Stand with the people of Sri Lanka! GOTA GO HOME!

South Asia Solidarity Group stands with the people of Sri Lanka and supports their main demand “Gota Go Home” – that President Gotabaya Rajapakse and his brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse resign forthwith. The Rajapakses’ continued tenure as rulers has become untenable as their government has bankrupted the country in a spectacular manner, through excessive borrowing and mismanagement of the economy. The people are demanding an end to the Rajapakse dynastic power which has ruled for thirteen years in government.

On the economic front the regime indulged in high levels of borrowing from global financial markets, in order to ‘develop’ the country by investing in high-cost infrastructure projects and real estate, while ignoring domestic agricultural production and people’s welfare. Sovereign bond debts and loans from the IMF, India, China and Japan have landed Sri Lanka in a debt trap. Mismanagement and corruption have depleted the treasury. In recent years imports have far exceeded exports and taxes were cut to benefit the rich. With foreign exchange reserves depleted Sri Lanka is unable to service its debts nor purchase food, fuel and medicines for its people who may be facing the prospect of even starvation.

The liberal establishment in Sri Lanka has cried out in one voice exhorting the government to seek help from the IMF. Few voices have raised objection to the IMF which is often part of the problem. As a global financial institution, it is only interested in debt sustainability and the interests of the country’s creditors. The IMF bail-out is under discussion and it is very clear that Sri Lanka is going to be submerged in an unending cycle of indebtedness to global finance companies and powerful neighbours such as India and China. The IMF will lay down conditionalities that will make life impossible for ordinary working people.

Thousands of people around the country have come to the streets spontaneously, in peaceful but spirited, energetic protest. The protests are growing with the unions, professional groups and even business institutions getting involved, calling the rulers to account and are indeed setting the political agenda at this historic moment.

The political establishment on the other hand appear clueless as to how to dig the country out of the current economic abyss.

These economic crises have been evolving over a long time, especially since neo -liberal economic reforms were introduced in 1977 by the opening up of the economy to foreign direct investment, trade liberalisation and privatisation. In order to facilitate these reforms an authoritarian executive presidential system of governance was also introduced which simultaneously spearheaded the Sinhala Buddhist nationalist project that has been in place since independence. Successive regimes militarised the state and society and carried on a civil war against the Tamil minority with tens of thousands of civilian deaths. Once the war against the Tamils ended the Rajapakses and the Sinhala Buddhist hegemonic forces turned their attention on the minority Muslim community. Under the Rajapakses the state targeted workers, students, journalists, human rights defenders and dissenters, from all communities with greater levels of impunity than ever before.
Along with the current economic crisis there is also a political crisis – a crisis of democracy. The Sri Lankan authoritarian state powered through all the neoliberal economic reforms by dividing the people through racism, politicising governance structures including the judiciary and suspending the rule of law. Corruption and misrule flourished.

There is, however, a growing realisation amongst the younger generation of protestors that ethnic divisions enabled the Rajapakse regime to exploit and dispossess the people of Sri Lanka as a whole. The economic crisis has laid bare the deep malaise that prevails within the political system and the constitution clearly to the people. The people who only three years ago voted in this government overwhelmingly, are now seeking a ‘System Change’

We support the people’s demands:
1. Rajapakses and their supporters go home!
2. Abolish the Executive Presidency.
3. Eradicate ethnic and religious division in governance.
4. Tax the rich and distribute the wealth.

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