What has happened in Sri Lanka? Protests explained

Advertisement

The country faced months of political turmoil in 2022 due to a series of crises.

Register to our Mazic News Today Newsletter

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced on Tuesday (5 July) that the country was “bankrupt”.

Advertisement

Protests have been taking place in Sri Lanka since March.

The main target of the protests was President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for his bad handling of the economy.

Advertisement

Here’s everything you need to know.

Why are people protesting in Sri Lanka?

Advertisement

Sri Lanka is in the midst of an extreme economic crisis.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government have been accused of mismanaging the economy.

Advertisement

Due to the crisis, there was high inflation, daily power outages and fuel shortages.

There are also shortages of other important items.

Advertisement

The protests originally began with vigils in early March this year.

Since then, they have spread across the country, attracting multitudes of protesters.

Advertisement

The country needs help from India and other nations as leaders try to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Mr Wickremesinghe recently said that negotiations with the IMF are complex because Sri Lanka is now a bankrupt state.

Advertisement

Sri Lanka announced in April that it was suspending foreign loan repayments due to a shortage of foreign exchange.

People crowd the premises of Sri Lanka’s presidential palace in Colombo July 10, 2022, a day after it was overrun by anti-government protesters. – Sri Lanka’s colonial-era presidential palace has embodied state authority for more than 200 years, but on July 10 it was the new symbol of the island’s “people’s power” after its resident fled. (Photo by Arun SANKAR/AFP) (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

How is life in Sri Lanka at the moment?

Advertisement

BBC reports that in Sri Lankan cities, “fuel queues wind around entire suburbs,” with people bringing pillows, a change of clothes and water when they stand in line.

Meat is three times more expensive than it used to be and what was once a staple dhal has become a luxury item.

Advertisement

Boats cannot go out to sea and catch fish as there is no diesel.

The UN warns of malnutrition and a humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.

Advertisement

Blackouts and blackouts last late into the night and disrupt sleep

The BBC’s Andrew Fidel Fernando writes in the capital Colombo: ‘In Sri Lanka you lose right now before you wake up.

Advertisement

“There are long days to live; Working days, running errands, buying everyday necessities at twice the price of last month.

“All that, you start a bit more broken than last week.”

Advertisement

Have the President and Prime Minister resigned?

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have now tendered their resignations.

Advertisement

It comes in the wake of ever-growing protests.

Opposition parties are to meet to agree on a new government.

Advertisement

Mr Wickremesinghe said on Saturday (9 July) that he would step down once a new government was in office and hours later the Speaker of Parliament said Mr Rajapaksa would step down on Wednesday.

Pressure on both men has mounted as the economic meltdown triggered acute shortages of essentials and people struggled to get food, fuel and other necessities.

Advertisement

According to the constitution, if both the president and prime minister step down, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena will take over as interim president.

Why did protesters storm the palace in Sri Lanka?

Advertisement

Protesters who stormed the president’s official residence, his office and the prime minister’s official residence on Saturday spent the night there and said they would remain until leaders officially step down.

Thousands of protesters poured into the capital Colombo on Saturday and poured into Mr Rajapaksa’s fortified residence. Videos and pictures showed cheering crowds splashing around in the garden pool, lying on beds and capturing the moment with their cellphone cameras.

Advertisement

Some made tea or used the gym, while others issued statements from a conference room demanding that the President and Prime Minister leave.

Protesters later broke into the prime minister’s private home and set it on fire, Mr Wickremesinghe’s office said. It was not clear if he was there at the time.

Advertisement

Where is Sri Lanka’s President?

It was not clear if Mr Rajapaksa was there at the time protesters stormed the presidential palace, and government spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said he had no information on the president’s movements.

Advertisement

Although both Mr Wickremesinghe and Mr Abeywardena said in their speeches that they had spoken to the President, they said nothing about his whereabouts.

Months of demonstrations have all but dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades but has been accused by protesters of mismanagement and corruption.

Advertisement

The president’s older brother resigned as prime minister in May after taking refuge amid violent protests at a naval base.

Advertisement