Today, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa struggles to keep his government afloat. The recurring mass protests prompted most of his cabinet to resign earlier today. The third-world country relied heavily on China to help them in the short term. However, the inflation in gas and food costs directly contributed to the country being on the verge of defaulting on its public debt, further intensifying the increase of the expenses throughout the country.
The power cuts added to struggling citizens already facing mass inflation and shortages of essential goods. The initial solution the government came up with last week was a country-wide six to seven power outage and rationing of supplies for both buses and lorries. Despite their efforts, two days later, in response to the power shortage, a Minister from Siri Lanka announced that the country would be turning off street lights to save electricity.
Today, only the President’s brother, Prime Minister Mahinda, stayed on as the government copes with a significant economic crisis. The people continue to condemn Mr. Rajapaksa. The 26 cabinet ministers who resigned included the Prime Minister’s own son, Namal Rajapaksa, who tweeted that he hoped it would help the President and PM’s “decision to establish stability for the people and the government.”
Many of the protesters are calling for the resignation of their President as the people of Siri Lanka were faced with 13-hour power cuts, fuel shortages, essential food items, and medicines. They started to reach a place where public anger had reached a new high. Their disdain intensified after seeing that government buildings receive a steady flow of power rather than schools or hospitals. A peaceful protest outside the President’s house soon turned violent; participants say things took a turn when police fired tear gas and water cannons and beat people. On Friday morning, police arrested 45 people; no charges have been made against them yet. In response to the protest outside his residence, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa imposed a 36-hour curfew.
Earlier today, Mr. Rajapaksa invited opposition parties to join the cabinet. Two opposition parties: the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vinukthi Peramuna (JVP), have rejected the President’s invitation to form a national unity government and told him to resign instead.
In response to the President’s new actions that the President says are in response to the power shortage, many defied their new curfew to take to the streets in several cities. The protesters have been calling for the resignation of the President. Sunday’s curfew is just one measure designed to stop people from gathering. There was also a social media blackout and a special presidential notification prohibiting people from “being on any public road, in a park, on trains or the seashore” unless they have written permission from the authorities.
Experts believe policies introduced by Mr. Rajapaksa after he got elected in 2019 that included a plan with steep tax cuts and an import ban have furthered this crisis. As frustration grows with tension, so do fears that his government is trying to stifle any criticism directed towards it. Many citizens and government officials took to Twitter to express their disdain for the current President and the current situation they believe he put them in.
Previous ministers of foreign affairs, education, and highways have been reappointed to their old positions. As the people struggle to find a way out of this crisis, all it seems that they can do right now is empower themselves in protest by chanting, “Go Gota Go.”