Is this the end of the road for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the powerful Rajapaksa brothers that had dominated Sri Lankan politics for decades? Going by the anger in the streets triggered by financial mismanagement and the near melt down of the island’s economy, the Rajapaksa family firm is running out of steam. Protest marches are now a daily occurrence. “Go back Gota” slogans and placards are held out by the same people who not long ago hailed the Rajapaksas as heroes.
The Russia-Ukraine war which has led to a steep hike in oil prices has further amplified Sri Lanka’s economic problems. The crisis resulting from Sri Lanka running out of foreign reserves has led to shortages of almost everything- from petroleum and cooking gas, to medicines, essential food staples, vegetables, fruits and all other items. Colombo, the thriving capital of the island state, is now a place of empty shelves and serpentine queues. Supermarket shelves are empty, there are long queues for bread.
The army had to be deployed to oversee the situation in petrol stations and kerosene distribution centres. Troops were called in after three elderly citizens dropped dead during the long wait in the queues.
People spend hours to collect a few litres of petrol, short-tempered drivers waiting in line are getting into scuffles with other equally tired and angry car owners. School exams are all cancelled indefinitely as the country has run out of paper. It is a nightmare for citizens. Power cuts are as long as 7.5hours daily, despite assurances from the country’s leadership that power outages would come to a halt from March 5. Summer in the island is hot and humid.