.”

‘We can’t afford to choose or choose’

Rajapaksa may be gone, but Sri Lanka is still reeling from a devastating financial crisis, and experts say things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Protests against daily power cuts, rising fuel prices and acute shortages of basic necessities like food and medicines began in March and showed few signs of subsidence.

“There is zero political stability,” Abegunasekera said. “We have seen three cabinets in two months, with a fourth coming in. Urgent change is needed to restore the country.”

Despite a raft of crisis control measures implemented by the government, the situation remains gloomy for millions across the country. “We are still short of food, medicine and fuel,” said Amita Arudpragasam, a Colombo-based political analyst. “The policies have also been inefficient and confusing.”

Analysts said the crisis began around 2019. But for many Sri Lankans, the warning signs were clear even in 2010, when Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s brother Mahinda was re-elected president for a second term.

“It was a ticking time bomb,” Arudapragasam said of the Rajapaksa era. “The government was giving the wealthy elite as well as corporations huge cuts when they should have raised taxes. The money that could be reinvested in the population was used to pay off debt obligations – and none of the Didn’t help address too many vulnerabilities in our economy.”

Gotabaya Rajapaksa took power in late 2019, having previously held the unelected position of defense secretary only in his brother’s administration.

Critics argue that he mismanaged the economy, investing heavily in the military while implementing sweeping tax cuts, despite international warnings, leading to a decline in government revenues.

“Rajapaksa did not heed anyone’s advice and supported those who did not understand how our economy needed to function,” Arudapragasam said. “The (government) refused to acknowledge that the economy was in trouble until it was too late.”

He said that now there is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance. “We are in a crisis situation where we can’t afford to choose or choose.”

In 2020, the World Bank reclassified Sri Lanka as a lower middle income country amid currency collapse and rising inflation rates.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe declared the country “bankrupt”. “Our economy has completely collapsed,” he said.
Sri Lankans stand in line for gas cylinders in Colombo.

‘One of the best places in the world’

The crisis has shocked many in the international community, who remember a different Sri Lanka.

“In many ways, Sri Lanka is a growth success story,” said Philippe Le Hourou, former South Asia Vice President of the World Bank. “It stands out as a low-middle-income country in a region that hosts the world’s largest concentration of the poor.”

Following the end of Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war in 2009, the country entered a period of peace and stability. Trade flourished and international tourists returned to the country’s beaches, resorts and tea gardens.

Le Houérou highlighted the “impressive” social achievements of Sri Lanka after the war. “Economic growth has been strong and prosperity is widespread,” he said, adding that life expectancy was also among the highest in the region.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) once called Sri Lanka of South Asia. richest economy, “The island reaps the benefits of early investment in higher education and training … and needs to focus on the areas that are most important to accelerate efficiency,” the WEF said in a 2016 report.
Experts said tourism, one of Sri Lanka’s most lucrative industries, never got a chance to recover after the pandemic following the 2019 Easter terror attacks, which came a year later.

“We had a strong agricultural base and one of the most exciting tourism industries in the world,” said author Abegunasekera. “With the absence of proper governance, we went from a fragile state to a troubled state and now a failed state.”

But, he added: “Sri Lanka was one of the best places in the world and I believe that with the right instructions and working institutions, it can be that place again.”

Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Beijing said in a statement on Saturday that his country is in talks with China for financial assistance of about $4 billion.

The amount includes a $1 billion loan to meet existing Chinese debt repayments, a $1.5 billion swap facility and a $1.5 billion loan to purchase goods from China, Ambassador Palitha Kohona said.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on a bailout plan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has been “closely monitoring” developments in the country since talks ended without a deal in June. Government mismanagement has also led to complex reforms, analysts said.

“The IMF is not going to give us financial aid without political stability, not when the country is still on the brink of a knife,” said research fellow Sanjana Hattotuwa. He said that while the protesters had achieved the initial goals of getting Rajapaksa to resign, the country is now facing a lot of uncertainty. “There is no easy solution to a broken economy,” he said. “But the first step will be a new government and elections are needed.”

