Descent into chaos

Published July 13, 2022

THE political and economic chaos unravelling in Sri Lanka is a chilling reminder of what bad governance and apathy can do to a country if the interests of the elite and the citizenry remain at odds with each other. At the time of writing, the island nation’s president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was making a desperate bid to flee the country. As president, Mr Rajapaksa enjoys immunity from arrest; but he has recently promised to resign, reportedly by today (July 13), which means he could be taken into custody and prosecuted for the many wrongs he is accused of by his compatriots if he is on Sri Lankan soil when he steps down as head of state. He has been on the run since violent protests culminated in his official residence that was stormed by angry Sri Lankans sick of prolonged power blackouts, shortages of basic goods and runaway inflation. The once all-powerful leader and his brother, the former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa, have since been blocked in their attempts to leave Sri Lanka quietly by immigration officials refusing to cooperate. To be fair, the Rajapaksa brothers alone are not responsible for the years of economic mismanagement by successive governments. However, they did make a bad situation much worse by mishandling the devastation wreaked on Sri Lanka’s tourism-reliant economy by Covid-19. Matters slowly come to a head, and Sri Lankans are now overwhelmingly refusing to pay the painful cost of their leaders’ persistent inability to deliver.

There are lessons aplenty in Sri Lanka’s predicament for Pakistan and our local political dynasties. While we do not seem to be in danger of an impending economic collapse, the risks to the country’s well-being have not subsided and the economic hurt felt by the people these past few months has now started to sting. Those in power must fear the anger of the masses. The government must restructure and reform the economy to create a more equitable society if we are to avoid social collapse in the future.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2022

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