Victory for the people: Sri Lanka’s protests marks 100 days, waiting for the new leader

 | Updated: Jul 19, 2022, 05:34 PM IST

The Sri Lankan protests marked their 100th day. It started when thousands of Sri Lankans camped out in front of Rajapaksa’s office on April 9 as a part of a two-day protest; a significantly much larger crowd than what was anticipated, so it decided to stay on.

Minority Muslims and Tamils banded together with the majority Sinhalese to seek the government overthrown of the powerful Rajapaksa clan due to economic problems. Having removed one president from its office, it is now focusing on his successor as the nation’s economic crisis worsens. This happened for the first time in the history of the South Asian Island that a serving head of state resigned. 

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The worst economic crisis since 1948

It all started after the hit of COVID-19 and the country has a severe shortage of medications, fuel, and foreign currency. The pandemic harmed tourism and populist tax cut by the Rajapaksa administration contributed to the economic catastrophe. 

In mid-April, the government stopped making payments on its $51 billion foreign debt and declared bankruptcy.

The capital city, Colombo, saw lines form in several areas as locals attempted to stock up on fuel. People had to wait for hours and even for days to get their hands on fuel. People lacked basic necessities like food. 

This made people angry and then they soon started revolting against the government remarking their mismanagement resulted in the country’s worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948.


‘Gota thief, Gota thief’

As the inflation was out of control, corruption and a serious lack of basic necessities were all blamed on the Rajapaksa administration by the demonstrators.

At the main protest point in Colombo, people gathered and were chanting ‘Gota thief, Gota thief’ to make a reference to the president. 

The Rajapaksa were the prime targets of weeks of protest demanding their resignations. 

The protest often caused the bloodiest disturbances when the protesters and police got into a fight. The Sri Lankan police were often seen using water cannons and tear gas to dismiss the crowd.

The protesters caused equivalent violence by burning several vehicles. It was a scenario of ultimate chaos.


Rajapaksas resign

The first Rajapaksa to resign from the position was Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya’s elder brother, who quit in May, due to aggressive protest against his family. Later, Ranil Wickremesinghe was announced as the new prime minister of the island.

Months later, following numerous tumultuous months of economic and political upheaval, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was compelled to quit in order to appease an irate people.


Victory of the people

The protests have thus far been a win for the Sri Lankans. Peiris, the protest leader in conversation with Al Jazeera said, “The supreme power of people has overcome the power of an oppressive regime.” 

He further added that everyone in the country was unified for the first time since the country’s independence. 

Numerous volunteers were arrested and threatened by legal threats. In critical instances, they even served as human shields between the protesters and the police. 


People wait for the new leader

After Gotabaya’s official resignation on July 14, Ranil Wickremesinghe was announced as the acting president of the country in accordance with the constitution. 

The Speaker of the House, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana announced the coting to happen on Wednesday (July 20).