Tea leaves in a plantation in Bogawantlawa, Sri Lanka.

‘is time to change’

Now out of the country with Gotabaya Rajapaksa public anger The current acting president has turned to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.

“Wickramasinghe was Rajapaksa’s choice for prime minister, that’s the problem,” said writer Abaygunasekera.

“He is politically linked to Rajapaksa and has (always) been interested in protecting him.”

Others reiterated the call for elections. “The protest movement is not slowing down and many Sri Lankans have realized the importance of their role as citizens in holding those in power accountable,” said Ambika Satkunathan, a human rights lawyer. in Sri Lanka.

She also said that she would not rule out Rajapaksa’s return to power. “They may have left the ship when it sank, but they are knowledgeable and have been in the political game for decades,” he said.

“But now there is a window and it is time for change. The government needs to call elections at the earliest.”

Wikmensinghe will remain acting president until Parliament elects a new president. No date has yet been set for the vote, but Wickremesinghe will be allowed to remain in office for a maximum period of 30 days under the constitution.

Parliament will accept the nomination for the new president on Monday, the speaker said on Saturday.

Once elected, the new president will serve the remaining two years initially allotted for Rajapaksa’s term.

Parliamentary elections were last held in 2020 and presidential elections in 2019 – months after the Easter church bombings. Gotabaya Rajapaksa won after a tough fight against the then ruling party’s candidate Sajith Premadasa.

View of St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo after the bombings on April 21, 2019.

Wickremesinghe’s appointment on Wednesday did not go down well with protesters who stormed his office demanding his step down. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters and a nationwide state of emergency was declared.

On Friday, Sri Lanka’s ruling party confirmed that Wickremesinghe is its presidential candidate in the upcoming election.

But Sri Lankans are determined, analysts said, and want to see new people and faces in the government. “The interim president will be tasked with stabilizing the economy for (a) few months,” Abegunasekera said. “But he will not be a leader chosen by the people and that is a hindrance.”

‘lack of accountability’

Following then-President Mahinda’s declaration of victory in 2009 in a 26-year civil war against the Tamil Eelam rebels’ Liberation Tigers, Rajapaksa derived most of his power from the status of “war hero”, bestowed upon him by the majority of the population. – An operation overseen by the then Defense Secretary Gotabaya.

According to a 2011 United Nations report, Sri Lankan government troops were responsible for the abuse, which included deliberate shelling of civilians, summary executions, rape, and preventing food and medicine from reaching affected communities. “Many reliable sources have estimated that 40,000 civilians may have died,” the UN report said.

Rajapaksa has always vehemently denied such allegations.

Human rights lawyer Satkunathan said Sri Lanka’s next long-term leader must tackle “deeper problems such as ethnic conflict, accountability for human rights violations, as well as a commitment to rebuild public trust and integrity.”

“Because we simply cannot afford to go back once again in a crisis like the one we are facing today,” she said.

As Sri Lankan leaders agree to step down, protesters sing in the streets.  But the future is uncertain and the economy is in shambles

Global rights groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) also said the UN mandate to investigate alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka should be upheld.

“Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the other accused should also be investigated and prosecuted appropriately,” said HRW’s acting Asia director Ellen Pearson.

He said Sri Lanka’s economic mismanagement also needed an independent investigation and prosecution.

“There must be an investigation into the alleged corruption that has contributed to this crisis, including any attempts to hide assets abroad,” she said. “Foreign governments should scrutinize assets and freeze them if appropriate.”

Pearson also reiterated the urgency of the election.

“The immediate priority is for a peaceful transition of power that respects rights and addresses the root causes of the political and economic crisis that ultimately stems from a lack of accountability, corruption and the weakening of institutions that provide control over power.” were for,” she said.

“If a more stable government … cannot be established, there are risks of humanitarian crisis as well as greater violence and repression.”

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