COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka marked its seventy fifth independence anniversary on Saturday as a bankrupt nation, with many voters offended, anxious and in no temper to have a good time.
Many Buddhists and Christian clergy had introduced a boycott of the celebration within the capital, whereas activists and others expressed anger at what they see as a waste of cash in a time of extreme financial disaster.
Regardless of the criticism, armed troops paraded alongside the primary esplanade in Colombo, showcasing navy gear as navy ships sailed within the sea and helicopters and plane flew over town.
Catholic priest Rev. Cyril Gamini referred to as this yr’s ceremony commemorating independence from British rule a “crime and waste” at a time when the nation is experiencing such financial hardship.
“We ask the federal government what independence they’re going to proudly have a good time by spending a sum of 200 million rupees ($548,000),” mentioned Gamini, including the Catholic Church doesn’t condone spending public cash on the celebration and that no priest would attend the ceremony.
About 7% of Sri Lanka’s 22 million folks on this Buddhist-majority nation are Christians, most of them Catholics. Regardless of being a minority, the church’s views are revered.
Distinguished Buddhist monk Rev. Omalpe Sobitha mentioned there isn’t any motive to have a good time and that the ceremony is simply an exhibition of weapons made in different international locations.
Sri Lanka is successfully bankrupt and has suspended compensation of practically $7 billion in international debt due this yr pending the end result of talks with the Worldwide Financial Fund.
The nation’s complete international debt exceeds $51 billion, of which $28 billion must be repaid by 2027. Unsustainable debt and a extreme stability of cost disaster, on prime of lingering scars from the COVID-19 pandemic, have led to a extreme scarcity of necessities reminiscent of gas, drugs and food.
The shortages led to protests final yr that compelled then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the nation and resign.
There have been indicators of enchancment beneath President Ranil Wickremesinghe, however energy cuts proceed because of the gas shortages, hospitals face drugs shortages and the treasury is struggling to boost cash to pay authorities staff’ salaries.
The financial disaster has made folks offended and apathetic towards political leaders.
To handle the nation’s bills, the federal government has elevated earnings taxes sharply and has introduced a 6% lower in funds allotted to each ministry this yr. Additionally, the navy, which had swelled to greater than 200,000 members amid an extended civil warfare, will probably be downsized by practically half by 2030.
A bunch of activists started a silent protest on Friday within the capital, condemning the federal government’s independence celebration and failure to ease the financial burden.