COVID-19 lockdown in a weak economy depleted foreign reserves, Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Monday, in an effort to explain the economic crisis gripping the country.
Shortages of food and fuel, along with record inflation and regular blackouts, have inflicted unprecedented misery on Sri Lankans in the most painful downturn since independence from Britain in 1948.
“We are facing this crisis, right after being faced with the pandemic. Despite knowing the country’s economy going down, we had to impose a lockdown and that’s why our foreign reserves depleted,” Rajapaksa, the elder brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said in an address to the nation.
“The president and I are spending every moment to formulate solutions on how to get Sri Lanka out of this current crisis,” he said.
In an effort to head off more protests, last week the government last week declared extra public holidays to coincide with the traditional Sinhalese and Tamil New Year.
The PM also appealed to the protesters to end their anti-government agitation and said that every minute spent on streets deprives the country of dollar inflow.
“After winning the war in 2010 we won the election, people forgot the story. But I remember. I promise there will never be rolling blackouts in the future. We made a proposal to the power plant, former government didn’t support our proposal, they are responsible for it,” he said.
Rajapaksa also alleged that the protesters were insulting the war heroes who fought against the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam, asking the youths of the country to desist from the insults.
“We ended the war [with LTTE] not to put the people of this country into this status, we constructed highways not to keep people in queues. We built ports not to idle oil ships in our ports until we find the dollars to pay for them. We will make all efforts to overcome this crisis.”
“My family and I have received more insults than anyone, but we are seasoned with such insults. But my dear sons and daughters, please do not harass the war heroes who saved our country from terrorism,” he added.