Sri Lanka is being “pushed towards anarchy,” it said Ceylon today (Columbo). For months it has been in the grip of a crippling economic crisis. The price of rice has doubled since last year. There are shortages of basic food, fuel and medicines, and power outages ten hours a day. 20% inflation has rendered savings worthless. The country defaulted on $50 billion in foreign debt.
“Enraged” Sri Lankans have protested in large numbers over the past month to demand the resignation of their President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. To stem the anger, the entire cabinet – with the exception of the president and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa – resigned on April 3. But that “didn’t appease the masses”; the protests only gathered momentum. Last week, police used live rounds to disperse insurgent protesters in the town of Rambukkana, killing one person and injuring 14 others. The nation is just a few “bad decisions” away from catastrophe.
Rajapaksa made many of them, Nihal Jayawickrama said in Colombo telegraph. The Sinhala Buddhist was elected president in 2019 after the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks that killed over 200 people. His background as Minister of Defense during Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war that ended in 2009 made him a solid choice for restoring law and order. But when he took office, he unwisely implemented “massive” tax cuts and slashed government revenues. Inflation rose. And as Covid shut down its tourism industry, Sri Lanka has had to struggle to repay its debt.
Rajapaksa’s biggest single mistake was banning the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides last year, Chandre Dharmawardana said Island (Columbo). Some say it was an attempt to bring Sri Lanka back to ‘traditional’ farming, led by its diviner ‘Gnanakka’. Others say it was mostly to save money on government-subsidized fertilizers. In each case, the results were disastrous, with crop yields falling dramatically.
“Faced with such a daunting prospect, many leaders would have resigned by now,” said Sumit Ganguly and Dinsha Mitree foreign policy (Washington). But Rajapaksa, whose family has dominated Sri Lankan politics for years – three members of his family were in his cabinet – is unlikely to back down: he has 2 billion. However, such a deal would almost certainly be subject to austerity conditions, risking even more social unrest . Whether Rajapaksa could survive this is unclear; What is certain is that “Sri Lanka is heading into even more turbulent waters”.
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/world-news/south-and-central-asia/956595/pushed-towards-anarchy-why-sri-lanka-is-a-nation-on ‘Pushing into anarchy’: Why Sri Lanka is a nation on the brink