Asia

Sri Lanka arrests 67 suspected to be heading to Australia

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in recent memory facing heavy shortages of essentials from food, cooking gas, medicine and fuel to toilet paper and matchsticks. People have been forced to stay in long lines to buy their essentials over the past few months with many of them returning empty-handed.

The island nation has defaulted on foreign debt for the first time after announcing last month it would suspend payments on US$7 billion in foreign debt due this year, with nearly US$25 billion due by 2026 out of a total of US$51 billion.

The country’s new prime minister said last week that petrol stocks ran down to a final day, worsening commuting problems and lengthening lines. But shipments of gasoline paid through an Indian credit line started arriving over the weekend.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera told reporters Tuesday that the Cabinet has given him permission to work on an additional US$500 million credit line from India to buy fuel in addition to already sanctioned credit lines totaling US$700 million.

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has brought on a political crisis with protesters occupying the entrance to the president’s office for more than 40 days demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation.

Attacks on peaceful protesters by government supporters triggered countrywide riots, killing nine persons including a lawmaker and wounding 200. Homes and properties of sitting ministers and government supporters were burned down. The violence has nearly dismantled the Rajapaksa dynasty after the president’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister amid the violence.

Two other siblings and a nephew resigned from their Cabinet posts earlier in April and Gotabaya Rajapaksa himself faces the prospect of his powers being clipped. The new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is tasked with reviving the economy, is working on a constitutional amendment to dilute presidential powers and empower the Parliament.

The amendment was discussed by the Cabinet on Monday and sent to party leaders in Parliament for their views.

Source: CNA

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