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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Sri Lanka in troubled waters!

Sri Lanka has been reeling under violence caused by the grave economic crisis which has gripped the country. The economic crisis has now engulfed the political system and the entire society. At the heart of this maelstrom is the Rajapaksa family regime. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who wields executive power has pressurized his elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to resign as prime minister to salvage the tottering regime. Earlier, the entire cabinet had resigned and a new ministry under Mahinda Rajapaksa had been appointed

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Sri Lanka has been reeling under violence caused by the grave economic crisis which has gripped the country. The economic crisis has now engulfed the political system and the entire society. At the heart of this maelstrom is the Rajapaksa family regime. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who wields executive power has pressurized his elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to resign as prime minister to salvage the tottering regime. Earlier, the entire cabinet had resigned and a new ministry under Mahinda Rajapaksa had been appointed. The Rajapaksa regime was responsible for the disastrous decisions that contributed to the economic crisis. The decision to cut taxes, stop fertilizer imports for use in agriculture and grandiose investments in vanity projects were all taken by the authoritarian regime which reduced revenues, disrupted agricultural production, and added to the growing debt burden. The Covid pandemic only precipitated the looming crisis with the drastic fall in foreign exchange earnings with the stoppage of tourism and remittances from Sri Lankan workers abroad.

Ever since the economic collapse, the people had suffered amid severe shortages of food, fuel, and medicines and galloping price-rise. The unbearable conditions of life drove people to come out into the streets to protest. From March 31, protesters gathered and camped out on the Galle Face Green in Central Colombo and outside the prime minister’s residence. Thousands participated in these peaceful protests which drew support from all sections of people including teachers, students, employees, and trade unions. The working class has played an important role in the ongoing popular movement. The coordinating body of the trade unions gave a call for a general strike on April 28 in which millions participated. There was a second one-day general strike and hartal call on May 5 which saw greater participation including doctors, nurses, and other professionals. These strikes called for the president and the government, to resign. Rattled by this militant strike action, president Gotabaya declared a state of emergency, the second in just over a month. Curfew was imposed but the protesters defied it. The regime was truly at a dead end. The violence that erupted on May 9 was the Rajapaksa’s last-ditch effort to disrupt any peaceful transition.

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Mahinda Rajapaksa, instead of quietly resigning and leaving the scene, summoned his party (SLPP) supporters to his official residence. After a provocative speech by Rajapaksa, his men streamed out and attacked the peaceful protesters outside the residence, destroying their tents. They followed this up by attacking the camps at Galle Face and hundreds were injured with the police failing to act decisively. The Sri Lankan government is negotiating with the IMF for a loan program. This will entail cuts in welfare, austerity measures along with further privatization. The mainstream political establishment in Sri Lanka sees no other way but to follow the IMF dictates. But this is not a solution to the deep structural crisis. It is necessary to set out an alternative path – one which will protect the people’s interests and also shield Sri Lanka from the depredations of financial capital. A rare opportunity presents itself for the Left and democratic forces in Sri Lanka to assert that there has to be a restructuring of the political and economic systems and rally the people to fight for such a change.

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
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