Tracing the Imploding Crisis in Sri Lanka in 10 Points


Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence.

Sri Lanka’s ex-Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family have sought shelter at a naval base as deadly protests continue amid the country’s worst economic crisis ever. The public emergency was imposed for the second time in less than six weeks.

Here are 10 key developments in the ongoing crisis in Sri Lanka:

  1. Apr 2021: Sri Lanka declared its worst economic downturn since independence after its economy shrank by 3.6 percent last year, largely due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lucrative tourism industry.

  2. August 2021: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued a ‘food emergency’ to address food shortages and end the hoarding of sugar, rice and other essential foods. The ‘food shortage’ came at a time when banks ran out of foreign exchange reserves to finance imports.

  3. March 2022: Large-scale protests, aided by social media, broke out against the government. Protests turned violent on March 31, after some protesters tried to storm the president’s residence in Colombo. At least two dozen police officers were injured in the clashes.

  4. April 1st: President Rajapaksa has declared a state of emergency after violent anti-government protests. In the gazette’s announcement, he cited “public safety, protecting public order and preserving supplies and essential services” as reasons for the imposition.

  5. April 3rd: The cabinet resigned en masse from their position. However, Mahinda Rajapaksa (the president’s older brother) remained prime minister. Three members of the Rajapaksa family have also resigned from their cabinet positions – Basil, Chamal and the scion of the Namal family.

  6. April 4: Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, announced his resignation amid escalating protests. Nandalal Weerasinghe succeeded him.

  7. April 5th: President Rajapaksa revoked the emergency ordinance, even as the government struggled to quell the protests. On the same day, his ruling coalition lost its majority in parliament after more than 40 MPs left the alliance.

  8. April 18: President Rajapaksa expanded his cabinet by appointing 17 new members. He also expressed regret at the way his government has handled the economic crisis. “…People are under tremendous pressure as a result of this economic crisis. I deeply regret this situation,” the president said.

  9. 6 May: The public emergency was imposed for the second time in less than six weeks. The presidential spokesman said the president has invoked strict laws — which give security forces sweeping powers — to “ensure public order.”

  10. The 9th of May: Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister just days after the president asked him to resign at a special meeting. Although the president intended to form an all-party government, the opposition rejected the idea.

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