Prime Minister Resigns With Sri Lanka in Crisis

Nationwide curfew takes effect in response to violent protests
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 9, 2022 1:45 PM CDT
Updated May 9, 2022 6:20 PM CDT
President Pressured to Quit Over Economic Crisis
Sri Lankans protest Saturday in Colombo.   (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

(Newser) Update: With Sri Lanka's economic crisis worsening and protests becoming violent, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned Monday. He told President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his younger brother, in his resignation letter that he was stepping down in hopes of ending the crisis, the BBC reports. Confrontations between pro- and anti-government demonstrators in the capital of Colombo have resulted in five deaths and more than 190 injuries. Inflation and power shutoffs sparked the protests. A nationwide curfew was imposed just before Rajapaksa resigned. Our story from April 9 follows:

Thousands of Sri Lankans rallied Saturday in the country's main business district and Christian clergy marched in the capital on a day of protest calling on the debt-ridden nation's president to resign, as anxiety and anger over shortages simmered. Protesters carrying national flags and placards, some bemoaning the hardships through songs, blamed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his administration for mismanaging the crisis, the AP reports. He has refused to step down even after most of his Cabinet quit and loyal lawmakers rebelled, narrowing a path for him to seek a way out as his team prepares to negotiate with international lending institutions.

"Go home Rajapaksas" and "We need responsible leadership" read the placards. The protest included a large number of young people who had organized through social media and refuse to accept any political leadership. Many carried signs saying, "You messed with the wrong generation!" The protesters stayed around the president’s office and vowed not to leave until their mission is accomplished. For months, Sri Lankans have stood in long lines to buy fuel, cooking gas, food, and medicine, most of which come from abroad and are paid for in hard currency. The fuel shortage has caused rolling power cuts for several hours a day.

The nation is on the brink of bankruptcy, saddled with $25 billion in foreign debt over the next five years—nearly $7 billion of which is due this year—and dwindling foreign reserves. Talks with the International Monetary Fund are expected this month, and the government had turned to China and India for emergency loans to buy food and fuel. Much of the anger expressed during weeks of growing protests has been directed at Rajapaksa and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who head a clan that has been in power for most of two decades. Thakshila Jayasinghe, a 35-year-old lawyer who joined the protest, said she regretted voting for Rajapaksa in the 2019 presidential election. "I wonder what sin I have committed by voting for this president when I see the people suffer," she said.

(Read more Sri Lanka stories.)

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