May 23, 2022

Sri Lanka paralyzed by strike, ‘No’ by President and PM

Strikes called by trade unions demanding the resignation of the government have virtually paralyzed the whole of Sri Lanka. Thousands of shops, schools and businesses across the country remained closed on Friday due to the strike. Buses and trains stopped.

Anti-government protests have been going on in Sri Lanka for more than a month due to high inflation and a crisis over imported food, energy and medicine. Sri Lanka has never faced such a crisis since independence in 1947. The people are blaming the government for the crisis.

The strike was announced. Shops in major Sri Lankan cities were closed today during the strike. Buses, train drivers and hundreds of thousands of workers joined the strike, disrupting public transport. The passengers were trapped in different places. The main railway station in the commercial capital Colombo was closed this morning. Only a few government buses ply from the nearest terminal.

Workers of different factories also took part in the strike. They held black flags in front of the factory and chanted slogans demanding the resignation of the government. Emergency medical services at the hospital continued despite health workers joining the strike.

Trade union leader Ravi Kumudesh said, “The president’s wrong decision has pushed our economy towards such a crisis. He has to say goodbye. ‘ However, President Gotabaya insisted he would not resign, despite months of protests in front of his office.

Meanwhile, after the adjournment of the parliament session, several thousand students tried to attack the Sri Lankan parliament on Thursday evening. Police fired tear gas shells at the students to control the situation.

Rising oil prices and President Gotabaya’s government’s decision to cut taxes have hit the Indian Ocean island nation hard after the Kovid-19 epidemic.

Debt-ridden Sri Lanka currently has low foreign exchange reserves. The country’s finance minister said this week that Sri Lanka has only  50 million in reserves to use. For this, they are not able to pay the import price of other products including fuel. People are being forced to be without electricity for hours.

Inflation has exceeded the level. There are no products on the market. Sri Lanka needs 400 million over the next six months to pay for imports of essential goods. The government has already suspended the repayment of the loan.
Mass protests erupted in early April demanding the resignation of Sri Lankan President Gotabha. Opposition groups called for the beleagured PM to resign. However, the president has denied it. The president later dissolved the cabinet and appointed a new 18-member cabinet. He also appointed his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister in the new cabinet. The protesters want Mahinda and Gotabaya to resign.