International Peoples Dispatch Politics Protest

PM Resigns, President Flees: It’s All Happening in Sri Lanka

In the wake of massive protests in Sri Lanka, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his residence. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced his resignation to pave way for an all-party government.
Protesters in front of the Sri Lankan presidential secretariat on Saturday, July 9. Photo: Twitter

By Peoples Dispatch

Massive protests rocked Sri Lanka on Saturday, July 9, leading to a collapse of government. In the morning, tens of thousands of protesters marched to the residence of the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who reportedly fled shortly before. By Saturday evening, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe resigned to make way for the formation of an all-party government. Reports also said the president had agreed to resign.

An all-party meeting called by the Speaker of parliament also saw calls for the resignation of the president.

On Saturday evening, protesters also gathered before the residence of the prime minister. Some of the protesters, including media personnel, were assaulted by security forces.

Sri Lankans hit the streets of Colombo on Saturday in a fresh wave of anti-government “GotaGoGama” protests to demand the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has been under fire for the country’s ongoing economic crisis. As the march began , the police used water cannons and fired tear gas against the protestors. Once the Presidential Palace was breached, the President left the heavily guarded premises, AFP reported.

Videos of protesters swimming in the pool in the presidential residence went viral across the world.

The mass protest was planned on the call of various activists and citizens’ groups against the severe fuel shortage that has marked the past weeks in the country bringing the island virtually to a halt. Everyday life in Sri Lanka has become expensive with surging inflation leaving around 6.3 million of the 22 million population food insecure.

The call for the mass protests was backed by opposition parties, religious groups, trade unions and citizens’ groups. As the call for protests went viral, the police imposed an indefinite mass curfew on the night of Friday and Colombo residents were “strictly advised to remain indoors.” However, the order was lifted on Saturday morning after widespread criticism.

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka(BASL) and United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) were among those who commented on the issue with the latter issuing a statement “calling for restraint” ahead of the protest.

The international body also took note of the “increasing tensions” on the island following several confrontations between individuals and members of the police and use of live ammunition by armed forces to disperse crowds. It reiterated the need for restraint on part of the government in light of the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of all Sri Lankans granted by international law.

Warning that the economic crisis may soon turn into a humanitarian one, on June 9, the UN along with partner projects launched a joint Humanitarian Needs and Priorities (HNP) plan to raise USD 47 million for Sri Lanka’s worst-hit population.

Recap: What’s been happening in Sri Lanka

The latest unrest in Sri Lanka was triggered by the deepening crisis of fuel and food that made daily life a struggle in the country. In recent months, food inflation has skyrocketed, touching 80% in June. The Sri Lankan rupee’s value has also crashed by around 80%, further eroding people’s purchasing power. In the face of the acute economic hardships and the soaring cost of living, students are reportedly dropping out of university and schools .

Citizens have been queuing up for essential supplies for days with essentials like milk powder vanishing from the shelves. Media reports say that even fish has become difficult to access in the island nation as boats do not have diesel to venture into the sea.

In April this year, massive protests broke out in the country, especially in Colombo, with the slogan ‘Gota Go Home’ resonating across the island.

After weeks of mass protests and two declarations of public emergency, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s older brother and then prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned. Ranil Wickremesinghe replaced Mahinda as PM. In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, the Sri Lanka prime minister declared the country to be bankrupt after Sri Lanka became a first-time defaulter on external debt in its post-war history.

As the crisis spiraled out of its control, the government’s only solution has been to approach the IMF and other international sources for aid. However many experts have warned against too much reliance on borrowing.

K. Amarthalingam, Professor of Economics at the University of Colombo, spoke to Peoples Dispatch about the government’s response to the present crisis, “This time, the situation is different. This is a self-inflicted crisis which did not erupt suddenly. Borrowing from the IMF can only be a short-term solution for a country where monthly expenditure on import of essential items amounts to USD 2.4 billion. This is a catastrophe not a short-termed crisis”

On the debt-restructuring program and the current talks with IMF, he added, “The conditions that come with the IMF negotiations will be a double blow to the purchasing power of every Sri Lankan citizen – first, because of increasing taxation and secondly, reduced expenditure of the government on health and education sector which have been fully state-funded till now.”

