Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa Resigns in Face of Unrest

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned on Monday, after months of constant government protests dominated by his family, Their policies have pushed the small island nation in The worst economic crisis.

Mr Rajapaksa took the action hours after his supporters incited violent clashes with government opponents on the streets of the capital Colombo, a serious turn in the protracted unrest that has left Dozens of people were injured and the police ordered a nationwide curfew.

It remains unclear whether Mr Rajapaksa’s decision to step down will please the protesters, who are demanding the resignation of his brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 72, the president and now the more powerful of the two. People.

But the concession by Rajapaksa, 76, the family patriarch and former president, is a blow to the fortunes of a dynasty that has dominated Sri Lankan politics for the past two decades.

“Effective immediately, I have submitted my resignation as Prime Minister to the President,” Rajapaksa said on Twitter. It is unclear whether Gotabaya Rajapaksa accepted his brother’s offer of resignation.

As Food prices have skyrocketed and an island of 22 million people already struggling with shortages of basic necessities like medicine, fuel and electricity, protesters have taken to the streets across the country demanding the Rajapaksas family leave the government.

Their anger is particularly directed at Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a defense official in Sri Lanka’s three-decade-long civil war who was accused of human rights abuses in that conflict before being elected president. in 2019.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the eldest of the Rajapaksa brothers, has held many leading roles in the government, first as prime minister and then as two-term president. During his time as president, he ended civil war through a military push against the separatist Tamil Tigers.

Elder Rajapaksa was defeated in the 2015 presidential race for a third term, but he has managed to take over as prime minister in a The messy situation lasted for months in 2018.

He was appointed to the position in a deal with the president to succeed him, but his claim was challenged by the incumbent prime minister, who said he still commands a parliamentary majority. After weeks of protracted disputes, including public scuffles inside Parliament, Mr Rajapaksa withdrew from his claim.

A security lapse in 2019 led to the worst terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka in recent years – a series of bombings on Easter Sunday killing more than 270 people. That created a loophole for the family to take power back. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, claiming to be the strongman the wounded nation needed, secured a landslide victory and then appointed Mahinda as prime minister.

With two older brothers at the helm and several other family members holding key positions, the government has been accused of mismanaging the country’s economy.

They announced massive tax cuts, hitting the country’s balance sheet at a time when the country faces shrinking foreign exchange reserves and is struggling to pay off growing debt. They also introduced a controversial ban on chemical fertilizers to promote organic farming, backfire and leave a profound impact on the country’s harvest and food security.

Severe shutdowns exacerbated the economic situation, as travel restrictions stripped the country of an important source of tourist dollars.

Skandha Gunasekara contribution report.

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