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Sri Lanka is on the verge of becoming a failed state, bishops say – Eurasia Review

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(UCA News) – Catholic bishops have called for unity among politicians to prevent Sri Lanka from becoming a failed state.

Bishop Winston S. Fernando, president of the Episcopal Conference of Sri Lanka, said successive governments were to varying degrees responsible for the current situation.

“The country is rapidly approaching the precipice of a failed state which will inflict irreversible wounds on the people in its wake,” the Prelate said in a statement on behalf of the Bishops.

The South Asian nation of 22 million is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948 after its foreign exchange reserves hit a record high.

The shortage of dollars has caused power shortages affecting all sectors while soaring prices of essential goods have disrupted life across the country.

The Bishops urged all Catholic institutions, parishes and private institutions as well as men and women of goodwill to organize assistance to help those seriously affected by the economic crisis.

“Leaders have an obligation to serve all citizens by putting the country first and not out of political expediency but out of principle,” Bishop Fernando said.

“What the country needs is an immediate solution to remedy the critical situation and to work on short and long term solutions to put the country on a solid foundation of sustainable development.”

Sri Lanka needs nearly $7 billion to service its external debt this year.

Thousands of people gathered on March 31 near the private residence of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to protest against rising prices and demand his resignation. Police fired tear gas and imposed a curfew for a few hours. Nearly 50 people were injured.

There were strict roadblocks and the police and army were deployed to prevent protesters from entering the president’s house.

The crisis has caused massive public anger, with people unable to find cooking gas, medicine, fuel and basic foodstuffs like powdered milk because the country has run out of foreign currency to pay for imported goods.

Hundreds of people chanted for Rajapaksa and the entire cabinet to resign in the face of the crisis. Videos circulating on social media showed protesters shouting “Lunatic go home”.

Without air conditioners and fans, people suffocate during 10-12 hour power outages. The government does not have the money to pay for the fuel needed by the power stations.

People with serious health problems are struggling to find medicine, and hospitals have canceled operations because they don’t have diesel to run generators during blackouts.

The government turned off street lights to save electricity. Mobile phones have been affected as emergency generators used at telephone base stations have run out of diesel.

The government’s decision to embrace organic farming last year proved disastrous. The ban on all chemical fertilizers has led to soaring prices and food shortages. Although the policy was partially reversed later, the damage had been done

Activist Nuwani De Silva said people had to queue from morning to night to buy essential items.

“How do we manage our daily work with a 12-hour power outage? People are in an aggressive mood all over the country,” she said. “Wherever government ministers are seen in the streets, the public protests against them.”

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo recently called for national transformation to deal with the crisis.

“The country is today in a hopeless situation and it is the result of a series of bad choices made not only by politicians but also by citizens who allowed themselves to be exploited by the political and cultural forces that transmitted our destiny,” the cardinal said at the Anglican Cathedral in Colombo on March 27, Ranjith said.