Sri Lanka teetering on the brink of chaos
PM Mahinda Rajapaksa has resigned after months of protests over the country’s deteriorating economy turned deadly. Protesters aren’t done – they’re calling for the resignation of his brother – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – the other half of the family that has largely controlled Sri Lankan politics for 2 decades with an iron grip. But their hold on power is faltering in the wake of the country’s worst financial crisis since independence. An island-wide curfew is in place until this morning as authorities seek to get on top of the violence.
BACK IT UP A BIT…
Roger that. There’s been months of largely peaceful protests against the economic crisis which has sent food and fuel prices soaring. The country’s foreign cash reserves have dropped so low that it can’t afford to import basic essentials like medicines and cooking gas. Things went downhill on Monday when pro-government supporters attacked demonstrators in the capital Colombo and police responded with tear gas and water cannons. Anti-government protesters then retaliated and torched the home of PM Rajapaksa and his political allies, resulting in 8 people being killed and almost 200 injured. Reports say President Rajapaksa forced his older brother to resign, which he reluctantly did hours later on Twitter before he and his family were moved to a safe house as part of a pre-dawn military operation yesterday. “He was like the emperor of Sri Lanka who has been unceremoniously dumped,” one analyst said.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Reports say the violence looks set to continue with angry mobs shouting “Gota go home” – a reference to the President, but he’s not budging for now. Overnight, Sri Lankan security forces were ordered to shoot law-breakers on sight and tens of thousands of army, navy and air force personnel have been deployed to the streets of Colombo to restore order. Commentators say the PM’s resignation brings the volatile situation into an uncertain phase after weeks of trying to renegotiate the country’s massive debts with international creditors. A team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) started work this week on a bailout that would include tough reforms accompanying financial support. But opposition parties have so far insisted that both Rajapaksa brothers leave government altogether before any negotiations happen, leading to a stalemate.“If Gota goes, the anger will be defused,” says Sri Lankan political expert Murtaza Jafferjee.
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