“To supplement the borrowing, the government should be looking at rationalizing expenditure from loss-making entities and unproductive ventures instead.”

Peoples Dispatch
Peoples Dispatch

Peoples Dispatch, formerly The Dawn News, is an international media project with the mission of bringing to you voices from people’s movements and organizations across the globe. Since its establishment three years ago, it has sought to ensure that the coverage of news from around the world is not restricted to the rhetoric of politicians and the fortunes of big companies but encompasses the richness and diversity of mobilizations from around the world.

Peoples Dispatch also seeks to bring to you breaking news from a perspective widely different from that of the mainstream media.

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4 comments

  1. Go woke go broke. Coming to a Western Country near you, soon.

    So, first you close your borders and cut off your no 1 earner in toursim for a tinpot virus with a survival rate of 99.98%.

    Then you go “organic” farming overnight destroying your agriculture sector and starving your people.

    Go green, go woke, go broke. Good one Sri Lanka.

    1. EARTH IS WHAT’S “BROKE” THANKS TO ECON SYSTEM

      So then in your own clumsy way, you’re asserting belief in the status quo, rapacious econ system. By means of right wing arguments that have co-opted and inverted left terms like “woke” (from AAVE through BLM.) Given its source, the word HAS to be bad, right?

      Never mind that the current globally dominant econ system considers destruction of ecosystems and devastation of human communities to be mere externalities. A real term that means if it’s outside of corporate accounting terms, it doesn’t count.

      Thus the silly arguments about the cost of organic, especially when coupled with small, local farming. It’s short term profitable for Big Ag to ignore full costs like the harm petro fertilizers and pesticides do to soil health; they don’t live with the damage. Chemicals that are the equivalent of plant speed–look productive now, crash later. (My botanical specialty was mycorrhizosphere soil ecology.)

      For info relevant to South Asia, read Vandana Shiva. Including about how the so-called agri”Green Revolution” wasn’t. And about how contemporary Agribiz solutions like GMOs are much more about patenting traditional (and therefore communal) plants for private profit than about feeding the hungry.

      Another tell is that oblique reference to COVID. Right wing apologists say it’s only about profits for Big Pharma. A deep irony as they’re usually so enamored of elitist coporatocracy. But it plays well to us blue collar types who live with the reality of trickle-up. Since the destruction of good public ed and labor unions, few working people now have the resources to do in-depth research.

      Blaming snobbish scientists, Big Pharma, and remote political authorities makes some sense until you look at the details. Why would the rest of the world be in on supposed lies when their science, health care, and pharmaceuticals aren’t for profit? Why the million US deaths, a far bigger percentage than anywhere else?

      And as for “broke,” in whose reality?! The viewpoint of the 1% and their multinational corporations stripping what’s left to take from us peasants? How about considering the true value of unpaid labor like childcare, passing on traditional knowledge, ethnobotany, and producing food locally? None of which, since it isn’t processed within the econ system, is counted as profit or as income. What is broken cannot be fixed by insisting that the obviously unhealthy econ system continue to consume the planet.

      1. For starters ; It isn’t free market capitalism youre talking about. Its called crony capitalism and its been with us for a good 30 years. Orchestrated by the corrupt central banks & the corrupt govts that have served their clients {yes the top 1%}, who have no nation state allegiances. That’s why the world is in debt to the tune of $300 trillion with a combined GDP of $75 trillion. Printed money straight to their crony clients whilst the middle class and working classes get decimated.

        This is all planned. They know the financial system is dying. They plan on being in charge when the great reset occurs.

        Covid, the GFC, “global warming” is an end to a means, nothing more.

        There’s no denying the causes of Sri Lankas decimation. The same is being attempted in Holland and soon to woke western countries like ours.

        That’s a lovely thesis put forward by yourself. I’m sure the starving, bankrupt & desolute average Sri Lankan would love to read it.

  2. When a few protested the rigged installment of biden the bourgeoise became terrified; Sri Lankans think differently

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