Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa fears for his safety and is hiding in a military base. Enraged citizens ransacked his villa out of anger at the political failure.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, no longer prime minister of Sri Lanka, has faced unbridled popular anger since the island state went bankrupt and the economy collapsed. Once loved by the people because his family ended the country’s long-standing civil war, the 76-year-old is now confined to a heavily guarded military base hide. The effects of the Covid lockdowns and mismanagement have eroded foreign exchange reserves, leaving essential imports such as fuel, medicine and food unaffordable. Supply is faltering and prices are skyrocketing. The angry people stormed Rajapaksa’s mansion and ransacked it in anger at the government’s total political failure. Politicians’ cars were also thrown into the river.
The Sri Lankan state is now sliding into a full-blown political and economic crisis, with more and more people struggling with starvation, death and serious unrest. Now they are also confronted with the brutal violence of the state. As the BBC According to reports, at least nine people died and more than 200 were injured when vehicles and houses were set on fire during clashes between government supporters and critics this week. The island is now mired in its worst economic crisis since independence and the state’s reactions show it is unable to protect its citizens. However, using the military is unlikely to quell the unrest. Popular anger and frustration, fueled by the pro-government counter-protesters, is only likely to grow, fueling distrust in the ruling government.
This week, the army received orders to shoot “lawbreakers” on sight as people gathered in the streets to protest shortages of food, fuel and medicines. According to the BBC, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made no mention of the role of pro-government supporters in initiating the violence, but simply condemned the actions of the mobs and promisedto act against them with the full force of the law. A nationwide curfew shutting down shops, businesses and offices was lifted for a few hours on Thursday morning but is expected to be re-imposed in the afternoon.
Nationalist President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office in November 2019 after campaigning for national security and appealing to Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. The Rajapaksa family has grown in power ever since; Gotabaya installed his brother Mahinda (himself a former president) as prime minister and appointed other relatives to ministerial posts. Nepotism now taking revenge.