However, all that changed on the 9th of July when protestors stormed in demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation and turning the palace upside-down.
Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, a Sri Lankan analyst and author, said that “that was the home for the most powerful man in this country.” It had never been open to the public.”
Abeyagoonasekera explained that resignation was his only option. “People are tired, hungry, and angry. They demand change and accountability because they’re sick of seeing the same faces in power.”
“We can’t afford pick and choose”
Rajapaksa may have been gone but Sri Lanka still faces a financial crisis that is causing it to be a disaster. Experts predict that things will only get worse.
Protests against daily power cuts and rising fuel prices, as well as severe shortages in basic necessities like food and medicine, began in March and have not stopped.
Abeyagoonasekera stated that “there is zero political stability.” “We have seen three cabinets in the last two months. A fourth is on its way.” It is urgent that the country be restored.
Analysts believe the crisis began in 2019. Analysts say the crisis started around 2019.
Arudpragasam described Rajapksa’s era as a “ticking time bomb”. “The government was making huge cuts to the wealthy and corporations, when they should be increasing taxes. The government used money that could have been reinvested into the population to pay off debt obligations. This did not address our many economic weaknesses.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power in the latter part of 2019, after he had previously held the unelected position as defense secretary under his brother’s administration.
Critics claim he mismanaged America’s economy by investing large amounts in the military and implementing massive tax cuts, despite international warnings. This caused a drop in government revenue.
Arudpragasam said that Rajapaksa did not listen to anyone’s advice, and was supported in this by people who do not understand how an economic like ours should work. “(The government refused to acknowledge that the economy had entered crisis until it was too late.”
She said that urgent humanitarian aid is required. “We’re in a crisis situation, and we don’t have the luxury of choosing between two options.”
Due to rising inflation rates and currency collapses, Sri Lanka was reclassified by the World Bank as a country of lower middle income in 2020.
“One of The Best Places in the World”
Many in the international community were shocked by the crisis, and they recall a different Sri Lanka.
“In many ways, Sri Lanka is a development success story,” said Philippe Le Houérou, formerly the South Asia vice president of the World Bank. “It stands out because it is a lower-income country in an area that hosts the greatest concentration of poor.”
After the conclusion of the bloody civil conflict in Sri Lanka in 2009, the country has entered a period peace and stability. The country saw increased trade and more international tourists came to its beaches, resorts, and tea plantations.
Le Houérou highlighted Sri Lanka’s “impressive” post-war social achievements. He stated that “Economic growth is robust and prosperity has spread widely” and added that the region has the highest life expectancy.
Abeyagoonasekera, author, said that “we had a strong agricultural base and one the most exciting tourist industries in the world.” “Without proper governance, we went from a fragile state to one that was in crisis and now is a failed state.”
He said, however, that Sri Lanka was “one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit” and that he believes it can be rediscovered with the right policies and functioning institutions.
Sanjana Hattotuwa, research fellow, said that “The IMF will not grant us financial assistance without political stability” He said that although protesters had succeeded in their initial goals of getting Rajapaksa fired, now there was a lot of uncertainty. He said that there is no quick fix to a broken economy. “But the first step is a new government, and elections are necessary.”
It is time for change
“Wickremesinghe, Rajapaksa’s choice for prime minister, was that the problem?” said Abeyagoonasekera the author.
Others reiterated their call for elections. Ambika Satkunanathan (a human rights lawyer who served in Sri Lanka with the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Protest Movement) stated that the protest movement was not slowing down.
She said that she would not rule out Rajapaksas coming to power. She said, “They may have abandoned ship as it was sinking, but they are savvy and had been in politics for decades.”
“But there’s a window and it’s time to change. “The government should call elections sooner than later.”
Wickmenesinghe is to remain Acting President while Parliament elects a President. The lawmakers are to meet Saturday to begin the process. Wickremesinghe can only hold the office for 30 consecutive days, although no date has been established for the vote.
The new President will be elected once Rajapaksa is gone.
Last year, Parliamentary elections took place in 2020. The Presidential election was held in 2019, months after the Easter mass shootings. After a close race against Sajith Premadasa, the then-ruling party candidate, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was victorious.
Protesters stormed Wickremesinghe’s offices demanding that he quit. Wickremesinghe was not pleased with Wednesday’s appointment. Protesters were beaten and tear gassed by police, and a national emergency was declared.
Sri Lanka’s ruling party confirmed Friday that Wickremesinghe will be its presidential candidate in the forthcoming election.
Analysts said that the Sri Lankan people are determined and still want new faces and faces in government. Abeyagoonasekera stated that the interim president will be responsible for stabilizing the economy for a few more months. “But he would not be elected by the people, and that is an obstacle.”
“Lack of accountability”
After Mahinda’s declaration of victory in 2009’s 26-year civil war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels, then-president Mahinda declared victory. This campaign was overseen by Gotabaya, then-defense secretary.
UN report from 2011 states that Sri Lankan government forces were responsible for abuses like the deliberate shelling and summary executions of civilians as well as rape and blocking food and medicine reaching the affected communities. According to the UN report, “a number credible sources have suggested that there could have been as high as 40,000 civilian deaths.”
These allegations have been denied by the Rajapaksas inveigh.
Satkunanathan said the human rights lawyer that Sri Lanka’s next leader must tackle “entrenched problems”, such as ethnic conflict, accountability for violations of human rights, and have the commitment and integrity necessary to rebuild public trust.
She stated, “Because it’s simply not possible to slip back into a crisis such as the one we are facing today.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global rights group, also stated that the UN mandate to investigate war crimes in Sri Lanka should be retained.
Elaine Pearson (HRW acting Asia director) stated, “Gotabayarajapaksa as well as other accused should also be investigated”
She said that independent investigations and prosecutions were needed to investigate the economic mismanagement in Sri Lanka.
She said that “there should be investigations into alleged corrupt behavior which has contributed to the crisis,” and she also suggested that foreign governments freeze assets. Foreign governments should investigate assets and, if necessary, freeze them.
Pearson reiterated the need for elections.
“The urgent priority should be for a peaceful transition to power that respects power and addresses the root causes. This is ultimately about a failure of accountability, corruption, weakening of institutions meant to check power.” she stated.
“If there is no stable government, then the risk of a humanitarian crises and more violence and repression.”