Sri Lanka 2022

Written by  //  July 20, 2022  //  Asia  //  No comments

Sri Lanka, an Island Nation in the Indian Ocean

Sri Lanka president vote: Ranil Wickremesinghe wins amid protests
MPs pick ex-PM seen as close to ousted president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a move likely to frustrate protesters
Wickremesinghe, who has been prime minister six times but never president, won a comfortable victory in parliament on Wednesday morning, where MPs voted for the new president in an unprecedented secret ballot.
Wickremesinghe is due to serve for the rest of Rajapaksa’s term, until November 2024. However, there are concerns his election signals an unstable future for Sri Lankan politics, with protesters vowing to unseat him just as they did Rajapaksa.
In recent days, Wickremesinghe, who declared a state of emergency this week, had made statements calling protesters “fascists” and indicating he would not be afraid to crack down on the demonstrations . Less than an hour after he was declared president, a court order was issued prohibiting anyone from congregating within a 50-metre radius of a statue that stands at Galle Face in Colombo, where anti-government protesters have been camped out for months.

18 July
Sri Lanka’s crisis and its relationship with China (podcast)
Sri Lanka is in crisis right now. … President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to Singapore, then resigned. Normally a good friend and funder of projects under his government, China’s government has gone silent as the former president lost the confidence of the country.
But until now, China has spent billions investing in infrastructure projects in countries, including Sri Lanka, as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. The Globe’s Asia Correspondent James Griffiths says that China will be closely watching the unrest and will be evaluating whether Sri Lanka will stay within its sphere of influence.
Sri Lanka says IMF bailout talks near end after declaring state of emergency
(CBC) Sri Lanka’s acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Monday that the country had almost concluded negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on a bailout package, a day after he declared a state of emergency in the island nation.
“The acting president further explained that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were nearing conclusion, and discussions for assistance with foreign countries were also progressing,” Wickremesinghe’s office said in a statement.
Sri Lanka puts emergency in place ahead of parliament’s vote for new president
(Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe gazetted orders late on Sunday for a state of emergency in the crisis-ridden island nation, in an effort to head off unrest ahead of a vote in parliament later this week to elect a new president.
Wickremesinghe had announced a state of emergency last week, after president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country to escape a popular uprising against his government, but it had not been officially notified or gazetted.
Parliament accepted Rajapaksa’s resignation on Friday, and convened a day later to begin the process of electing a new president, with the vote set for Wednesday.
Singapore asks ex-Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to leave
(India Today) Singapore has issued an ultimatum to ex-Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Singapore authorities have told the former Sri Lanka president that he cannot continue to stay in the country beyond the 15 days that they had initially granted. The announcement follows Rajapaksa’s resignation whilst in exile.
Rajapaksa fled to the Maldives on July 13 and then landed in Singapore the next day. Gotabaya Rajapaksa sent his resignation letter on July 14 through an email to the Parliament Speaker, days after protesters stormed the presidential palace demanding his resignation.

17 July
Sri Lanka crisis is a warning to other Asian nations
By Suranjana Tewari
(BBC) Sri Lanka is in the midst of a deep and unprecedented economic crisis that has sparked huge protests and seen its president quit after fleeing the country – but other countries could be at risk of similar troubles, according to the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“Countries with high debt levels and limited policy space will face additional strains. Look no further than Sri Lanka as a warning sign,” said IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Saturday.
She said developing nations had also been experiencing sustained capital outflows for four months in a row, putting their dreams of catching up with advanced economies at risk.
Over the years, Sri Lanka had built up a huge amount of debt – last month, it became the first country in the Asia Pacific region in 20 years to default on foreign debt.
China has been a dominant lender to several of these developing nations and therefore could control their destinies in crucial ways. But it’s largely unclear what Beijing’s lending conditions have been, or how it may restructure the debt.
Where China is at fault, according to Alan Keenan from International Crisis Group, is in encouraging and supporting expensive infrastructure projects that have not produced major economic returns.
“Equally important has been their active political support for the ruling Rajapaksa family and its policies… These political failures are at the heart of Sri Lanka’s economic collapse, and until they are remedied through constitutional change and a more democratic political culture, Sri Lanka is unlikely to escape its current nightmare.”
Worryingly, other countries appear to be on a similar trajectory.

16 July
New report reveals Sri Lankan President’s alleged role in 1989 enforced disappearance case
(Tamil Guardian) A new report by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), reveals that Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was named in a government inquiry as a suspect in an enforced disappearance case in 1989.
The joint report, ‘Gotabaya Rajapaksa: The Sri Lankan’s President Role in 1989 Mass Atrocities’, lists 1,042 victims who were forcibly disappeared in Matale during 1988-1990. During this period, Gotabaya was serving as the district coordinator, therefore had command responsibility and would have known about the human rights violations taking place.
In the report, ITJP and JDS highlight that Gotabaya was specifically named in a list of perpetrators by the Sri Lankan Presidential Commissioner of Inquiry into Involuntary Removals or Disappearances of Persons in its ‘List of Persons Whose Names Transpired as Responsible for Disappearances – Central Province – Matale District’. The case involves someone who was arrested in September 1989 and tortured while being held at Vijaya College army camp for 40 days in Matale.
See also UN to collect evidence of alleged Sri Lanka war crimes – BBC March 2021

Sri Lankan president allegations
(Day 6 – CBC Radio) Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country and resigned this week in the midst of an uprising fuelled by a massive economic crisis. Ike Sriskandarajah, a senior reporter and producer at Reveal, says Rajapaksa is now again vulnerable to previous war crime allegations after losing head of state immunity.

