ECONOMYNEXT – Hundreds of Sri Lankans, battered by the country’s worst ever forex crisis, took to Twitter to vent their frustration at President Gotabaya Rajapaksa this week when he tweeted a congratulatory message to the national cricket team which won a five-match cricket series against Australia.
A young Sri Lankan cricket team won the fourth game held in Colombo by just four runs to secure a series win after conquering the five-time world champions.
“Congratulations to Sri Lanka cricket team on the win against Australia in the one day series. The sportsmanship shown by the Sri Lankan team has been remarkable. People of Sri Lanka are also grateful for the support given by Cricket Australia to overcome the economic challenges in Sri Lanka,” Rajapaksa tweeted.
Congratulations to #lka cricket team on the win against #Australia in the one day series. The sportsmanship shown by the #SriLankan team has been remarkable. People of #lka are also grateful for the support given by @CricketAus to overcome the economic challenges in 🇱🇰. #AUSvsSL
— Gotabaya Rajapaksa (@GotabayaR) June 21, 2022
Sri Lankans, who have been going pillar to post to feed their families and ensure essentials like fuel, cooking gas, medicines, food, and milk powder amid lengthy power cuts, took their frustration out on the president who had just turned 73 a few days prior.
It was the first time Sri Lanka had won a series against mighty Australia in 30 years.
Many Sri Lankans see Rajapaksa and his family as responsible for the current economic crisis. Thousands of young, nonpartisan protesters have been demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation for 76 days as of Thursday July 23 near the presidential secretariat in Colombo. Over this period, Sri Lanka saw a change in prime ministers as well as the resignation of the entire cabinet twice over.
However, Rajapaksa has said he cannot leave as a “failed president” and has vowed see his term to its completion in November 2025.
“You obviously never played any sport. That is why you do not know how to accept defeat. You are a failed President. Please GO,” responded one Twitter user.
You obviously never played any sport. That is why you do not know how to accept defeat.
You are a failed President. Please GO
— Shiran de Soysa (@deSoysaShiran) June 21, 2022
“At least learn from cricket how to make way for someone more capable than you,” another tweep said.
තමාට හැකියාව නැති උනාම සුදුසු කෙනෙක්ට අවස්ථාව දෙන එක ක්රිකට් වලින්වත් ඉගන ගන්න මහත්තයා! 👌
— Dil Sudarshana (@DileeSudarshana) June 22, 2022
“Please resign and make this moment even better to give some relief to the grievances of the nation,” said another.
— Nuzrad Mohamed (@BeingNuzrad) June 21, 2022
Some of the tweeps used abusive language in response to the president’s congratulatory tweet, and many demanded that he step down due what they called his abject failure.
“No. This is victory for the cricket team. Your dismissal is the real victory for all Sri Lankans,” said one tweet.
“Please Mr President keep out of this. The SL cricket team is the only entertainment and [source of] pride we are left with,” said another.
“How can the Australian cricket team help to overcome economic challenges? Did they bring dollars in the plane? Pls don’t take credit for our team’s win,” another tweeted.
Some more tweets are reproduced below:
“Dont think people will be delusional with this win and forget to remind you about the most important message…..” GOTAGOHOME”
“Namal went, Cricket prospered You go, Watch how the country will prosper.”
“A young team of cricketers put us back on the winning streak. Please handover the reigns to a team that can win – we as a country need to rejoice and winning back our lives we had.”
“Please don’t try to get involved in this [and] screw this one up too. Just let it be the way it is. You are NOT needed.”
One Twitter user had used crossed out images of President Rajapaksa, current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa with the line: “There is no point of cultivating without removing weeds”.
— jrod (@jrodbremen) June 22, 2022
Thousands of Sri Lankans started spontaneous protests over the looming economic crisis early in March when Rajapaksa’s government started to impose power cuts and struggled to import fuel and cooking gas due to a crippling dollar shortage – a shortage that experts have blamed directly on ill-advised policies of the government.
Rajapaksa is also blamed for his disastrous ban on chemical (inorganic) fertilizer without providing any alternative to farmers. As a results, the country has seen record high food prices due to a shortfall in farmland produce and lack of fuel to transport agricultural commodities.
The president also appointed himself as the Defence and Digital Technology Minister and appointed his elder brother Mahinda as Prime Minister. His oldest brother Chamal was made Minister of Irrigation while younger brother Basil became Finance Minister. His nephew and Mahinda’s son Namal, meanwhile, was appointed Youth and Sports Minister, while another nephew Shasheendra Rajapaksa, son of Chamal, was named deputy agriculture minister.
The powerful political dynasty controlled the country through the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) even as the economic crisis turned into a full blown political crisis by early April. Since then, Rajapaksa was forced to remove his family members from key position due to strong protests by the public.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after his supporters brutally attacked unarmed and peaceful protesters in Colombo on May 9. A court has ordered that he surrender his passport and police has questioned him over a meeting with his supporters held just before the attack. May 09 saw violent clashes, with over 70 ruling party members’ houses and assets either damaged or burnt.
The president later appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister, but analysts say nothing has been done to supply essentials to the public with the crisis now getting worse.
Sri Lankan Twitter users had some choice words for their head of state.
“It’s time to go home”, “What do you know about sportsmanship”, “Devil, we are at fuel queues. It’s better if you go even now”, “Don’t screw up the little happiness the fans enjoy, pls leave”, and “OK, now you resign. Then it’ll be the perfect day” were among the responses that saw much engagement. (Colombo/Jun22/2022)