Lankan crisis: Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation unlikely to stem protests - The Tribune India

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Lankan crisis

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation unlikely to stem protests

Lankan crisis

MAHINDA Rajapaksa’s resignation as the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, handed over to younger brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, is unlikely to stem the wave of anger against the influential family over the handling of the island nation’s worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948. - File photo



MAHINDA Rajapaksa’s resignation as the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, handed over to younger brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, is unlikely to stem the wave of anger against the influential family over the handling of the island nation’s worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948. The unprecedented violent clashes, following the attack on peaceful anti-government protesters, mark a huge escalation and the calls for the President to leave office are only expected to get shriller. Since protests flared up in early April in the capital, Colombo, over soaring prices, food, fuel and medical supply shortages, along with prolonged power cuts, these have grown in size and spread across the country, unifying a nation where ethnic fault lines run deep.

A severe shortage of foreign currency has resulted in the government’s inability to pay for vital imports. The currency devaluation, ahead of talks for a loan bailout, has made the cost of living unaffordable for a vast majority. Successive governments have mismanaged the economy, but much of the blame is being pinned on the Rajapaksas — for the deep tax cuts as part of the election promise, the controversial ban on chemical fertilisers which though later reversed triggered a drop in the staple rice crop, or racking up huge debts with countries like China to fund infrastructure projects seen as unnecessary. The Covid pandemic’s devastating blow to the tourism-dependent economy and the series of deadly bomb attacks on churches three years ago that slowed the tourist inflow have been contributing factors.

Lessons need to be drawn from the Lankan crisis of the perils of investing in populist measures that the economy is simply not equipped to sustain. For India, which has stood steadfast behind the struggling neighbour and offered a more than generous helping hand, a peaceful resolution of the situation is critical. As New Delhi keeps a close watch on the developments, a sustained commitment in this hour of crisis would go a long way in strengthening the relationship.


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