Hi, this is Hot Mic and I’m Nidhi Razdan.
Dramatic developments in Sri Lanka over the past 24 hours as the world watches closely to see what happens next. Protesters took over the prime minister’s office and state television as the crisis deepened. How do we get here? It all started overnight, when the famous president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled the island nation and flew to the Maldives. It is reported that this is not his final destination. So he is heading to another country. President Rajapaksa, his wife and two bodyguards boarded a military plane bound for Male from Colombo International Airport.
Reports suggest that his younger brother and former finance minister, Basil Rajapaksa have also left the country. Now, this development comes on a day when the president is said to officially resign, which he has promised to do. And that is the main demand of the protesters who stormed the presidential palace over the weekend.
Meanwhile, India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka denied reports that India helped President Rajapaksa and his brother Basil escape. They said that the high committee categorically denied the speculative and baseless media reports that India facilitated the recent travel of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother out of Sri Lanka.
It is reiterated that India will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government has declared a state of emergency since then. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken office as acting president and has issued a curfew in the country’s western province. Now, his takeover of the presidency is what has angered protesters because, besides Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mr. Wickremesinghe is also unpopular. In fact, protesters set fire to his home on Saturday.
Thousands of protesters demonstrated at his office today and eventually occupied it. In fact, Mr Wickremesinghe had previously announced that he would also step down when an all-party government was ready to take over. That uncertainty persists, but more in the future. Ordinary Sri Lankans have been taking to the streets for months now, demanding accountability and change for the severe economic crisis they are facing, which has left them short of food, fuel and even even medicine. Prolonged power cuts only make things more difficult. ‘Go Gota go’ is their rallying cry. But by running away, Rajapaksa will not face any consequences at home because of the mismanagement of the government and the economy.
In fact, this angered even more protesters. Furthermore, he has yet to officially resign, as he has said he will. It is a huge disgrace to President Rajapaksa, who has been a top political figure in Sri Lanka for more than two decades, along with his entire family. He was head of defense when the Sri Lankan army defeated Tamil or LTTE rebels in 2009, where he was accused of human rights abuses – charges he denies.
However, activities have made him and his brother Mahinda heroes in the majority Sinhalese community. Following the wave of nationalism, following the 2019 Easter bombings, Gotabaya became president and his government was openly dictatorial. The minorities faced the brunt of his rule. Today, that no longer matters, as the economy collapses, with people from all communities lining up against him and the Rajapaksa family. There is a very real threat of a power vacuum in Sri Lanka following the departure of the president and the situation is getting worse.
A stable government is an absolute necessity for the country as it deals with a huge economic and financial crisis. Politicians from other parties in Sri Lanka have talked about forming a new unity government, but there is no sign of any agreement coming. It is also unclear whether the public will accept whatever they offer. Under Sri Lankan law, the acting president has 30 days to call a new presidential election from members of Parliament. However, what Sri Lanka needs immediately is money.
The Sri Lankan rupee has fallen to 350 against the US dollar and inflation is at more than 50%. The current state of anarchy is making global investors and creditors even more wary. Much of the focus is also on the China factor and whether Sri Lanka is off-limits because of this. According to an independent think tank, China has used debt-trap diplomacy to gain a strategic advantage over Sri Lanka. According to Red Lantern Analytica, the consultancy, the port cities of Hambantota and Colombo have been leased to China for 100 years.
China is currently the second largest lender to Sri Lanka, holding more than 10% of Sri Lanka’s total outstanding external debt in 2019. It added that Sri Lanka has become a disaster-disintegrated country. economy due to poor governance, lack of transparency, China’s debt trap as well as corruption. Go on to say that when China took advantage of the situation to increase Sri Lanka’s debt burden, India helped by offering financial packages including $500 million in a credit line for gas imports. and a $1,000,000,000 credit for the import of critical products. from India. In addition, India sent $2.4 billion through currency swaps, loan deferrals and other lines of credit.
However, it could not save Sri Lanka, which was completely enslaved by Chinese debt, and eventually succumbed. In a recent article, former Pakistani diplomat Husain Haqqani wrote that China, which in recent years has rapidly provided high-interest loans for infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, has remain silent in the current crisis.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa – who, along with his brother, former president and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, is responsible for Sri Lanka’s Chinese usury – recently lamented that the South Asian nations are experiencing financial difficulties. has not received the same attention from Beijing as before. According to Husain Haqqani, the crisis of Sri Lanka and of other countries around it demonstrates that China’s lending policies are not based on economic viability but more on giving China a strategic advantage. comb. For now, however, the immediate focus is on the situation in Sri Lanka and whether it can pull itself out of the current turmoil it faces in order to have some kind of stable government.