Featured images by Manula Jayawardhana
Sri Lanka is currently in a state of economic crisis due to the corrupt leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. A series of protests have occurred in the island nation’s capital of Colombo, and throughout the country, in direct response to this corruption and economic mismanagement.
According to Colombo local Vinod Kariyapperuma, 27, the people of Sri Lanka have been suffering without power for 10-13 hours at a time along with extreme shortages of essential resources. Kariyapperuma states that at least three people have died waiting outside for hours in the intense heat just to get fuel.
A lack of medical supplies have put a hold on surgeries in some hospitals and the prices of essential goods such as rice, dhal, and milk powder have skyrocketed. According to Manula Jayawardhana, 24, the increase in money printing by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka is a cause behind the absurd prices for these necessary goods.
As a result of the current economic and political situation, Sri Lankans in Colombo took to the streets to peacefully protest their concerns to the government. A peaceful protest outside of the president’s house turned violent after the police “fired tear gas, water cannons, and also beat people” according to BBC News. This was when public property started to get vandalized, vehicles were set on fire, and people started to get injured.
Rajapaksa has labeled this behavior as “extremist” and declared a curfew to try and stop protests. Citizens of Sri Lanka have also been experiencing a social media blackout due to the government’s attempt to censor information about the situation and prevent protests. Sri Lankans were unable to access media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp, Youtube, etc. for hours on Saturday, April 2 as a result of this temporary social media ban.
The reality is that real Sri Lankan people are suffering and corrupt politicians such as Rajapaksa are not. Allegedly, the Rajapaksas were exempt from the power cuts and have no real grasp of the hardships that Sri Lankans are facing. Power cuts mean an inability to carry on with everyday life in businesses and schools, and a lack of resources mean people will go hungry.
When researching the current situation in Sri Lanka, a lot of the images and headlines portrayed by news outlets will appear to be very violent. It’s important to remember that these protests began peacefully in an attempt to bring about rightful change, and many of these protests are still staying peaceful. Outsiders can help by spreading the word about the current situation through social media, as events happening on this side of the world often get overlooked in Western media outlets. The 2019 Easter bombings in Sri Lanka were overshadowed by the fire at Notre Dame, to put it into perspective.
Despite the tragedy and suffering currently happening in Sri Lanka, there is a silver lining that can be seen in all of this: unity. To end with a quote from Kariyapperuma, who is proud to be a Sri Lankan at a moment where the people have “cast aside their religious and political beliefs to come together as a country.” This is the true essence of the beautiful island nation that is Sri Lanka.