Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence in 1948 has brought widespread hardships to its 22 million people, with months of regular blackouts and acute shortages of food and fuel brought the country to the brink of being a failed state.
The country’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, not long ago the country’s most powerful politician, resigned Tuesday due to pressure from the protesters.
The government imposed a state of emergency, curfew, and a ban on social media in response to the mass demonstrations and public outrage against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s regime.
‘The Hindu’ in its editorial wrote: “A larger message from the demise of the Rajapaksa brand is that muscular nationalism and majoritarian mobilization may not be an endless reservoir of support, and will be of no avail when the masses face economic hardship.”
The newspaper was clearly referring to the strong hand tactics of Rajapaksas in dealing with the country’s Tamil, Muslim and Christian minorities.
Before the crisis, the PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were loved by much of the country’s Sinhalese Buddhist majority for bringing a decades-long ethnic civil war against the Tamil Tigers to a brutal end.
In March 2018, the country witnessed the worst anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka’s Kandy district. The then Sri Lanka’s Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara had said the violence in Kandy was “well organized” and pointed the finger at members of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), a political party backed by Rajapaksa that scored a huge victory in local elections.
The Raja Paksha government also prohibited Muslim victims of Coronavirus to be buried as per the Islamic rites and instead it ordered to cremate the Muslim dead bodies. Similarly, the government banned face veil for the Muslim women.
Mahinda Rajapaksa became the darling of the majority Sinhalas community for promoting Buddhist nationalism. But ultimately it proved that economic mismanagement, improper planning, corruption, lack of good governance, absence of the rule of law and accountability cannot sustain religious nationalism for long.