UK Foreign Office warns against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka
Image by Justin Lane/EPA/The Guardian
The UK Foreign Office advised all the people in the country against travelling to Sri Lanka for reasons other than essential travel last week as the South Asian country’s economic crisis grows deeper.
The British Government stated: “Sri Lanka is experiencing a severe economic crisis which has led to shortages of basic necessities including medicines, cooking gas, fuel and food.”
This came a few days before Sri Lankan Prime Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced resign and flee, and go into hiding after angry protesters stormed his official residence.
It has been stated that the palace storming, which took place on Saturday last week, was the result of “months of mainly peaceful protests in Sri Lanka at the soaring cost of living and shortages of essentials”, according to the BBC.
For months, citizens of the country have been struggling due to the lack of food, fuel and medicines which has left the nation of 22 million people crippled. According to The Week, “The government has struggled to find enough US currency to pay for essential imports, with Rajapaksa criticised for being slow to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)”.
Back in April this year, all 26 members of the Sri Lanka cabinet resigned except for President Gotabaya and his brother Mahinda, who was the Prime Minister at the time. Mahinda ultimately resigned as both the brothers were held accountable for the dire economic situation.
However, Gotabaya clenched his seat until he was forced to leave his palace a day before protesters stormed inside. He has not, however, submitted a formal resignation letter to the speaker, which is required according to the Sri Lankan constitution.
Gotabaya was caught at the airport trying to flee to Dubai with his wife by the immigration staff on Monday night. The staff refused to let him go to the VIP area to get his passport stamped. He was eventually forced to return to hiding in a nearby military base as he could not take the general queue due to fear of being attacked by a mob of angry people and missed four flights to the United Arab Emirates.
The Rajapaksa family are known as the most powerful political dynasty in Sri Lanka with many members “accused of corruption, economic mismanagement and bankrupting the country” while working in senior posts, according to The Guardian.
On Sunday, various members of opposition parties met to discuss and potentially form a coalition which will likely last for six to eight months.
According to a report by The Week, the parliamentary speaker of Sri Lanka informed the BBC World Service’s Newshour programme that the new cross-party coalition government “would need to be formed within a week of the president officially stepping down”.
However, until the PM officially resigns by submitting a resignation letter to the speaker, it will likely “be a long, drawn-out battle”, as predicted by the BBC’s Ethirajan