The decision to impose the emergency following the violent protests outside the president's private residence had created unease in the cabinet and opposition alike
All cabinet ministers in Sri Lanka, except Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned en masse on Sunday as anger over the economic crisis reached an unprecedented level, resulting in mass protests across several cities, defying the nationwide curfew authorities have imposed till Monday morning.
Dinesh Gunawardena, the leader of the house, confirmed that all cabinet ministers submitted their resignations to the prime minister. However, he denied early reports of the prime minister resigning himself.
Political parties are holding talks with the government, and the formation of an interim government is likely in the coming days, a move that could help allay the public anger that exploded in the past few days against the country’s ruling Rajapaksa family.
Gripped by a severe economic crisis for months, the country has been witnessing a shortage of essentials, fuel, and skyrocketing inflation, but the situation escalated quickly and went out of control only after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa imposed an emergency in response to growing public protests.
Later, authorities’ high-handedness in controlling protests, clamping down on activists, and seemingly indifferent attitude to public misery, vitiated the political atmosphere and resulted in mass protests in many parts of the country, including in the capital Colombo.
Students of several universities across the country also took out rallies on Sunday, protesting against the government and demanding the resignation of President Rajapaksa.
Cracks within government
Prior to the protests of the last week, at least two ministers had resigned, blaming Finance Minister Basit Rajapaksa, part of the ruling Rajapaksa clan, for failing to address the forex crisis. Despite all visible signs of the crisis, the cabinet withheld the IMF option for months, which further precipitated the crisis.
The decision to impose the emergency following the violent protests outside the president's private residence had created unease in the cabinet and opposition alike.
Significantly, on Sunday, when the government started blocking social media sites, Namal Rajapaksa, son of PM Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the sports and IT minister, went public on Twitter, condemning the government's move. The ban was later lifted hours after criticism.
The Hindu reported, citing government sources, Chamal Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa, and Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa—all cabinet members from the ruling family- were among the first to resign after a heated discussion among Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his cabinet members.
Meanwhile, India on its part has been despatchng emergency supplies to Sri Lanka to ease its food shortage. On Sunday, New Delhi began supplying 40,000 metric tonnes of rice under its recently signed $1 billion line of credit.
On Saturday, a day after the tense protests in Colombo, India's High Commissioner to Colombo, Gopal Baglay handed over the fourth shipment of 40,000 MT of fuel to Sri Lankan officials. So far, Sri Lanka has received assistance worth $2.4 billion from India.