Amid soaring dollar crisis leading to lack of basic essentials such as fuel, gas, food, medicine and fertiliser, people are on the streets demanding the government to step down…writes SUSITHA FERNANDO
Despite mounting pressure both within and outside his government, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has reiterated that he would stick to the premiership.
Addressing a group of Provincial council members of his party, Rajapaksa on Tuesday said, “Don’t be afraid I would not give up.”
Provincial Council (PC) system was a result of the India-Sri Lanka Peace Accord signed in July 1987 between India’s former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayewardene to resolve country’s civil war between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil rebels.
PC members passed a resolution urging the Sri Lanka Prime Minister not to give up power. As Mahinda Rajapaksa, the elder brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was strongly resolute not to leave his seat, protestors surrounded his official resident ‘Temple Trees’ blocking the main entrance on Tuesday.
As the apolitical people’s movement continued to block the Sri Lankan President’s office, Presidential Secretariat chasing him away to a safer whereabouts since April 2, both MPs from opposition and the government have been urging to form an all-party interim government until the constitutional deadlock is over.
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister demands forming of an interim government only under his premiership and insisted getting back to 19th Amendment to the Constitution acquiring his younger brother, Gotabaya’s super powers which he won with the passing of 20th Amendment.
However, amid soaring dollar crisis leading to lack of basic essentials such as fuel, gas, food, medicine and fertiliser, people are on the streets demanding the government to step down.
On Tuesday the World Bank team in Colombo met President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and agreed to provide $600 million in financial assistance to address the current economic crisis. The World Bank Country Manager, Chiyo Kanda, said $400 million would be released immediately under the first phase.
Since economic crisis was brewing India has assisted its closest south Asian neighbour with more than $2.5 billion for the first quarter of 2022 and last week promised an additional $500 million in financial assistance to buy fuel. The country’s foreign debt for 2022 exceeds $7 billion but with the remaining $1.6 billion forex reserves, the Central Bank announced a default on all its foreign debts.
Sri Lankan team lead by the Finance Minister was on talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington and announced on Saturday that its request for more dollars was ‘fruitful’.
However, Sri Lanka turning to the IMF for a bailout has ‘hurt’ Beijing which had said it was considering a $1 billion loan and a $1.5 billion credit line to purchase goods from China.
“Sri Lanka going to IMF with a short notice has unavoidably impacted the discussion,” Sri Lanka with more than $50 billion in external debt and a shortage of foreign exchange reserves, and skyrocketing inflation struggles to pay for the essential imports, including food and medicine.
While medicines have gone out of stocks in both state and private sector hospitals, doctors have declared a situation of medical emergency and pleading with the World Health Organisation, foreign countries and even its own domiciles to send specific medical supplies to the country.
Responding to Sri Lanka’s medical crisis, nearly 101 types of medicines and surgical equipment donated by India is to reach the island nation through a vessel belonging to Indian Navy.