Hi, this is Hot Mike and I am Nidhi Razdan.
Dramatic developments in Sri Lanka in the last 24 hours as the world watches closely to see what will happen next. As the crisis deepened, protesters took over the Prime Minister’s Office and the state broadcaster. How do we get here? Well it started overnight, when the embattled president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled the island nation and flew to the Maldives. It is reported that this is unlikely to be his final destination. So he is going to another country. President Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards boarded a military plane bound for Malé from Colombo International Airport.
Reports claim that his younger brother and former finance minister, Tulsi Rajapaksa has also left the country. Now, this development came on a day when the President was to formally step down, which he had promised to do. And this has been a key demand of the protesters who stormed the Rashtrapati Bhavan over the weekend.
Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka dismissed reports that India had helped President Rajapaksa and his brother Tulsi escape. He said the High Commission categorically denies the baseless and speculative media reports that India recently facilitated the travel of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother outside Sri Lanka.
It is reiterated that India will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka. Well, the Sri Lankan government has since declared a state of emergency. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken over as acting president and imposed a curfew in the country’s western province. Now his taking over as acting president has further angered the protesters as apart from Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mr Wickremesinghe is also deeply unpopular. In fact, on Saturday, the protesters set fire to his private residence.
Thousands of protesters are protesting at his office today and they have occupied it. In fact, earlier Mr. Wickremesinghe had announced that he too would step down once the all-party government was ready to take over. That uncertainty remains, but more on that later. Ordinary Sri Lankans have been on the streets for months now, demanding accountability and change for the dire economic crisis they are facing, which has left them with shortages of food, fuel and even medicines Is. Prolonged power cuts made things even more difficult. ‘Go gota go’ was the slogan of his rally. But by running away, Rajapaksa will face no consequences at home for his mismanagement of the government and economy.
In fact, it has angered many protesters even more. Furthermore, he has yet to formally resign, as he said he would. It is a major downfall for President Rajapaksa, who, along with his entire family, has been a major political figure in Sri Lanka for more than two decades. He was the chief of defense when the Sri Lankan army defeated Tamil rebels, or LTTE, in 2009, accusing him of human rights abuses – allegations he denies.
However, the operation made him and his brother Mahinda heroes among the majority Sinhalese community. Riding a nationalist wave, Gotabaya became president after the 2019 Easter bombings and his government was openly majoritarian. The minorities had to bear the brunt of his rule. Today, none of this matters, as the economy has collapsed, with people from all communities standing against him and the Rajapaksa family. There is now a very real threat of a power vacuum in Sri Lanka after the President’s departure and the deteriorating situation.
A stable, functioning government is an absolute necessity for the country as it deals with its immense economic and financial crisis. Politicians from other parties in Sri Lanka are talking of forming a new unity government, but there is no sign that there is any close consensus. It is also not clear whether the public will accept whatever they bring. According to Sri Lankan law, the Acting President has 30 days to conduct elections for a new President from amongst the Members of Parliament. However, what Sri Lanka urgently needs is money.
The Sri Lankan rupee has fallen to 350 against the US dollar and inflation is over 50%. The current state of chaos is making global investors and creditors even more wary. Much of the focus is also on the Chinese side and whether Sri Lanka is on the edge because of this. According to an independent think tank, China used its debt trap diplomacy to gain a strategic edge over Sri Lanka. The port cities of Hambantota and Colombo have been leased to China for 100 years, according to think tank Red Lantern Analytica.
China is now Sri Lanka’s second largest lender, accounting for more than 10% of Sri Lanka’s outstanding foreign debt in 2019. It said that the economic disaster caused by poor governance, lack of transparency has left Sri Lanka isolated as a country. Chinese debt trap as well as corruption. It is said that while China took advantage of the situation to increase Sri Lanka’s debt burden, India offered a financial package consisting of $500 million in credit facilities for gas imports and a $1,000,000,000 credit facility for imports of critical products. Helped by offering. from India. Additionally, India has sent $2.4 billion through currency swaps, loan deferrals and other credit lines.
However, it was unable to save Sri Lanka, which was completely under Chinese debt, and eventually succumbed to it. In a recent excerpt, former Pakistani diplomat Hussain Haqqani wrote that China, which for years offered high-interest loans for infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, has remained calm during this current crisis.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – who, along with his brother, former President and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, was responsible for Sri Lanka’s huge borrowings from China – recently expressed regret that the financial crisis has drawn South Asian countries from Beijing as much attention as before. not found. According to Hussein Haqqani, the crisis in Sri Lanka and that of other countries around it shows that China’s lending policies are based less on economic viability and more on giving China a strategic advantage. For now, however, the immediate focus is on the situation in Sri Lanka itself and whether it can pull itself out of the current chaos it has to face for some sort of stable government.