Rajapaksa not only needs to go, he needs to face accountability | Protests

Protesters desire a new Sri Lanka, not only a reshuffling of the stale outdated playing cards.

Final week, a brand new prime minister of Sri Lanka was sworn in. Ranil Wickremesinghe, from the minority opposition United Nationwide Occasion, has held the submit a number of occasions in his four-decade-long political profession.

Amid widespread protests ensuing from the island’s gravest financial disaster since independence, parliament clearly thinks it is a determine to regular the ship. However with out acquiescing to the protesters’ key and repeated demand – for the discredited President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down – that is merely rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

Colombo is a tinder field. The nation seems to be bankrupt, dealing with acute shortages and a brewing humanitarian disaster. Spontaneous protests can type at any minute just because a lot of life entails queueing up for primary objects. Thousands and thousands take to the streets in more and more frequent basic strikes that grind the nation to a halt. The folks put the blame for Sri Lanka’s worst financial disaster in 70 years squarely on the bumbling and sinister rule of President Rajapaksa. For months, their calls for for his resignation have fallen on deaf ears, and inevitably the deadlock has change into lethal.

The resignation of his brother Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa final Monday has carried out little to placate the demonstrators. If something, the best way he finally departed exhibited the type of behaviour that has led us to this disaster; intransigently dismissing months of protests calling for his exit, the Trumpian rallying of his supporters exterior his official residence and finally fleeing to a navy base on the opposite finish of the island. A court docket has now banned him from leaving the nation. He says he left to hunt to construct a unity authorities however on his approach out, he sowed horrible discord.

Although the previous PM might not have straight referred to as for violence, his associates shortly bussed in offended mobs, made inflammatory speeches and gave them a nod to violently dismantle the peaceable protesters’ tented encampment and indiscriminately assault them with iron bars. The opposition teams then furiously retaliated, overturning buses and torching the properties of pro-regime politicians. 9 had been killed and greater than 200 injured. The next days have been extra peaceable, however solely as a result of a rolling nationwide curfew and orders for troops to shoot looters and rioters on sight.

The astronomical worth rises of meals, gas and prescribed drugs have introduced folks to their wits’ finish. Sri Lanka is now decreased to knocking on the world’s door with a begging bowl however even that course of has been disrupted. Authorities officers are as a result of meet with the Worldwide Financial Fund (IMF) to debate emergency financing. The nation is right down to its final $50m of overseas reserves. Pressing assist is required, however not at any price. Our IMF interlocutors should know that Sri Lankans’ seething anger is not going to be quelled by the short appointment of a chief minister from a celebration that holds one seat in parliament whereas the president that presided over the mess is untouchable. A revered, credible chief is required to shepherd the nation by the inevitable stringent monetary sacrifices in any other case the folks is not going to tolerate it.

Rajapaksa should go. All different paths result in extra instability and violence, and yet one more probability for change may have been squandered. Three different ministers with the surname Rajapaksa have already resigned within the final month, merely reminding protesters that they’ve been ruled by a corrupt clan for much too lengthy and there should be none left in energy. The protesters – who take pleasure in widespread help – don’t merely need the president to step down; they’re calling for accountability and justice for his mismanagement, corruption and human rights abuses which have persevered for many years. They need a brand new Sri Lanka, not only a reshuffling of the stale outdated playing cards. However such a basic reshaping of politics can’t be carried out with the outdated guard nonetheless in place. Politicians must be cautious of even entertaining the concept of immunity for Rajapaksa; the folks will see it rightly as a betrayal.

The longer Rajapaksa stays in energy, the longer the delays in negotiating an IMF bailout and the extra folks will starve. The extra folks starve, the extra their demonstrations will proceed unabated. The extra unrest, the upper the chance that Rajapaksa might resort to extra violence. However the regime can’t essentially assure that the police and military will observe orders to suppress this motion, after all of the households of a mean soldier and policeman are struggling the identical financial deprivations too. Cracks are showing within the fortress. We are able to solely hope that the inevitable collapse doesn’t crush us all.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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