In an effort to gain power, the Sri Lankan government is in crisis, with the country’s military in overdrive. The resigning president leaves a prime minister in charge and the country’s bloated state sector, military, and elaborate postwar construction projects to pay for. Meanwhile, economic growth slowed to a crawl. Food and fuel were running low for months. As a result, protesters began a new campaign of agitation, demanding that the Rajapaksa family step down. On Thursday, they breached the president’s residence, meeting with tear gas.
The protesters’ pledges do not seem to have any effect on the government’s plans. Wickremesinghe is widely expected to name parliament leader Dinesh Gunawardena as prime minister, and the new government will not be formed until both the president and the military are removed. Gunawardena was a cabinet minister under Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was president. However, the newly-appointed president has said that the protesters are not the government’s people and are against the law.
The country’s new government is struggling to gain the trust of the protesters and convince lenders that the economy is on the right track. Meanwhile, it is also dealing with protracted power struggles – the governing party of the Rajapaksa family holds a majority of seats. This is likely to make the new government even more vulnerable to attacks. Nonetheless, the protesters are vowing to remain in the streets until the new leader is installed.
The current political situation in the island nation has been deteriorating since the election of Ranil Wickremesinghe last week. The country’s currency reserves are rapidly depleting and fuel shortages are commonplace. The economic situation has led to a major hike in food prices. The emergence of a new prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has stoked the flames in the presidential palace. During the last month, protesters burned his private residence. The rioters also overran the presidential palace.
The government says the parliament will not meet on Friday after Rajapaksa’s resignation letter is received by the speaker today. The next date for the parliament will be announced within three days. If the resignation letter of the president is accepted by the Speaker, the protesters will not allow the parliament to convene. Meanwhile, the U.N. Secretary-General has called on all party leaders to seek compromise.
The country’s economy has reached the point where it is not able to afford imports. With 22 million people in desperate need of food and water, Sri Lanka’s economy is deteriorating rapidly. The protests have highlighted the fall of the Rajapaksa political clan, which has ruled the country for most of the past two decades. But the people’s demand is not being met.
Meanwhile, the protesters have been demonstrating in the capital city of Colombo. Hundreds of police and security forces poured on the protesters. Some soldiers attacked protesters and tore down tents. On Wednesday, a BBC reporter was attacked by army personnel. The army snatched his mobile phone and deleted all his videos. There were also reports of more than 100 people being arrested by security forces. Human Rights Watch has expressed concern about the Sri Lankan government.