After demonstrators broke into his office, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe instructed the military to do “whatever is necessary to restore order.” Since former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has fled the nation, Mr. Wickremesinghe has been chosen to function as the country’s acting leader. But here lies a more truthful question as Sri Lankans’ rage surmounts: How will the role of military force help address the turmoil in Sri Lanka? Or is this another form of a band-aid solution as the acting minister grapples with the effects of their failing economy?

According to witnesses, the protestors who besieged Wickremesinghe’s office were believed to have burst through military defenses. It was vague if security forces would have used “live ammunition” on demonstrators. However, it has been the case since May that the army has been given orders to use any means needed to remove violent riots. On April 22, over thirty demonstrators were shot in a single incident; one of those protestors later died from their injuries. This was the first multiple shootings that have transpired since the uprising started.

The island nation, plagued for months by a global recession that has prompted severe food insecurity and diminishing gasoline supplies, has been rattled by more demonstrations due to the decision to leave Wickremesinghe in charge of the government. Michelle Bachelet, who is in charge of human rights at the United Nations, has already requested the Sri Lanka government in May to prevent more violence by tackling the nation’s economic woes with civil conversation. The tension that has built up over the past few weeks due to rising costs, dwindling supplies of fuel, and intermittent power supply have had a significant impact on the country. After reports surfaced of supporters of the prime minister attacking demonstrators in the nation’s capital, Colombo, peaceful demonstrations quickly escalated into violent riots, which ultimately resulted in the assault of members of the ruling party by violent protesters.

2022 Sri Lankan economic crisis, people waited a long time to refill liquefied petroleum gas cylinders. (Source: AntanOCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

What’s going on in Sri Lanka?

The critical tourism industry of Sri Lanka was hit hard for the first time in 2019 by Islamist extremist bomb blasts on religious institutions and hotels. Then again, in 2020, the coronavirus-19 pandemic killed thousands of people.

Sri Lanka ran out of the foreign currency required to acquire everything from medications, food, and fuel after the state authorities lowered taxes, weakening the country’s feeble resources. As a result, even with backing from India and other countries, the government foreclosed in April on its $51 billion stack of foreign debt, and it’s been in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for several months regarding a possible bailout.

According to an analyst from Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University, the country’s alleged inflation rates are second only to those of Zimbabwe, making it difficult for many Sri Lankans to purchase the things they need since they are either unavailable or priced beyond their price range.

The United Nations has issued a grave warning that Sri Lanka is on the verge of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, with millions already needing financial and physical protection. According to the United Nations, more than three-quarters of the population had decreased the amount of food they consumed as a result of the severe food shortages in the country. About Sixty-one percent of households routinely utilize “coping mechanisms” to reduce overall economic costs. These techniques include lowering the quantity that they consume and eating meals that are growing less healthy.

And because the chances of making a sufficient income in the medium to long term for an estimated 200,000 families are shrinking, the United Nations food relief agency believes that even more individuals will resort to these coping mechanisms if the situation in Sri Lanka continues to worsen.