Sri Lanka has been in a political, economic, and humanitarian crisis because of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa‘s mismanagement of the country. In May of 2022, Sri Lanka defaulted on foreign debt for the first time since their independence. This has created shortages of goods, sky-rocketed inflation, and pushed millions of people into poverty.
Drowned in corruption and debt, the people of Sri Lanka saw no other option but to take to the streets and demand change.
The world saw the streets of Sri Lanka fill with protestors to send the president a message. They have had enough. Their protests were pointed directly to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He had failed his country, and it was time for a democratic change.
The protests went on for several weeks, and eventually led President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country. After too many mistakes by Rajapaksa, he was forced to step down as president.
After hesitation, the government decided to follow democratic practices, and name the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe as president. Although this is a step in the right direction, the population remains unhappy.
Why Are There Still Protesters?
The people of Sri Lanka still want to see the new President step down. Wickremesinghe was installed by Rajapaksa and remains very close to his family. The people of Sri Lanka worry that these close ties will lead the president to rule his country in the same way that Rajapaksa did.
Next, the protesters recognize that there needs to institutional and constitutional reform for there to be real change. President Wickremesinghe has not yet proved that he is ready to implement constitutional change.
Rather, he has only shown he wants to put an end to the current protests, no matter the costs.
“Instead of trying to silence the protesters, President Wickremesinghe should listen to them.”Human Rights Watch
On July 18th, 2022, Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency, giving security forces the power to arrest and detain any protester without probably cause. Next, the day after his inauguration, he continued the fight against protesters by sending the police and the military to disperse a peaceful protest site.
Rather than forcefully silencing and ending the protests, the President should focus on what the people have to say. By doing so, the protests will end peacefully, and change will come.
The NGO Human Rights Watch as well as the Asia Pacific Greens Federation (APGF) urges the new president to listen to what his people want. Their non-violent protests show that they want to do no harm, but simply to have a democratic state with better living conditions.
The APGF stands in support of the people of Sri Lanka. There is change to be brought to the country, and they are at the heart of it.