Soon the end of the Rajapaksa dynasty in Sri Lanka? After violent protests across the country over the weekend, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his prime minister announced their resignation. The culmination of several months of economic and social crisis.
The President fleeing his palace, the Prime Minister’s house on fire … What is happening in Sri Lanka? The expedition returns in five points to popular demonstrations that have lasted for months, prompting the president to resign.
An economic crisis for several months
Generalized shortages, inflation, colossal debt … Sri Lankans accuse President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his entourage of being responsible for the worst economic crisis the country has experienced since its independence in 1948.
According to Franceinfo, many shortcomings have spread. Lack of fuel, daily power outages, drop in tourism due to the global health crisis … According to the Central Bank, consumer prices increased by 54.6% in one year in June. The island of 22 million people has been unable to pay off its $ 51 billion foreign debt since April and is currently negotiating a bailout plan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Faced with these difficulties, 86% of families eat less or skip entire meals, according to the World Food Program.
Already in May 2022 Olivier Guillard, researcher and specialist in Asia at the University of Quebec in Montreal, alerted the situation in an interview with Franceinfo: “Sri Lankans no longer have access to medicines or basic products, nor can they afford electricity or petrol, which have completely disappeared for several weeks “.
The Rajapaksa dynasty and full powers
The powerful Rajapaksa family has dominated Sri Lankan political life for decades. It was in November 2019 that she returned to the presidency with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the son of a former minister in the 1960s.
When elected in 2019, Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed his brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as prime minister, as well as minister of finance, urban planning and Buddhist affairs, according to France 24.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, had been president himself between 2005 and 2015. Second The worldunder his mandate, Sri Lanka had already obtained large loans from China for disputed investments, contributing to the country’s indebtedness.
The Rajapaksa dynasty occupies all key positions of power. In 2019, the president’s older brother, Chamal Rajapaksa, was appointed minister of irrigation, security, interior and disaster management. His son Sashindra receives a post as Secretary of State for Agriculture. As for the Prime Minister’s son, he inherits the Youth and Sports portfolio. This concentration of power, coupled with political mismanagement, is roaring the opposition and public opinion.
Bloody riots in May 2022
Popular discontent had been boiling for several months. In addition to the mismanagement of the Covid crisis, the country was hit by a wave of eight simultaneous terrorist attacks in April 2019, killing 258 people. It is in this context of weary and popular attrition that, on April 9, tens of thousands of people demonstrated peacefully in the country, demanding the resignation of the president.
But the latter did not resign and in the end it was his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who relinquished his post on 9 May. Violent clashes then broke out between his supporters and anti-government protesters. The toll is 5 dead and 139 injured.
Resignation of the president on Wednesday 13 July
Following the resignation of the president’s brother, a relative of the Rajapaksa clan, Ranil Wickremesingh, was appointed Prime Minister on 12 May. Having already held this post five times since 1993, the new head of government is already being contested by the Sri Lankan people, particularly as he held the post of Prime Minister at the time of the 2019 attacks.
The economic and social precariousness worsens, it is finally this Saturday 9 July that a decisive demonstration breaks out. According to Reuters, several hundred protesters invaded the presidential palace located in Colombo, the economic capital of Sri Lanka, as well as the enclosure of the Ministry of Finance and the presidential offices. Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his palace minutes before he was stormed.
Some protesters streamed videos on social media showing a crowd loitering inside the palace, some even dipping their heads in the presidential pool or lying in amusement in the bedrooms of the residence.
In his absence, the private residence of the Prime Minister was also invaded, which according to the reports of the head of the government the demonstrators “set fire”.
The end of a dynasty?
“To ensure a peaceful transition, the president said he would step down on July 13,” Mahinda Abeywardana said on television. The Prime Minister has also resigned, but what about the succession?
To ensure the continuation of government, including the safety of all citizens, I accept today the best recommendation from party leaders to make way for an all-party government.
To facilitate this, I will resign as Prime Minister.
– Ranil Wickremesinghe (@RW_UNP) July 9, 2022
According to The world, the demonstrators remain on guard, until the resignations of the two politicians are registered. Protests in the capital could last until a new government is in place.
In the event of the resignation of the two main political figures in the country, it is the President of Parliament who must exercise the interim presidency for 30 days. During this period, deputies will have to appoint a new president within the Assembly to ensure the end of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s mandate, until 2024.
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