Why Sri Lanka’s new prime minister isn’t the change the country needs


He is familiar with the role of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the new Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. As the country’s economic crisis escalates into an all-out political catastrophe and violent fires among security forces, supporters of the current president, and protesters calling for radical political and economic change.

Wickremesinghe returns to office After 5 previous limits as prime minister of the country; He replaces former Prime Minister Mariinda Rajapaksa, who along with his brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa oversaw the country’s economic collapse. Mahinda resigned last week amid growing violent protests. During that time, nine people were killed and more than 300 were injured.According to Reuters.

As Vox’s Natasha Ishak explained in April, Sri Lanka’s economy is being shaken by a default on foreign loans worth around $50 billion for the first time in the history of an independent country. Over the past three years, Sri Lanka’s overseas tourism sector has suffered a series of blows. A series of church bombings in 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine previously earned about $4.4 billion a year and was a major economic driver. This crisis, exacerbated by Rajapaksa’s mismanagement of finances, resulted in severe shortages of supplies, including milk, fuel, food and medicine, and prolonged blackouts, which in turn led to widespread protests and political chaos.

The Rajapaksas are the political dynasty of Sri Lanka and their influence in the government is considerable. Besides their brothers Mahinda and Gotabaya, Served as Finance Minister until April 4. President Gotabaya fired his brother Basil. It replaced another cabinet official at the time, but protesters and politicians alike were not impressed. Udaya Gammanpila of the Phoebe Hela Urumayya Party wrote on Twitter that it was reminiscent of “old wine in a new bottle.” According to Reuters.

Of course, Sri Lanka’s economic problems did not start with the current Rajapaksa government of the International Crisis Group. Alan Keenan explained in an April article.:

“Sri Lanka’s economic disaster has deep roots. The country borrows too much, pays too little taxes, and has long failed to reach its full potential beyond the means of subsistence. However, since taking office in November 2019, the economic problems of the Rajapaksa administration have worsened, and the chronic problems of the island have been seriously exacerbated,” he said.

But the dynasty has been a big part of the trouble since Mariinda was first elected president in 2005. The New York Times explains. Over the past decade, China has received many loans, including around $5 billion. so-called The Belt and Road Initiative, China has invested in a number of infrastructure projects in more than 100 countries around the world. On the surface, such projects will create jobs and, in the case of Sri Lanka, provide a port on a bustling trade route. However, as Ishak points out in her article, the Hambantota port project eventually Transferred to China as collateral When the Sri Lankan government has been unable to repay or renegotiate loans or, at least in part, due to rampant corruption, the project has not been successfully completed.

In 2019, Gotabaya was elected president, and the Rajapaksa dynasty returned to power. This is due to an increase in external debt and shrinking foreign exchange reserves Because tourism and other sectors lack foreign imports, they import necessities. Gotabaya also cut taxes when he came to power, deterring the government from buying foreign exchange reserves. Among other things, the ban on imported chemical fertilizers to save foreign exchange reserves in 2021 has damaged the agricultural sector.

what the result was, Keenan writes, “Worst economic crisis in 75 years of Sri Lanka’s independence,” he wrote in April, writing that protests have “turned into a national uprising” despite the Rajapaksa government’s “reputation for political repression”. even the protesters Forced Marineda to escape from her property.Temple Trees, and submitted his resignation on Monday after they attempted to invade the compound.

Who is Ranil Wickremesinghe?

after A reckless attempt to form a new government In April, amid growing threats to his rule, Gotabaya appointed Wickremesinghe to take over his brother’s post. He took office on Thursday and served as prime minister for the first time in 1993 under President DB Wijetunga.

The Wickremesinghe is the product of a family and a political class that have been in public service for a long time, dating back even before independence. As reported by Al Jazeera. Trained as a lawyer, Wickremesinghe is currently the leader of the Sri Lanka United National Party and has held several government posts, including Deputy Foreign Minister and Minister of Industry. In that post, Wickremesinghe attracted foreign investors, perhaps an important selling point for his current appointment, as relations with India and Western countries could help negotiate Sri Lanka in the current economic turmoil.

However, As the BBC points outWickremesinghe never served a full term as prime minister, and despite being in opposition, he is perceived as fairly close to the Rajapaksa clan. Some critics say he protected them when he lost power in 2015. Besides, Wickremesinghe was in his office at the time of the 2019 Easter bombing — and he said, “out of the loop” Regarding the warning of an attack that killed at least 250 people.

How can Sri Lanka get out of this crisis?

Faced with a complex economic crisis, violent protests and entrenched government corruption, the future of the Sri Lankan government is bleak at best. Protesters are currently protesting against President Gotabaya and the rest of the Rajapaksa family. Office entrances occupied by protesters over the past month — Removed from government. Many also see Wickremesinghe’s appointment as a symbol of Gotabaya, who was slapped and long refused to acknowledge the role of government in the crisis.

According to Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives, a Colombo-based think tank, Wickremesinghe faces a formidable challenge to save the country from the current crisis.

“Mr. Wickremesinghe must focus on both the political and economic aspects of the governance crisis,” he told Vox in an email. “Ignoring the political dimension will damage the economy.”

One of the most important issues Wickremesinghe has to solve is securing government support. International Monetary Fund Saravanamuttu said to buy basic items. The IMF may issue Rapid Financing Instruments or RFIs to countries in need of immediate assistance due to natural disasters or other factors beyond their control, but the situation in Sri Lanka is not within the general jurisdiction of RFIs. Finance Minister Ali Sabry, who replaced Basil Rajapaksa, formally asked the IMF for assistance in April and was working with the IMF to mediate some sort of settlement. but he said in a parliamentary speech In early May, all agreements are based on a national debt restructuring and will take six months to come into effect.

But the economic and political crises are so intertwined that solving one doesn’t alleviate the other, Saravanamuttu said. Both problems must be addressed for Sri Lanka to recover. “[Wickremesinghe] “We need to make sure that we have an agreement with the IMF and bridge finances, remove the presidency and set a date for the resignation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the abolition of the presidency,” he said. Wickremesinghe, According to the APThey met with diplomats from Japan, the United States, the European Union, Germany, China and India to come up with the idea of ​​an aid consortium that could quickly bail out the country, but the political aspect has not yet been substantively resolved.

To this day, Gotabaya has not announced his resignation and retains extensive executive powers. Enacted under his rule in October 2020; This includes the power to make important appointments and dissolve Parliament at any time after the midpoint of a five-year term. I have Gotabaya He came up with the idea of ​​reducing such powers and repeated his intentions on Wednesday. Doing so in the national speech has not yet taken place. As of Saturday, he holds his post and is appointed. 4 new ministers, all belong to his Sri Podujana Peramuna party for stability until a new cabinet is formed. The strict national curfew that went into effect on Monday continues, as does security service orders to shoot anyone who appears to have participated in vandalism or arson.

However, the protesters both on the street and onlineThey are still calling for Gotabaya’s resignation, and Saravanamuttu said this is important for the future of the country.

“It is the people’s demand that the president go, and if it is not resolved, it will harm the country.”

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