President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka imposed a state of emergency in the island nation on Saturday, a day after angry protesters demanded his resignation over the country’s present economic crisis.
Tomorrow, a statewide protest has been scheduled as the country struggles to pay for imports, resulting in shortages of a variety of items, including petrol. Sri Lanka’s economic troubles are attributed to successive governments’ failure to diversify exports, relying instead on traditional income sources like as tea, textiles, and tourism, as well as a habit of purchasing imported items.
Two officials told Reuters on Saturday that Indian traders have begun packing 40,000 tonnes of rice for immediate transport to Sri Lanka, the first big food aid since Colombo obtained a credit line from New Delhi.
The 22-million-strong Indian Ocean island nation is struggling to pay for basic imports after a 70% decline in foreign exchange reserves in two years prompted a currency devaluation and efforts to seek assistance from international lenders. The shipment arrives just in time for a major festival in Sri Lanka.
As Sri Lanka’s leadership prepares for negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over concerns about the country’s ability to repay foreign debt, fuel is in limited supply, food prices are skyrocketing, and protests have erupted.
The Sri Lankan government has called the violent protest near President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s mansion over the current economic crisis a “act of terrorism,” blaming the incident on “extreme groups” affiliated to opposition parties.
On Thursday, a violent protest erupted outside Rajapaksa’s home, with hundreds of people demanding his resignation for what they called his failure to solve the island nation’s worst economic crisis.
As the agitation became more violent, several persons were hurt and vehicles were set on fire. After pulling down a steel barricade near the president’s mansion, police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters. Several persons were arrested as a result of the incident, and a curfew was briefly imposed in most districts of Colombo.
A currency crisis in Sri Lanka has resulted in a shortage of vital items such as fuel and cooking gas, as well as power outages lasting up to 13 hours per day.
The violence, according to Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, was caused by “extreme forces” associated to opposition groups Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). The president’s life was in risk, according to Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, because the demonstration was staged owing to intelligence failure.