COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has descended into political turmoil, with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa under pressure to resign as protests over an economic crisis mount.
The island nation of 22 million people is experiencing severe shortages of food, fuel and other essentials, along with record inflation and crippling power outages, which have inflicted widespread misery in the most painful recession since independence from Britain. in 1948.
The South Asian country, which emerged from a devastating civil war in 2009 and was rocked by Islamist bombing in 2019, has also been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has torpedoed its vital tourism sector.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has dealt a further blow to the tourism industry, with the two European countries accounting for the first and third largest source of visitors to Sri Lanka in January.
This is how the crisis has unfolded:
March 31: President’s house threatened
Hundreds of protesters, joined by unidentified social media activists, attempt to storm President Rajapaksa’s house, demanding his resignation in a night of violence and anger over the economic crisis.
The police fire tear gas and water cannons and at least one man is seriously injured.
The capital is placed under curfew.
April 1: State of emergency
As protests spread, Rajapaksa declares a state of emergency, giving security forces sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects.
The state of emergency is for the “protection of public order and the maintenance of essential supplies and services for the life of the community,” Rajapaksa says in a proclamation.
April 2: troop deployment, curfew
Sri Lanka declares a 36-hour nationwide curfew and deploys troops.
The order takes effect at sundown and was due to be lifted on the morning of April 4, police say, a period that covers planned mass anti-government protests.
April 3: cabinet resignation
The government briefly blocks access to social media before the ban is lifted following a ruling by the country’s Human Rights Council.
Nearly the entire Sri Lankan cabinet then resigns at a late-night meeting, leaving Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda, the prime minister, isolated.
April 4: more resignations
Rajapaksa offers to share power with the opposition under a unity administration led by him and Mahinda, but is rebuffed.
Heavily armed security forces seek to quell further demonstrations.
Trading stops at the Sri Lanka Stock Exchange.
The central bank governor, who had resisted mounting calls to seek an IMF bailout, also announces his resignation.
Former Sri Lanka cricket test captain Mahela Jayawardene joins calls for government leaders to resign.
April 5: The president loses the majority
Rajapaksa’s problems deepen when finance minister Ali Sabry resigns just a day after his appointment.
Rajapaksa then loses his parliamentary majority as former allies urge his resignation and demonstrations continue for a fifth straight day. He raises the state of alarm.