Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean, the country which is renowned for its hospitality, is under travel bans today. Why? Because the people are protesting throughout the country, and the country is facing its worst economic collapse since 1948.
Over the past two weeks, Sri Lankan citizens have been waging a peaceful war against its president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the government, as the country has been facing an acute shortage of basic necessities for months. This includes the fuel crisis, food crisis, electricity shortage and more importantly the debt crisis. Even amidst facing the cut down of basic human rights, beating up people voicing the innocent, common problems in the society, the Sri Lankan citizens have been non-violent throughout, because violence ruins the real meaning of the struggle.
Image credit: IMAGO
Witnessing long queues near fuel stations has become an everyday sight in the country. People have been facing a lack of gas cylinders (liquid petroleum) since late 2021 and to add fire to that, now there is the fuel crisis, which led to several deaths due to heat shocks, to which the government turned a blind eye. The worst outcome of the fuel crisis is the power cuts in the country for 13 hours on some days due to the electrical shortage. The areas with power cuts occur include hospitals as well, which ultimately led to a situation where surgeons had to perform emergency surgeries using torch lights. Further, people had a hard time connecting to the internet during blackouts as the signal towers were not working properly. Despite that, the areas of residences of the parliamentarians were exempted from power cuts.
In March, the prices of the essential food items increased by 30 - 40% and that of medicines was increased by 30%, as the country ran out of foreign currency to import them. Another reason for the soaring up of food items was the government’s ban on all chemical fertilizers last year, without a prior notice to the farmers. This led to a surge in prices and food shortages. Even though the policy was partially reversed later, the damage had been already done.
Image Credits: Pamudi Bhagya
Plus, Sri Lanka is at the centre of a growing debt and inflation crisis. The country’s gross debt servicing would amount to $7 billion this year, with the current account deficit coming in at around $3 billion. No matter how some may phrase the reason for the current economical crisis, this is the ultimate result of 74 years of political theft, as Sri Lanka was one of the richest countries in the world in 1948. All this tension that had been simmering up, erupted as a crowd of protesters voiced their frustration over the government's mismanagement of the country's economy and demanding solutions for the hardships people are facing, near the President’s residence in Mirihana, Colombo on the 31st of March 2022, only to get a response in the form of tear gas and water cannons.
Image Credits: Chamila Karunarathne
The country was placed under an “Emergency State” afterwards and on the 1st of April, the President’s Media Division announced that an organized group of "extremists" were among the protesters. Civilians throughout the country started peaceful anti-government protests as a response, using the slogan #GoHomeGota. A picture of a woman who was there at the Mirihana protest with her child became the icon for these protests.
Image Credits: Chanuka Nadun Perera
Island-wide curfew was imposed from the 2nd until the 4th of April and a social media ban was imposed in the country on the 3rd of April, violating the people's basic right to communicate. Nevertheless, Sri Lankans all over the world started non-violent, anti-government protests against the Rajapaksa family at power in Sri Lanka. This family stands to be the most powerful, political dynasty in Sri Lanka where their family tree have held top political and non-political positions in the country for decades now.
Sri Lankans all over the world, belonging to different ethnic groups and religions united as one and started to join the nationwide protests. Even at this very moment, protests are being held all over the country and donations are being sent as an attempt to support the helpless. School students, university students, the working crowd, retired citizens, local celebrities, and war heroes are joining these protests to show their support and fight for all of our rights in a peaceful manner.
Image Credits: News First
Although the police and military individuals work to curb the protests, the media has recorded moments of them tearing up upon hearing the speeches given by the protesters. They were tears of helpless humans who undergo the same hardships, yet are unable to speak up because of their dedication to the job and the fear of losing it.
Image Credits: News First
Citizens of all ages and genders are speaking up against the government ignoring the heavy rains, the heat, the hunger from fasting, the pain from walking, and the tear gas. They are demanding for the parliamentarians and the president to resign, to cease the cycle of political theft. These brave Sri Lankans will not quit these protests until they get proper, lasting solutions. And it is not just a protest, it is a cry of a nation for their economy, career, education, health, happiness, money, and the future. An innocent hope, a peaceful protest. #powertothepeople.
Image Credits: Ishara S. Kodikara