Colombo restart

In scenes reminiscent of the Arab Spring, 8894/">Citizens raid Sri Lankan President’s residences And in Colombo on Friday, the prime minister forced the two leaders to announce that they would step down from their respective offices. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the main target of protests that began in April over food and fuel shortages, promised to resign by Wednesday. The Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, Yapa Abbewardene, is expected to take over as acting President and Prime Minister, and possibly, facilitate the establishment of a national unity government. Gotabaya’s resignation could bring down the temperature and help the authorities persuade the protesters to return home. While marches and dharnas in Galle Phace and elsewhere have been largely peaceful, Friday’s violent events show that people facing severe shortages of essentials, including milk, baby food, petrol, are on the edge. Only a new leadership can win back public confidence in the government and lift the island nation’s economy out of the water in the early hours.

Gotabaya should have taken moral responsibility for failing to stop the rot and leave long ago. Instead, he chose to shift the blame to his ministers, reshuffle the cabinet, and remain in power. His choice of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the replacement for Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned as prime minister in May after massive protests, failed to produce results. Wickremesinghe, though a seasoned politician with considerable experience in managing the economy, has lost credibility due to his association with Rajapaksa. New Delhi has been helping Colombo with money for food and fuel, but the world must come forward quickly and for this it is important that there is a government. Sri Lanka certainly needs a deep clean and while there is a chance to do so, anything that is likely to create more political instability should be discarded. Both Gotabaya and Wickremesinghe need to make way for new faces so that the country does not slip into chaos, a situation Sri Lanka experienced when the ultra-left Janata Vimukthi Peramuna staged a violent rebellion in the 1980s. The international community should not allow Sri Lanka to become the second failed state in South Asia after Afghanistan.

Protesters at a protest site in Colombo on Sunday. (Photo: AP)

After all, Sri Lanka’s liberation lies in parliamentary politics. After all, it is one of the oldest democracies in South Asia, with an odd record on minority rights and civil liberties, including freedom of expression, but an admirable record in building a welfare state. Rajapaksa was the beneficiary of a polarized politics that focused on promoting a populist majority nationalism and “internal enemies” in power – first Tamils, and later, Muslims – to rebuild the post-war state through social reconciliation and demilitarization. Instead. political economy. That era of Sri Lankan politics may be over, given the sentiments on the streets. That is the silver lining on which to build.

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