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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Will the popular revolt in Sri Lanka trigger ‘regime change’ in the island nation?

A popular revolt triggered by a massive financial meltdown is threatening to cause “regime change” in Sri Lanka, with the mighty House of the Rajapaksas facing collapse.

Already pressures imposed by seething street protests, more in tune with the Arab Spring style outpourings, has splintered the ruling coalition, turning the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration into a minority government.

The crisis for the new government began after allies in the ruling coalition left. At least 12 from the ruling party withdrew and set up an independent group. This has impaired the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who will have to depend on these outsiders to pool in a majority of 113 in the 225-member parliament.

With political fragility at its peak, the president would have to appoint a caretaker government, leading to fresh general elections, which the tainted Rajapaksas, in the eye of popular anger, are unlikely to survive.

Earlier, the opposition had spurned the president’s offer to establish a unity government , following the resignation of all the ministers from the cabinet, headed by prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Clearly brand Rajapaksa is in danger of seeking life-support.

In a people-driven change, many existing heavyweights are likely to bite the dust, opening opportunities for new players to shine on the political horizon. Though President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Presidency is constitutionally protected, the people are also calling for his head, amid runaway inflation, shortages of essentials including cooking gas.

In the 225-member Sri Lankan parliament, the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) had 117 members. Key ally SLFP has 15 members. Coalition partner 10 Party Alliance, has 14 members, while the opposition SJB had 54 members, The TNA with ten members and others make-up 15 seats.

After defections, the SLPP has only 105 members. The number of dissidents including those from the ruling party has ballooned to 41, with many others likely in the pipeline. Panic in the ruling circles is setting up big time, as is evident from the resignation of Ali Sabry, the new finance minister who was appointed only a day ago.

The island nation has been rocked by massive street protests, where desperate people, unafraid of the consequences have with impunity, defied the 36-hour curfew imposed by the government.

A number of factors, including massive mismanagement of resources, profligacy and bad loans from China for unviable white elephant projects such as the Hambantota port have pushed the Sri Lankan economy into doldrums. Besides that, the onset of Covid-19 has hit Sri Lanka hard as it has virtually dried up the flow of tourists — the backbone of Colombo’s economy.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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