Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022

Sri Lanka Economic Crisis: Central Bank Chief Threatens To Resign Amid Political Unrest

Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis has provoked widespread protests calling for political reform and the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Sri Lanka Economic Crisis AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena

Sri Lanka's Central Bank chief on Wednesday threatened to quit if the leaders failed to bring political stability to the island nation in the grip of its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Governor of the bank Nandalal Weerasinghe told reporters that the political unrest derailed the bank's recovery plans, and the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime minister on Monday and the lack of a replacement were complicating matters.

"I have informed all political parties that I would resign if there will be no political stability," said Weerasinghe, who has been in the job only for a month. When I took over, the crisis was as bad as this, and I hoped it would be resolved quickly so that the Central Bank could perform the job required,” he said.

Weerasinghe has just commenced negotiating with the IMF for the possible bailout package. Since Monday, with the resignation of the prime minister, there is no functioning finance minister.

Weerasinghe said currently the country's foreign reserves were not enough to import even the essentials.

"With the continuation of this situation, we will have to suffer power cuts between 10-12 hours,”  he warned.

He said the 225 members of Parliament and the executive president have to resolve the political crisis.

Shortly after taking over last month as the apex bank's chief, Weerasinghe announced defaulting on Sri Lanka's external debt, saying the country had no money to pay its creditors.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948. Clashes broke out on Monday after the government's supporters attacked peaceful anti-government protest sites in Colombo and elsewhere, killing at least 8 people and leaving over 200 others injured in the violence.

Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis has provoked widespread protests calling for political reform and the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. On April 1, President Rajapaksa imposed a state of emergency, lifting it five days later. The government reimposed a state of emergency on May 6 after police fired teargas and arrested students protesting near parliament, which was adjourned until May 17.

Although the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, the police fatally shot a protester on April 19, and on several occasions have used teargas and water cannons against protesters. The authorities have made numerous arrests and repeatedly imposed curfews.

The political crisis was triggered in late March when people hurt by long hours of power cuts and essential shortages took to the streets demanding the resignation of the government.

President Rajapaksa sacked his cabinet and appointed a younger cabinet as a response to the demand for resignation.

A continuous protest opposite his secretariat has now gone on for well over a month.

Last Monday, his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as the prime minister to make way for the president to appoint an interim all political party government.

Two days of talks have not been successful. The island nation is under curfew as violence erupted on Monday. The ruling party politicians have seen their properties being set ablaze.

Sri Lankan authorities on Wednesday deployed troops and military vehicles in the streets to ensure public security in the Capital amidst nationwide protests over the government's failure to tackle the worst economic crisis.

The deployment came a day after the country'Cs Ministry of Defence ordered the Army, the Air Force and the Navy personnel to open fire on anyone looting public property or causing harm to others amidst violent protests in the island nation over the unprecedented economic crisis.