Read on for more information on Sri Lanka’s human rights situation and the current economic situation.
Sri Lanka is suffering the worst economic crisis since 1948. Amid prolonged blackouts and acute shortages of food, protests have escalated to violent violence. The country’s economic crisis has particularly affected single-parent households and those without steady employment.
The depletion of foreign reserves has triggered uncertainty over the government’s ability to account for imports and service its debts. The government has acknowledged that it has difficulty in paying import bills – fuel is one example. Moreover, the country’s debt levels will stabilize soon. The crisis has affected the tourism industry, which is now suffering a severe decline.
After Russia invaded Ukraine, oil prices increased dramatically. The depreciation of the rupee further exacerbated the economy and made it more difficult for the country’s people to buy essential goods. The Rajapaksa government has turned to China and India for help.
The government has spent much of its foreign currency reserves repaying its debt.
The government of Sri Lanka has blamed speculators for the price hike. However, the government is refusing to stop its aggressive push for organic farming.
The plan will target food, nutrition, health, education, and mental health services.
The situation in Sri Lanka has become so critical that seven U.S. Senators have written a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, expressing their grave concern over the humanitarian crisis. A recent major battle has left thousands of civilians trapped in a conflict zone and deprived of basic necessities.
The situation has made access to basic necessities like food and water difficult. Until the government steps in to address these needs, the situation will remain unsustainable and continue to worsen.
Rice is now 500 LKR per kilogram, while sugar is now 290 LKR. The shortage of these basic necessities has forced people to take to the streets in anguish. They are desperate for food and medicine.
Despite the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, India remains a host to nearly 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees. While the government has backed away from any military action, India’s navy increased its presence on the coast of Kerala.
The political crisis in Sri Lanka has escalated to a point that it may well be threatening the government. However, the opposition has refused to join, raising doubts about his political future. The ruling coalition also lost more than forty members of its governing coalition, including the deputy speaker.
Despite the imposition of a state of emergency, there is a growing sense of unrest and frustration among the people. Food and fuel shortages have risen astronomically. The country is facing record levels of inflation and blackouts. The government’s intentions remain unclear, but it’s hard to argue with the growing anger of ordinary Sri Lankans.
It is important that the president listens to the protesters. If he does not, Sri Lanka’s ‘Arab Spring’ moment may return. Activists are demanding the resignation of the government and the removal of the Rajapaksa family from politics. There are also numerous legal proceedings underway. It is imperative for Sri Lanka to avoid a prolonged state of instability.
The economic situation in Sri Lanka is currently at its worst in decades. The previous government made modest progress in dealing with chronic problems but reversed course following Gotabaya’s election. The new government imposed massive tax cuts in early 2020. The government even spent hard currency reserves to prop up the rupee’s value.
The political crisis in Sri Lanka will not improve until the economic situation improves. The country is already facing a severe economic crisis, and the escalating protests may lead to a change in government. However, a change of government is unlikely to improve the country’s political and social conditions. Unless it focuses on these three areas, it may not recover from its economic crisis anytime soon.
Human rights situation
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has expressed serious concern over the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.
There have been more than one hundred thousand enforced disappearances, and torture of detainees in custody is commonplace. While the death penalty remains on the constitution, Sri Lanka’s security legislation facilitates torture and arbitrary detention.
The government continues to elevate military officials implicated in human rights violations to the highest levels of government. Moreover, President Rajapaksa, Defense Secretary Kamal Gunaratne, and Army Chief Gen. Shavendra Silva reportedly held command responsibility for the alleged violations. Meanwhile, the situation continued to deteriorate as the minority Muslim community faced increased discrimination and marginalization.
The UNHRC Resolution 46/1 marks a significant shift in the approach toward Sri Lanka. The investigation revealed war crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government.
The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern over the impact of the conflict on Eritrea. Eritrea’s indefinite national service program – which effectively constituted forced labor – continued to be a major source of human rights violations. Eritrean youth continue to flee the country each year. He also heard harrowing accounts of Eritrean refugees living in the horn and north of Africa. He cited arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, dangerous collective expulsions, and pushbacks at sea.