What Led to Resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka PM: A Timeline of Events in Island Nation


oi-Prakash KL


Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2022, 12:07 [IST]

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New Delhi, May 10: The anti-government protests in Sri Lanka triggered by the island nation’s first economic turmoil turned out to be a tsunami that forced Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign as the prime minister of the country.

The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.

Timeline of events that led to Mahinda Rajapaksas resignation as Sri Lanka PM

Thousands of demonstrators have hit the streets across Sri Lanka since April 9 seeking the resignation of President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda, as the government ran out of money for vital imports; Prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed and there are acute shortages in fuel, medicines and electricity supply.

Here’s the timeline of the crisis that led to Rajapaksa’s resignation:

March 16: Tens of thousands of supporters of the opposition party, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa, carried out protests in front of the President’s office, demanding that the President resign from his position.

March 31: Hundreds of protesters held a demonstration at Pangiriwatte Road, Mirihana, where President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence is situated. Hundreds stormed the home of the President on Thursday night, demanding his resignation.

The protest was initially spontaneous and peaceful until the police attacked the protesters with tear gas and water cannons. Protesters then set fire to two military buses and a police jeep, hurled stones at officers, and blocked Colombo’s main highway by burning tires.

April 1: Over 300 lawyers appeared at the Mirihana Police to represent the arrested protesters free of charge. A statement from the president’s office said the protests were led by extremist forces who were inviting the Arab Spring to destabilize the country.

April 2: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared a nationwide public emergency. A 36-hour island-wide curfew was imposed from 6:00 pm on the same day until 6:00 am on 4 April. The sudden announcement resulted in panic-buying, creating long lines of people outside supermarkets and pharmacies.

April 3: Social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube blocked for 15 hours.

April 3: Oshada Senanayake, the Chairman of the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka, tendered his resignation amidst the social media blackout, stating that he was standing by his ethos and principles.

April 3: Several Rajapaksa cabinet ministers submitted their resignation letters. Those resigning included the Sports and Youth Minister and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son Namal Rajapaksa.

April 4: Central Bank governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal also resigned as a result of growing public anger.

April 4: President Rajapaksa invited the opposition to join his proposed unity government to find a solution to the crisis.

April 4: Gotabaya Rajapaksa reshuffled the ministerial portfolios by swearing in Ali Sabry as Finance Minister, GL Peiris as Foreign Minister, Dinesh Gunawardena as Education Minister, and Johnston Fernando as Minister of Highways.

April 5: The reconvened parliament for the first time since the state of emergency began to discuss the current state of affairs. The ruling party loses support from its key allies.

April 5: The Government Medical Officers’ Association and government doctors staged protests against the government, and the Government Medical Officers’ Association declared a national health emergency due to the limited supply of essential medicines.

April 5: Gotabaya Rajapaksa revoked the state of emergency effective on midnight of 5 April.

April 7: Former deputy governor of Central Bank Nandalal Weerasinghe resumes duties as CBSL governor.

April 8: Sri Lanka cricket legends including Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama raise their voice against the government.

April 9: Tens of thousands of gathered in large numbers joined the people in Galle Face to make it one of the largest street protesters in Sri Lanka.

April 11: Shiraz Shiraz, a popular Sri Lankan rapper died due to a sudden heart attack during the protests which also marked the first death reported directly with the Galle Face protests.

April 15: Former Sri Lankan cricketer Dhammika Prasad went on a hunger strike for 24 hours urging the leaders of Sri Lanka to give justice to the Easter Sunday attack victims and urged that immediate measures to be taken to ease the burden of the economic crisis on the population.

Former Sri Lankan cricketers Arjuna Ranatunga and Sidath Wettimuny joined the Galle Face protests.

April 18: Some Sri Lankan social media users on Twitter called for American billionaire investor Elon Musk to buy Sri Lanka, which has a debt burden of US$45 billion, instead of buying Twitter for US$43 billion and urged him to rename himself Ceylon Musk.

April 19: People, who were standing in long queues to obtain fuel since early morning on 19 April, staged a protest at the Rambukkana Crossing by obstructing the railway tracks, completely blocking the area. The protesters blocked all entry and exit roads to Rambukkana town for more than 15 hours.

April 29: The protestors blindfolded the statue of the former Prime Minister of Ceylon, SWRD Bandaranaike who was known for bringing controversial infamous Sinhala Only Act in 1956.

May 6: President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa declared a second state of emergency.

May 9: Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after clinging on to power for weeks, following first anti-government protesters demanding his ouster as well as the administration led by his younger brother and Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the country’s crisis that led to acute shortages of staple food, fuel and power.

Story first published: Tuesday, May 10, 2022, 12:07 [IST]

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