Sri Lankan Buddhist monks call for help for those who are suffering

Sri Lanka

Government urged to be sensitive to people’s plight as national economic crisis deepens

Sri Lankans line up to buy household kerosene at a gas station in Colombo on March 21. (Photo: AFP)

Sri Lanka’s top Buddhist prelates have urged the government to formulate a national policy to come to the aid of those affected by the economic crisis in the country.

Fri. Thibbatuwawe Sri Sumangala Thera of the Malwatta Chapter and Ven. Warakagoda Gnanaratana Thera of Asgiriya Chapter called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to convene a conference of local and foreign scholars to come up with a plan for sustainable development.

“Restructure the public debt, reduce the cost of living, provide relief to low-income people, formulate a sustainable plan to prevent waste, corruption and misuse of resources,” the chief monks said in a letter to the President on March 21.

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They further underscored the need to enforce the law against scammers who artificially create a shortage of essential commodities for ill-gotten financial gains in the face of the economic crisis.

Sri Lanka’s inflation rate has reached 17.5%, the highest ever recorded in the island nation’s history. The country has requested a $2.5 billion loan from China.

Long queues have formed across the country to fill up on petrol and diesel or buy essentials like powdered milk, medicine and groceries amid crippling shortages and cuts daily power.

The government said it had also written to the International Monetary Fund requesting technical support to manage the economic crisis.

Canada and the United Kingdom warned their citizens of the dire economic situation even as military troops were deployed at gas stations and on the streets to ensure calm.

The Prelates commended President Rajapaksa for his visionary work for the security and sovereignty of the country, but stressed the need for full commitment from all parliamentarians to build the country economically.

They further called for being sensitive to the plight of the people at the time of the disaster, regardless of political affiliations.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Kingsley Ratnayake denied reports circulating on social media that President Rajapaksa was considering stepping down.

The president appointed an advisory committee to assist the National Economic Council, which sought to “immediately appoint a technical team to formulate programs proposing international financial assistance”.

The government said it had also written to the International Monetary Fund requesting technical support to manage the economic crisis.

Thousands of people have demonstrated outside the president’s office over the past two weeks to demand that the government find solutions to the worsening crisis or relinquish power.

A Catholic nun who did not want to be named said the country was struggling to pay for imports with little foreign currency in the economy. “We elected corrupt and selfish politicians as leaders,” she said.

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