Sri Lanka’s leading Catholic prelate has called for snap elections so the country can select new leadership amid a protracted economic crisis and what critics see as increasingly harsh crackdowns on anti-government protests. Source: Crux.
Speaking at a ceremony held to mark the centenary of St Anthony’s College Katana, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said an election is necessary as it is not possible to develop the country with rulers who do not love their nation.
“You cannot have a future with those who only think of their survival without thinking of the country’s future,” the 75-year-old prelate said.
Economic mismanagement, coupled with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, left Sri Lanka short of foreign currency reserves for essential imports at the beginning of 2022, triggering the island nation’s worst economic crisis in seven decades.
Severe shortages of food, medicine and fuel led to street protests that forced then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country and resign.
A new government under Ranil Wickremesinghe came to power last July and negotiated a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund, the third since a long-running civil war in Sri Lanka finally ended in 2009.
Though economic pressures have begun to ease somewhat, there is still widespread discontent in Sri Lanka.
Earlier this month, authorities fired tear gas and water cannons on students protesting in the national capital of Colombo to demand the release of dozens of anti-government activists arrested during protests a year ago.
Amid the unrest, the Wickremesinghe government, which came to power without an election, has repeatedly delayed plans for a new round of voting.
Under Sri Lankan law, the next presidential election must be held sometime before September 2024. Cardinal Ranjith, however, is insisting on moving to a vote immediately.
“We call for an election so that everyone who is over 18 years of age can decide on the nation’s future,” he said. “All we see today is an effort to bring in legislation to suppress the people’s rights.”