Sri Lankans Mock Ruling Brothers as Thieving 'Crows'

Popular chant goes after Rajapaksa clan amid nation's economic spiral
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2022 4:55 PM CDT
Sri Lankans Mock Ruling Brothers as Thieving 'Crows'
Mahinda Rajapaksa, left, and his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa wave to supporters during a party convention held to announce the presidential candidacy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Aug. 11, 2019.   (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, File)

(Newser) – Sri Lanka's government touted Basil Rajapaksa as the one to save the country from economic crisis. The former finance minister instead led the island nation into its worst economic crisis in decades—at least that's the take of thousands of protesters, who are fed up with his ruling clan, including his two powerful brothers, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. As Quartz reports, a chant likening the family to crows who steal things from people has spread across the country in recent months. Its catchy tune is regularly heard from car and train horns.

"Kaputa kaak, kaak kaak, Basil Basil Basil Basil," translates to "something like 'Basil the crow cries kaak, kaak, kaak,'" a local tells the outlet. It's a reference to a video, which has recently gone viral, showing Basil Rajapaksa talking about the problem of crows flying into planes at the Colombo airport. Though he speaks mostly in English, he uses "kaputa," the Sinhalese word for crow. Variations of the chant refer to Basil's brothers, showing the mounting anger directed at the leaders of the country, which last month defaulted on $51 billion in foreign debt. "It's mainly to indicate how ineffectual and out of touch the government is," says the local.

The county is short of revenue after steep tax cuts by the government, per Reuters. It reports "food inflation is approaching 50% on the year, with transport nearly 70% more expensive, official figures show, although in practice the figures are even higher." There are also power cuts and fuel shortages. The country is to receive $600 million in financial assistance from the World Bank, per Al Jazeera. The president also requested a bailout from the International Monetary Fund in March, though "how Rajapaksa implements any potential IMF bailout may well be a moot question if he's forced out of office altogether before the money arrives," per Quartz. So far, he has only agreed to replace his brother, Mahinda, per the AP. (Read more Sri Lanka stories.)

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