Mahinda Rajapaksa, brother to the President of Sri Lanka and until yesterday the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, has resigned from his position amidst increasing tensions in the country.
Mahinda’s brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has not stepped down, and it is unlikely that he will. His brother Mahinda vacated his position to create way for a unity government, at least according to him. However, this is still very much in question as opposition parties have rejected similar offers previously.
It seems that the Rajapaksa dynast has largely fallen from grace in the country. Previously they had been lauded for their role in the ending of the civil war (though with caveats surrounding alleged war crimes). Now, with the economy in free fall, it seems their positions may not be so secure.
This government maneuvering is at least in part to COVID, which had deeply damaged the Sri Lankan economy that heavily relies on tourism. The country saw an increasing inability to pay off its debts due to its nearly dry foreign currency reserves. This in turn has led to high inflation and eventually to the country severely limiting or outright banning numerous imports. It has also caused sever shortages of many good and rolling blackouts throughout the island nation. The country’s leadership has also begun turning to China for help, which has not helped the situation much.
For the past few weeks there have been massive demonstrations. These protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful. However, in one recent incident, supporters of the ruling party were bussed in from the countryside and began attacking demonstrators. This has now spiraled far out of control.
After members of the media and civilians, including women and children, were attacked, some of the formerly peaceful supporters began lashing out themselves. As the violence grew, riot police also joined in on the violence using water cannons and lobbing tear gas into crowds.
There are now reports of people being shot. Some of these shots have even been reported as coming from government officials residences and vehicles. Multiple people have been killed or wounded in these shootings. There has also been a state of emergency declared.
These measures did little to quell the violence as at least two mayors had their houses torched. Pro-government forces were also attacked on numerous occasions. There have even been multiple attempts to storm the, now former, Prime Ministers official residence. Though according to reports the vast majority of anti-government protestors have remained peaceful.
If the economic situation fails to improve, it is hard to see much in the way of positive change coming. There will likely continue to be massive protests, and with the government and police now cracking down harder, the situation is likely to become more violent (often happens when cops get involved).
Hopefully the people of Sri Lanka can find some reprieve soon as they are suffering greatly. Unfortunately, at least as of this moment, far too few are paying attention the ever worsening situation in the nation.