Domestic and external forces working together to further destabilise the country wracked by three corrupt Rajapaksa regimes including the current, have hijacked ‘GotaGoGama’, Galle Face by trying to block a visiting IMF US dollar bailout mission opposite the Finance Ministry yesterday.
The current cause of Sri Lanka’s misery is the lack of dollars to import essentials originating in the two terms that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa (MP) was in power, from 17 November 2005 to 8 January 2015.
Meanwhile, yesterday, a group of protesters tried to block the entrance of the Finance Ministry to sabotage an IMF delegation who arrived in the island yesterday to bail out the country, from having a meeting with Premier and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his officials.
This group of saboteurs was subsequently dispersed by the Police and the meeting held, but not before delaying Finance Ministry Secretary K.M.M. Siriwardana from attending this meeting.
Similar funding by external political forces to their local agents to meet their ends at the expense of Sri Lanka is not something new. This newspaper remembers that nearly 50 years ago when the West and Japan leaning President J.R. Jayewardene was in power, the anti-Western Iraqi Government of President Saddam Hussein used to fund Sirima Bandaranaike’s SLFP. Therefore, in the interest of national security, it may be prudent to obtain a Court Order and check the bank balances of the ringleaders of yesterday’s protests opposite the Finance Ministry.
Yesterday, also marked the 73rd day of the ‘GotaGoGama’ protests coinciding with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 73rd birthday. These protests are fuelled by the current socioeconomic crisis engulfing the country, the worst since Sri Lanka obtained independence 74 years ago in 1948. The rallying cry of the protesters is that Rajapaksa, a key cause for Sri Lanka’s current economic morass, is that he should go.
To name three of Rajapaksa’s sins of omission and commission that led to this situation were cancelling a USD 480 million US grant to improve some of Sri Lanka’s key rural roads and Colombo’s traffic management in 2020.
Cancellation of the Japanese funded Yen 30,040 million (Rs 48 billion according to the 2019 exchange rate (ER)) light rail project targeting to ease Colombo’s traffic congestion with a 40-year repayment and a grace period of 12 years on a 0.1 per cent interest rate, also in 2020.
In lieu of cancelling the Japanese contract, the Rajapaksa Government last year awarded the Chinese a D 1 billion (Rs 365 billion according to the current ER) contract to build a four lane highway in Colombo.
Democracies like the USA, Japan, India, EU, UK, among others look at one party rule China’s growing influence in the region with disdain, led by China’s scant regard for ethics by influencing corrupt governments for projects, while also causing a military threat to the Indian Ocean region. Subsequently, the Rajapaksa Government alienated Japan, the USA and its allies, including the EU and the UK at the expense of depriving critical aid to the masses, be it food, medicines, fuel or cooking gas.
The third sin of omission and commission committed by Rajapaksa was the banning of chemical fertiliser imports in April 2021, thereby scarring both the Yala 2021 and Maha 2021/22 harvests, while also impacting Yala 2022. This ban was revoked in November 2021, but too late to reverse the damage already done.
Further, due to this ban, tea, Sri Lanka’s third largest foreign exchange earner, saw exports fall for the fifth consecutive month and tea production for the seventh consecutive month to last month. Tea export earnings in the first five months of the year declined by 14.03 per cent (D 74.53 million) to D 456,717,686 (fob) YoY and export volumes fell by 7.52 per cent (8.27 million kg) to 101.72 million kg. Meanwhile, tea production in the seven calendar months to April 2022, YoY fell by 16.17 per cent (29.05 million kg) to 150.65 million kg, latest data showed.
Therefore, the masses shouldn’t be detracted from their political objective of sending Rajapaksa home, whilst simultaneously ensuring economic revival, where the latter lies with IMF, by vested interests.