Sri Lanka: Unprecedented protests, why people of the country do not want to see President Rajapaksa again

Members of the cabinet have resigned in protest of the unbridled and rising prices of food, oil, and electricity in Sri Lanka. The governor of the country’s central bank has also resigned.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his elder brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, did not relinquish power, despite the resignations of all 27 ministers in the cabinet.

Spontaneous protests continue across the country in the face of the continuing crisis in the supply of fuel, food, and medicine. Many protests are taking place outside the homes of government party leaders.

The angry protesters demanded the resignation of the Rajapaksa family, saying that the decision of the cabinet to resign was meaningless if the Rajapaksa family did not relinquish power.

The country has never faced such a severe economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

The acute crisis in the foreign exchange used for fuel imports has crippled the country’s economy. People spend half a day or more without electricity. Extreme shortages of food, medicine, and fuel have left people desperate. The people of the country are in a frenzy of unprecedented anger.

To address the situation, President Rajapaksa has invited all political parties to join the new government. But the people protesting in the streets say Mr. They will not stop until Rajapaksa resigns.

1Sri Lanka Unprecedented protests, why people of the country do not want to see President Rajapaksa again

‘Go Gota Go’ – The people of the country have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Unprecedented ‘People’s Revolution’
Outraged and frustrated, the island nation’s protests now target only one person or one family. Their only demands are on placards, banners, and slogans – “Go Gota Go”, “Gota Go Home” – “Say goodbye”, “Go home”.

Saroj Pathirana, an analyst on Sri Lankan politics, told BBC Bangla that Pathum Kerner, an expatriate Sri Lankan youth, is currently organizing the protest on social media under the hashtag #GotaGoHome from England.

“This mass protest is an unprecedented” people’s revolution. “Pathum Kerner told me that the Rajapaksa brothers know they will try to hold on to power, but they will continue to do so until they step down.”

Mr. Pathirana says those taking part in the people’s revolution are not just seeking a change of government, they want a radical change in the political structure and culture.

Mr. Pathirana, who came to power with an overwhelming majority almost two and a half years ago, said: “The whole cabinet has resigned. It will be very difficult to hold on to power. ”

He says this year’s demonstration is “absolutely unprecedented” and is being organized by the city’s educated youth. So “it will not be as easy as it used to be.”

“There are even reports that the police and the army are supporting the protesters. Video footage of a police officer’s statement came on social media yesterday, where he said, ‘We are behind you too.’

2Sri Lanka Unprecedented protests, why people of the country do not want to see President Rajapaksa again

Nadhi Vandurgala joins the protest with her husband and daughters in defiance of the curfew on Sunday

Extreme economic hardship
Controversial President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, or ‘Gota’ for short, is being blamed by most of the country’s people for the country’s extreme economic woes.

The BBC’s South Asia correspondent Rajini Vaidyanathan says desperate people are on the verge of reaching the limit of tolerance.

“He has to relinquish power. He has looted everything we have,” said Nadhi Wandurgala, who joined the protest with her husband and two daughters in defiance of the nationwide curfew imposed on President Rajapaksa.

He tells how their happy daily family life has become miserable.

He told the BBC that there was no electricity for up to 16 hours a day, people were struggling to get cooking gas every day, and waiting in long lines for gasoline had become a casual occurrence.

“Even medicines are running out in hospitals, there are no papers for school exams, but politicians are getting electricity every day, they don’t have to pay for gas or kerosene,” he said.

Nadhi is an ordinary housewife, her job is not to protest, to move around. He stays away from politics. But the economic crisis has reached such a terrible level that many ordinary people like him have been forced to go on the road. The country’s unprecedented economic crisis has united people of all ages, classes, professions, and religions into spontaneous movements.

3Sri Lanka Unprecedented protests, why people of the country do not want to see President Rajapaksa again

Protesters are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, accusing him of failing to manage the economy.

