Sri Lanka is reeling from its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948, as foreign currency shortages due to the inept handling of the economy hampered the regular import of essential items since mid-2021. During the pandemic, the debt situation worsened and, in 2022 alone, the country had accrued a debt obligation of USD 7 billion and it is not in a position to repay as its forex reserves dropped to USD 1.9 billion in March 2022.
Protests against the Rajapaksa government and the powerful Rajapaksa family intensified at the end of March 2022.
Amidst rising food inflation, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared an economic emergency on August 30, 2021, to control the soaring food prices and to prevent traders from hoarding foodstuffs.
In early March, Sri Lanka fell into a severe fuel shortage as it did not have sufficient foreign currency to import and replenish stock. By the end of March 2022, widespread shortages, such as fuel, gas, medicines, and even car parts, triggered by higher prices and foreign exchange shortages made life miserable in the country.
Due to the crisis, common citizens are in despair and about one in four Sri Lankans mentioned that they would like to migrate if they had the chance. As per a recent survey, the reasons for leaving include inadequate incomes, skyrocketing prices, widespread corruption, and haphazard governance.
Widespread protests against the government demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa escalated on March 31, 2022, Thursday leading into the early hours of April 1. To suppress the public uprising, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency on April 1, 2022.
On Sunday, April 3, 2022, Social media platforms in Sri Lanka were restricted for 16 hours amidst curfew and protests.
Protests raged across the country, but the highlight was the protest at Colombo’s Galle Front called “GotaGoGama.” “Gota Go Gama” means “Gota Go Village” in Sinhala, and it has been set up (similar to other occupy movements) like a small village providing food, toilets, and free emergency medical services for the protesters occupying the space demanding president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family members resign from key government positions.
On April 12, 2022, Sri Lanka declared that it is defaulting on its USD 51 billion foreign debt.
After 30 days of peaceful protests, the Rajapaksa regime unleashed its supporters on the protesters outside the residence of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees in Colombo on Monday, May 9, 2022. They violently attacked protestors, resulting in at least eight deaths and over 232 injuries.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned on May 9, 2022. On the night of Monday, May 9, 2022, mobs burnt down over 38 houses and damaged 65 houses belonging to the ruling Rajapaksa family and their ministers and parliament members.
Stories about Sri Lanka in crisis from July, 2022
Sri Lankan photographer Sandesh Bartlett captures how the peaceful occupy protest against the Rajapaksa government at Galle Face Green in the capital Colombo materialized, from March to July 2022.
A peaceful mass uprising on July 9 brought about the end of a political era that started with the promulgation of the 1978 constitution of Sri Lanka, which undermined democracy.
Sri Lanka witnessed a successful people's uprising on July 9, 2022, as they demanded the resignation of the President due to rising prices and acute shortage of fuel, food and medicines.