Last week, July 9, 2022, was a pivotal day in the recent annals of Sri Lanka as months of protests against the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa gained momentum. Protesters, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, filled the streets of Colombo and flooded the heart of the Sri Lankan government executive, the Presidential House, the presidential office and, before that, the main residence. Prime Minister’s knowledge.
On July 13, they took over as prime minister, taking control of government agencies and offices.
President Rajapaksa and his family were evacuated to safety by Sri Lankan state security forces, believed to be on board a navy ship that then sailed but did not go outside Sri Lanka’s territorial waters. Three cabinet ministers also resigned, most notably the newly appointed investment promotion minister, business magnate Dhammika Perera, one of the country’s richest men.
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A meeting of party leaders is chaired by the speaker of the National Assembly and they call on the president and prime minister to resign. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa agreed to step down on July 13, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe agreed to step down in case the divided Parliament could agree in advance on his successor.
On July 13, the self-imposed deadline for his resignation came and went, and it became clear that President Rajapaksa had little or no intention of resigning. Instead, he fled the country, on a Sri Lankan Air Force plane to the Maldives, from where he appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as acting president. The leaders of the parties represented in Parliament again demanded that Wickremesinghe also resign while the speaker’s office confirmed that they were examining whether the president’s act of fleeing the country had resulted in his resignation. should be a retirement situation or not.
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Meanwhile, there are new concerns being expressed in Colombo, both by political factors and the security establishment, that the protests or ‘Aragalaya’, which means struggle in Sinhala, are being attacked. and usurped by leftist and neo-fascist extremists. force to seize state power through the protest movement.
Activate the deadlock
The impasse in the democratic political structure is obvious because Rajapaksa’s party or its ruling party, the Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), controls a near-majority in Parliament, even after secession and Escape. Without actual resignation, or at least Rajapaksas’ retirement from the opposition bench, it creates a complete stalemate in the democratic process.
The relatively young 50-year-old leader of the Opposition, Sajith Premadasa, the son of former president Ranasinghe Premadasa, has repeatedly called for a parliamentary election with the aim of drawing heat from the street protests. to an election campaign, the mandate of the people, and re-establish government legitimacy and secure public support for the painful fiscal and state reforms that were required for the Sri Lankan economy to return to being a viable, functional and sustainable entity. It could help him and his party, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), confidently win an election, especially since the government has collapsed along with the economy.
Possible scenarios for Colombo
So what are the options and possible scenarios for Sri Lanka? The highest probability in the short term is that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will continue in his preferred role of “acting president”, with the consequence that the best country will not be able to implement the reforms needed for change. economy, and at worst leads to anarchy when a government deemed completely illegitimate seeks to make people miserable through an iron fist.
The alternative is for the brutal and divisive Opposition to start banding together at least for the limited purpose of overthrowing the Rajapaksa regime, but the obstacle to the same is the stronger parties in the country. Parliament is less common on the streets and people on the streets are not really present or significant in Parliament. As a result, the street protesters claimed to prefer non-constitutional regime change and became more attractive when constitutional regime change was not made possible by the inconsistency of Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe.
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A third option that cannot be ignored is a military-backed regime, a type of mixed government where the civilian facade of political personalities constitutes a government largely illegitimate. , and where military strength and muscle are needed to manage naked.
Of the three scenarios above, the only attractive one is for the Opposition to align enough for an interim or transitional governing agreement, followed by elections within a well-defined short period of time. obviously, maybe three to six months. Even the Rajapaksas family, one who hopes that it is in their best interest to step aside and get out of the quagmire they have engulfed Sri Lanka and if they favor their own chance of a quick return, Let’s join the competition at the next election. This will be in the best interest of Sri Lanka.
Economic challenges and the role of India
Sri Lanka’s core challenges are economic. Political instability arises from the economic collapse caused by poor governance and bad policies. Accordingly, getting the Sri Lankan economy on track, especially making the national debt and especially external debt sustainable, all require reforms in fiscal and economic policies, which which only a stable government can do. India has done a lot of what she can and more than Sri Lanka expected.
Lending more than $2 billion to Sri Lanka in currency swaps and lines of credit, India stepped into the void created by other lenders, bilateral and multilateral, as debt repayments became increasingly difficult. suspect. But India must also ensure that economic reforms take place, especially so that the loans she extended to Sri Lanka are repaid in the long term and within the duration of the concessions that have been offered.
(The writer is former adviser to the foreign minister of Sri Lanka)
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