Editorial Notes

Sri Lanka's state of emergency: Dawn

The paper says the international community must help Sri Lanka keep its economy solvent so that the state does not collapse.

Demonstrators set fire on the house owned by minister Sanath Nishantha in Arachchikattuwa, Sri Lanka, on May 9, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD (DAWN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Nearly two months since demonstrators took to the streets of Sri Lanka to protest their government's handling of the economic and political crises, there are no signs of the island nation emerging from its troubles.

In fact, the country's beleaguered president has declared a state of emergency for the second time in the country since the protests began, giving security forces sweeping powers against demonstrators. The prognosis is indeed grim, with foreign exchange reserves dwindling to dangerously low levels, while the country's finance minister says economic instability is likely to last two more years.

All of this, of course, will do little to soothe the anger of the Sri Lankan people, who have been putting up with painful food, fuel and medicine shortages, as well as lengthy power cuts.

The crisis has been exacerbated by Covid-19, which battered the tourism-dependent Lankan economy, while protesters say the concentration of power within the Rajapaksa family has only made a bad situation worse. That is why the protesters, coming from various walks of Sri Lankan life, are united in their call for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to leave office.

While maintaining order is imperative for the government, the demonstrators have an equal right to peaceful protest, especially in such trying circumstances.

Instead of clamping down on protests, the Sri Lankan state must keep the channels of dialogue with the citizenry open and assure the public that everything possible is being done to help them weather the storm.

While the world is going through a period of great uncertainty, principally due to the Ukraine war, the international community must help Sri Lanka keep its economy solvent so that the state does not collapse. Emergency funding needs to be arranged so that there is no stoppage in the supply of essentials such as food and fuel.

The path to economic recovery will be a long and hard one, but political stability and transparency on the part of the state are required to help pull the island out of the morass.

  • Dawn is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.

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