One Summer Day On The Island
The free movement of countless residents of Sri Lanka that have been freely termed as mob or rabble by different sources at the official residence of ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is reminiscent of the first scene of Gabriel García Márquez‘s 1975 novel ‘The Autumn of the Patriarch‘. The Colombian novelist wrote: “All that was needed was for someone to give a push and the great armoured doors…” The current political situation in Sri Lanka differs quite a bit from the consequences of that nameless dictatorship in South America as mentioned by Márquez in his novel. However, the situation, emanated between the ruler and the ruled, that emerged on this tiny South Asian island nation is not limited to any particular country or time. It has been repeatedly mentioned in world history, novels, and works of art that political leaders should never mess with their countrymen.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa recently emerged as a strong president mainly because of his elder brother and former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had brutally destroyed the Tamil resistance in the northern part of the island in 2009. At that period of time, Gotabaya served as Mahinda’s Commander-in-Chief. The campaign against the Tamil civilians was condemned worldwide for the gross violation of Human Rights. However, the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community was happy with Mahinda Rajapaksa’s move. This history played a big role in Gotabaya’s victory in the 2019 Presidential Election.
The people of Sri Lanka wanted a strong President especially after the terror attacks in April 2019. However, the scenario has changed in the last three years mainly because of economic turmoil, and protesters have taken to the streets with posters, reading: “Go Gota Go!’.
Terror attacks and the COVID-19 Pandemic hit the Sri Lankan tourism industry hard in 2020. As the Sri Lankan economy depends heavily on the tourism industry, people have been experiencing an acute crisis since 2020. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, too, has affected the supply of food and fuel, triggering a rise in the prices of essential commodities. However, the mighty President did not show the prudence and courage necessary to face external dangers. Instead, he has made some suicidal moves due to his opinionated views. It became important for Sri Lanka to increase the production of food and other agricultural products. However, the Gotabaya Rajapaksa Administration stopped importing chemical fertilisers. As expected, the food production has been hit hard.
The Government of Sri Lanka also reduced the tax rate in order to encourage investment, instead of tackling fiscal deficits. By reducing the fiscal deficits, Sri Lanka could have boosted its economy ravaged by the pandemic. Now, Sri Lanka is completely bankrupt. For the island nation, IMF loans have become virtually essential. Colombo can also find a way out of this crisis by rapidly reforming its economic policy, and focusing on basic issues, like education and health. These steps could help the country bounce back strongly.
Sri Lanka should create a credible administration immediately in order to ensure stability. The ongoing initiative to form an All-Party Government is a positive step towards achieving this goal in a short time. The Government would have to include citizens of all regions, castes and classes in this process to gain their trust and confidence. It is evident in history that unprecedented crises can lead to unexpected solutions. Meanwhile, the members of Sri Lankan Parliament have elected six-time former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s new President, despite his unpopularity with the public.
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