ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s influential Buddhist monks from three chapters started a starve-to-death protest in Colombo on Thursday, demanding the government and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa step down after a series of failures.
The protest started two days before the main protest where a major social media campaign is currently underway asking the general public to join the protest site at historic Galle Face near the president’s official residence.
The monks marched nearly 12 km from Wattala, a suburban area, and came towards the Colombo Fort, where President Rajapaksa has been living since April after his private residence was surrounded by the public.
However, the protest was stopped by a court order.
An EconomyNext reporter witnessed around 100 monks join the protest.
“Despite the fuel crisis, monks from all over the country have gathered here, “Ulapane Sumangala Thero, addressing the protest said.
He said it was monks’ duty throughout history to protect the country.
“So do not bring these court orders and try to stop us.”
Rajapaksa was backed by tens of thousands of Buddhist monks in the run up to November 2019 elections with a Sinhala majority ideology.
However, Rajapaksa has failed to run the country as expected and the economy has collapsed with the country of 22 million people is suffering without key essentials like fuel, cooking gas, and kerosene oil amid an acute shortage of dollars.
Political analysts say most Buddhist monks are rising against Rajapaksa to prevent public anger towards them for backing Rajapaksa while alienating minority Muslims and Tamils.
Sumangala Thero said the President who boasted about being a Buddhist and having the support of the Buddhist monks in the country now has come to a level of not even caring about a letter from the influential Buddhist clergies, referring to a letter issued last week asking him to step down.
“This is just the start, this number will increase by tomorrow and the coming day,” he said.
“This fight is to eliminate the president and the government from their positions.”
The protesting monks said the ongoing fuel crisis and stagnation of education of children in the country will lead to an illiterate generation in the future.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in history and the Rajapaksa administration’s bad economic policies have aggravated an already looming crisis.
Currently with the forex shortage has resulted in fuel, medicine and gas shortage. Many firms have shut down businesses and many industries are on the verge of collapsing.
The Gota Go Home protest, an agitation started to oust Rajapaksa, is continuing for the third month in a non-violent way.
However, analysts say the protest could become violent from Saturday onwards as the agitation is intensifying due to failures by the government officials to provide immediate solutions for the ongoing issues in the country including the high cost of food and starvation. (Colombo/July 7/2022)