explainer

"People are dying in the line for petrol." What is going on in Sri Lanka right now.

With a lot happening across the globe, it seems many have missed the reality of what's going on in Sri Lanka

The country is currently experiencing one of the worst economic crises the world has seen, with citizens struggling to access basic care, food and water. 

The stories coming out of Sri Lanka are quite confronting to read, but before you do, here's a bit of context as to how this all happened.

Last year, Sri Lanka's government made the decision to ban chemical fertiliser across the farming industry, and turn to organic-only production and produce. Although many would see this as a positive step in the right direction - which, in theory, it was - it has played out disastrously. 

Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa imposed a nationwide ban on the importation and use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides and ordering the country's two million farmers to go organic immediately. 

Economists say it was this decision to go 'cold turkey' without any transitional period that has caused devastation. 

Watch: Violent protests erupt in Sri Lanka amid economic crisis. Post continues below.

Video via Insider News.

Without the knowledge, the capacity, the technology or even the funds to go organic immediately, Sri Lankan farmers were left unable to produce crops or sell whatever crops they had. 

Seven months after the decision, the government did end up lifting the ban on chemical fertilisers - but the damage had already been done.

According to foreignpolicy.com, the impact was overwhelming - the lack of domestic rice production, tea crops, rubber, coconut and other crops decimated the economy. The drop in tea production alone is estimated to result in economic losses of approximately AU$573 million. 

And in terms of inflation rates, Sri Lanka is close to marking 19 per cent. In comparison, Australia's inflation rate is around 3.5 per cent - and we ourselves are facing a cost-of-living crisis, just on a much lower scale. 

But it's the human cost seen in Sri Lanka which is far heavier. 

The reality for Sri Lankans on the ground right now.

There are daily power outages across the country, a critical shortage of life-saving medicine, fuel prices are rising and basic food staples such as rice and milk are scarce. As noted by ABC News, newspaper stalls are empty because Sri Lanka doesn't have enough paper for printing and food sellers can't get the ingredients they need for their products.

Stories have also emerged of Sri Lankan paediatricians asking people overseas to post necessary medical equipment in order to ventilate the country's newborn babies, as supplies are running dry.

The Perinatal Society of Sri Lanka has even said they are now reusing and sterilising old equipment in a bid to save lives.

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Even sadder is the fact that starvation, desperation and death are becoming increasing realities. 

In just the last few days we have seen multiple reports of Sri Lankan people dying while waiting in queues for hours on end for things such as fuel and medicine. 

Rani Chandra Pereira lost her husband, Rechard, while he was waiting for fuel.

She said: "He used to stay in queues for hours to get fuel every day because his livelihood was driving a rickshaw. He went to the petrol shed to pump petrol, he waited there for one hour in the hot sun and once he pumped petrol, he crossed the road and fell on the road. He was dead by the time he got to the hospital." 

Another woman, Susila Irangani said to The Telegraph UK that finding food for her family is becoming more and more difficult each day.

"We used to have three meals a day but now we are having to skip dinner because of the little income that we have. This is all because of the increase in prices of essential goods," she said. "The cost of living is such that we cannot even think of having a balanced meal. How can a family like us survive with the soaring prices of essential items? Does the government want us to starve and die?"

Anti-government protests are taking place across the country.

Thousands have taken to the streets to protest against the government - and in particular there is a growing amount of pressure on the Rajapaksa family. You see, Sri Lanka has a prime minister and a president - both of which are from the same family. The Rajapaksas have been present in Sri Lanka's politics for two decades.

In 2019, president Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the election, and his victory allowed him to appoint his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister and hand key cabinet positions to other members of his family. 

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And as many have noted, Sri Lanka's government reeks of nepotism, and a bit of dodgy dealings

In the capital city of Colombo, we have seen footage of people from all walks of life coming together and chanting 'madman Gota' and 'go home Gota', referencing the president's nickname. 

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Protestors have been waving the Sri Lankan flag, holding up placards and posters and yelling messages like 'no more corrupted politicians' and 'save Sri Lanka from the Rajapaksa family'.

As one protestor explained to Al Jazeera - "This is a do-or-die moment. For the first time, people of all kinds of political and social beliefs are coming together, with non-negotiable demands for the president to resign and hand over power to people who are capable of getting us out of this socioeconomic crisis."

But amid the cries for the president and prime minister to resign, both have maintained they will not be stepping down.

Here's how the Sri Lankan government has responded.

Sri Lanka's prime minister has pleaded for "patience" in the wake of the protests. 

He said in a televised address - "Even if we can't stop this crisis in two or three days, we will solve it as soon as possible. Every minute you protest on the streets, we lose an opportunity to earn dollars for the country. Please remember that the country needs your patience at this critical moment."

Listen to the latest episode of Mamamia's news podcast The Quicky. Post continues after audio.

But little has been done to curb the fears and dire circumstances many citizens are experiencing. 

Just this week, Sri Lanka's central bank announced it will have to stop making payments on its foreign debt - which is extremely large. The government is now in need of a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, due to their economic mismanagement. 

And as demonstrations have grown, president Rajapaksa decided to sack everyone in his cabinet - apart from his brother, the prime minster.

How can Australians help Sri Lanka?

Care.org.au 

You can donate to Care.org.au to help people who are experiencing poverty in Sri Lanka. The funds go towards providing people with education and training, healthcare, clean water, food and new ways to earn an income. And in times of crisis - like right now - the funds go towards delivering emergency relief.

Sri Lanka Red Cross Society

You can donate directly to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society. It is not a government agency and depends on donations to carry out its aid work - requiring much more financial support from donors during times of crisis. 

Feature Image: Getty.