Sri Lanka crisis: How President Gotabaya’s rule ended in a S’pore hotel
(Straits Times) A police outrider and a security escort. A luxury limousine. A 20-minute ride down Singapore’s East Coast Parkway to the downtown hotel where he had been booked into for the night.
That was the last presidential ride of 73-year-old former Sri Lankan army lieutenant colonel-turned-politician Gotabaya Rajapaksa, once a hero to his people as the steadfast defence secretary who fashioned a huge battlefield victory that quelled a quarter-century of ethnic insurgency with brutal force.

15 July
In Sri Lanka’s Deepening Crisis, Lessons for Divisive Domestic Politics
C. Uday Bhaskar
(Emirates Policy Center (EPC)) The unprecedented Sri Lankan crisis has deepened. Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe, also the Prime Minister, has imposed a state of emergency to contain the citizen-led protests boiling over in anger and frustration at the colossal political failure that has engulfed the island nation of 22 million. Military vehicles and troops are patrolling the streets of Colombo, and the acting President has warned of fascist forces that must be kept at bay.
What began in mid-May with then PM Mahinda Rajapaksa having to escape in a military helicopter has played out again – this time with the younger Rajapaksa – President Gotabaya leaving the island nation in a military aircraft, to the Maldives, in the early hours of Wednesday (July 13). It is believed that the much-reviled Gotabaya has since left the Maldives for Singapore, and has sent in his resignation letter, thereby assuaging the anger of the protesting citizens. What is germane is the ignominious manner in which a democratically-elected leader had to flee his country, shrouded in darkness. The metaphor could apply to the current situation in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is in a dangerous limbo, and there is a suspended political-cum-constitutional stalemate. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is functioning in an acting capacity, and there is no consensus among the major political parties about their plan of action to deal with the crisis. The citizen-led demand is apparent that the current political class stands discredited and must step aside, paving the way for a fresh start to the political compact in the country.
This is a collective aspiration of a disillusioned and now energized population that has endured three years of domestic turbulence and austerity exacerbated by the terror attack on a church (2019), the Covid-19 pandemic, and its socio-economic fallout (2020), and now the war in Ukraine (2022).

13 July
How Sri Lanka spiralled into crisis
Devjyot Ghoshal and Alasdair Pal summarize How Sri Lanka spiralled into crisis and remind us that the country has been run by the powerful Rajapaksa family for the better part of the last two decades.
(Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s economic crisis looks to have finally toppled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The country’s parliamentary speaker had said Rajapaksa would step down after violent protests on Saturday when demonstrators stormed the president’s official residence and set fire to the prime minister’s home in Colombo.
Demonstrators protest at the Presidential Secretariat, after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled, in Colombo
Anti-government protesters angry over power blackouts, shortages of basic goods and rising prices have long demanded that Rajapaksa steps down, but the retired military officer had resisted the demands for months, invoking emergency powers in an attempt to maintain control.
The violence and political chaos gripping the island nation of 22 million comes amid negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a rescue plan, as well as proposals to restructure its sovereign debt, both of which could be thrown into disarray.
Analysts say that economic mismanagement by successive governments has weakened Sri Lanka’s public finances, leaving national expenditure in excess of income and the production of tradable goods and services at inadequate levels.
The situation was exacerbated by deep tax cuts enacted by the Rajapaksa government soon after it took office in 2019. Months later, the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
That wiped out much of Sri Lanka’s revenue base, most notably from the lucrative tourism industry, while remittances from nationals working abroad dropped and were further sapped by an inflexible foreign exchange rate.
The crisis has crippled Sri Lanka, once seen as a model for a developing economy. Fuel shortages have led to long queues at filling stations as well as frequent blackouts, and hospitals have run short of medicine. Runaway inflation reached 54.6 percent last month and could rise to 70 percent, the central bank has said.

9 July
Sri Lanka president to step down, parliamentary speaker says, amid storm of protests
By Uditha Jayasinghe
Speaker says president to step down on July 13
Thousands of protesters storm president’s house, office
Prime minister’s private home set on fire
PM says he is willing to step aside
Protesters demand president’s resignation over crisis
(Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa plans to step down, the country’s parliamentary speaker said on Saturday, bowing to intense pressure after a violent day of protests in which demonstrators stormed the president’s official residence and set fire to the prime minister’s home in Colombo.
The announcement, following the dramatic escalation in months of largely peaceful anti-government protests over a dire economic crisis on the Indian Ocean island of 22 million people, triggered an eruption of celebratory fireworks in the city.

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