The fence of the family system
Sri Lanka has experienced an acute shortage of foreign exchange. As a result, importing essential commodities like fuel has become difficult for the country. The epidemic has also hit the tourism industry hard, which is one of the major reasons behind the crisis. But many in the country are pointing fingers at President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for failing to manage economic affairs during the crisis.

Analysts also say that after winning the election in 2019, Mr. The crisis has been exacerbated by the policies that Rajapaksa has enacted, such as major tax cuts and import bans. He has even refused assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Dhaka University Professor of Economics. Selim Raihan, who recently returned from Sri Lanka, told BBC Bangla that the situation was not created overnight.

“There is a political crisis behind this. Until 2019, Sri Lanka was an upper-middle-income country. Since then, it has declined and is now a lower-middle-income country.”

He said the crisis has affected people from all walks of life in the country.

Mr. Raihan says: “In recent years, the politics of Sri Lanka has been dominated by a faction or a family system. The Rajapaksa family controls this government. Four important ministries are controlled by the four brothers of the Rajapaksa family, including the President and the Prime Minister. Many family members are MPs. ”

As a result, there has been a widespread public outcry against the family over the country’s dire economic crisis.

Sri Lanka Unprecedented protests, why people of the country do not want to see President Rajapaksa again

A lot of police have been deployed to prevent protesters

How much freedom of expression is endangered?
The BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan says there is growing frustration among the people and growing fears that the government is determined to block criticism against them.

The government imposed a curfew on Sunday to ban public gatherings. Social media has been shut down and a special presidential directive has been issued banning the movement of people “on public roads, parks, trails or beaches” without the written permission of the authorities.

Even then, hundreds of people like Nadhi and her family are taking to the streets at risk, disobeying government orders to stay at home, Ms. Bhaidyanathan said.

Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa told the BBC: “These are dictatorial, dictatorial, and extremely harsh measures.

“People have the right to freedom of expression, expression of protest, and peaceful democracy under the highest law of the land. The government cannot violate this right,” said Mr. Premadasa.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is ruling the country with his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister, has been accused of undermining freedom of expression even before he won the 2019 election.

Mahinda Rajapaksa has twice served as president. And as defense minister, Gotabaya Rajapaksa faces serious allegations of human rights abuses in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war. The two brothers are notorious for taking ruthless steps to suppress dissent.

Many protesters fear it could be difficult to oust this powerful family from power in Sri Lankan politics. They told the BBC that the power-hungry family could do anything to hold on to power.

But Saroj Pathirana, a Sri Lankan political analyst, says it will be difficult for the Rajapaksa brothers to stay in power in the face of unprecedented public discontent.

He says Thursday’s protests have reached the doorsteps of President Rajapaksa.

Protests outside his residence in Colombo turned violent. Police have to use tear gas and water cases to prevent protests. Many protesters have been arrested.

Mr. Pathirana says Gotabaya Rajapaksa realizes he has lost the support of a large section of the population.

5Sri Lanka Unprecedented protests, why people of the country do not want to see President Rajapaksa again

Many people protested in Colombo on Sunday, ignoring resistance from security forces

‘Man’s back is against the wall’
A state of emergency was declared in the island nation shortly after the protests on Thursday. The security forces were also given the power to make arrests and detentions. The government argued that the move was aimed at maintaining law and order.

Authorities say more than 600 people have been arrested for violating curfews on Saturday and Sunday.

The protesters did not stop even after that. Sahara, 29, who was on her way to Colombo to protest for the first time, told the BBC’s Ms. Bhaidyanathan that she usually spent time on the weekends singing and gig at restaurants with friends. Now that’s off.

“This is the most important time of our lives. How are we going to fulfill our dreams in what is going on in the country?”

Crying for electricity every day, his bank balance has reached the bottom due to the fire price of food. People’s backs are stuck in the wall – says Satara.

“We want a government that is capable of managing the situation. This government has no problem with human life and death.”

The argument of the young protesters is now the same – “This government is incompetent. They have pushed the country to the brink of destruction. They have not kept their promises. People are not willing to suffer anymore.”

 

 

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