People across Sri Lanka have been holding mass anti-government protests demanding president Gotabaya Rajapaksa resign over his handling over the country’s worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.
Protests erupted last week over a shortage of essentials such as cooking gas, petrol, electricity and medicines but have since evolved into anti-government protests across every part of the country.
Sri Lanka has been facing an economic crisis for years due to years of accumulated foreign debt, compounded by the 2019 Easter bombings and the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged the tourism industry, a major source of income for the country.
The government had responded to the crisis by cutting taxes and printing record amounts of money to cover its spending, leading to inflation. The situation was then further worsened when the government banned chemical fertilizers in a move towards organic farming in April 2021, which caused a drop in tea and rice production that led to economic losses.
With barely any foreign currency reserves left, the country is now unable to pay for essential import goods such as food and fuel. It has to repay $4 billion in debt this year, according to CNN.
Faced with 13 hours of daily power cuts instituted by the government to conserve electricity, long lines for fuel and shortages of food staples such as milk powder and rice, people started taking to the streets in frustration in late March.
On Thursday March 31, protests turned violent after police used tear gas and water cannons on protesters.