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tv   France 24  LINKTV  May 12, 2022 5:30am-6:00am PDT

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program. for months, protesters have been chanting go home at sri lanka's powerful political family.
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they are accused of corruption and mismanagement the economy. his resignation failed to quell public anger. they fought with antigovernment protesters. police and security fired tear gas. demonstrators tried to storm the prime minister's residence and set fire to property. the president has given the military and police powers to detain people without warrants. shortages of food, fuel and medicine brought thousands to the streets. our reporter has more from the capital. reporter: comp restored more or less in most parts of the country as a curfew is extended now. obviously help by a big presence
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of the three armed forces. we had them stop in us and check in us as to where we were going because obviously there was a curfew. many people do not seem to be listening to the curfew. behind me you see burnt out breakages. this was the scene throughout many parts of colombo. these were the buses that brought in many of the supporters of the prime minister . the protesters are demanded the resignation of the brothers. when they tried to go back to their homes, they had their just desserts. the protesters said they were given them a taste of their own medicine. they were fed up with intimidation and strong-arm
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tactics. internationally, there has been condemnation of the violence. we heard that the commissioner of human rights in geneva has condemned the violence asking for a proper investigation into what sparked the violence. the fact that the prime minister has resigned does not go far enough for the protesters. they specified that they want a clean slate, so the president and the government all need to go in order for the protesters to be appeased. anchor: sri lanka's economic crisis has been brewing since 2019 when the government started dipping into foreign reserves to pay its debt. agricultural output suffered last year when the government
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banned fertilizers and ordered farmers to go organic. by march the situation was dire. truly god could not pay for imports of fumed -- food. people faced power cuts less than up to 13 hours per day. the government tried to shut down social media and declared a state of emergency. the protest group and sri lanka's entire cabinet resigned. let's begin our guests. -- let's bring in our guests. a very warm welcome to each of you. think you for your time. i want to ask, because we have been seeing these protests
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continue for months. they have been mostly peaceful. what do you think has triggered this level of violence that we have seen? >> thank you for having me and it is a timely discussion. the protests have been rather peaceful in the last two months. we commence protests in the suburbs of colombo in early march and it spread across sri lanka. it has been peaceful all this time. what happened yesterday was there were goons associated with the government who went and attacked the peaceful protesters and continue to travel to the other side.
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peaceful for two months and the violence needs to be attributed to the prime minister and the government because so far, we do not see any coming from the protesters until yesterday. anchor: i understand there was some kind of meeting i had of the violence. some ministers were also present: for action of some sort. does that mean the government side is backing down? do you see further confrontations. >> i thought not because it has gotten out of control and there is no government, there was no prime minister, there was no cabinet. we have not seen the president. he is hiding somewhere. things are very dicey right now.
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to get the country back to some sense of normalcy we need to urgently have a government in place so that law enforcement officers can control these mobs, otherwise they could go further. anchor: this is all taking place within the context of a very dire economic crisis. the finance minister warned about policies, especially sweeping tax cuts come boots send the country bankrupt. but it seems like a level of profound anger we have seen is beyond that. there was a sense of betrayal. where is that coming from? >> essentially, the crisis is a function of the pandemic, which left deep scarring on the sri lankan economy. the policy missteps include the
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tax cut of 2019. we lost 2% of gdp, but also printing money which led to hyperinflation, which we face today. full inflation is running at practically 50%. and then you have this rapid switch from chemical fertilizers to organic fertilizers, which has radically affected agriculture. so this combination of external events and policy missteps leading us to where we are. the only other point i want to add to this is that communication by the government was very poor. people were not prepared for this dire situation we were in. this has proved to be broke. anchor: given that the
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resignation we saw of the prime minister who enacted a lot of these policies seems to have done very little to appease the protesters. many now asking if it will be the end of the political families era. he placed other family members and senior positions. four years later, getting praise for ending the civil war against the tigers. he won the presidency in 2019. he appointed his brother prime minister a year later. two other family members were also appointed ministers. many others also hold senior positions. it is believed the brothers controlled 70% of should's budget at one point. the family denies this they have
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repeatedly denied allegations of nepotism. the finance minister accused of corruption. the minister of irrigation also gone. the minister of youth and sports since the family is going through a bad patch. is it more than that? >> well, i guess. that is putting it mildly. the situation in the treasury and the central bank is nothing to be happy about. we are in serious trouble. we need some sort of bridge financing to make sure that we have sufficient fuel, gas, coal.
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without the coffers sufficiently filled to purchase these items, we have long power cuts, we have long lines for fuel. the situation is pretty bad. we need to be able to quickly put a plan in action to be able to deal with the situation, so it is more than a bad patch. it is a pretty terrible situation. anchor: looking at the leadership, is there more at stake here for them than simply staying in power? there have been allegations of human rights abuses, war crimes. put the brothers be concerned about some kind of accountability for that?
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there still has not been a proper investigation. do you think that is bleeding into this? >> i think it is a combination, but there are serious allegations in the family. this is anna corruption issues as well as what is happening during the war. very serious allegations which is now going to think you when. there were also -- which has now gone to the united nations. if they lose power, these cases can come back to haunt them. we need to recognize their needs
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to be an independent investigation. we do not have a government responsible for incitement now. there are serious allegations against many in the question is can there be accountability for all of them? this in a context where there were serious cases that were brought against them in 2015 and onwards. lots of questions were accountability can happen, but there are lots of allegations and i fear they are holding onto power because they are preventing those cases from moving forward. anchor: there is also an ethnic dimension here. the family has always -- baked
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on support. we have seen them join these protests in fairly huge numbers. is that pushing toward political change? >> in a context of post-conflict society like ours, there would be an attempt. that had not proved to be the case. if anything, there was an element of tribalism. you had multiethnic protesters coming around. this is an unforeseen development. we certainly need, if we are going to prosper, we will need to heal the wounds of the long
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conflict and the ethnic divisions we have had. no country can grow if they are ethnically divided and have these perpetual bouts of instability as we have sadly seen. we have to think about what we have done in the past. and provide a proper rule of law if we want to move forward. anchor: i was looking at some surveys. confidence in the government at record lows. the approval rating for the government was 10% back in january. how much support does the government have? what are the demographics that make up the bulk of that support? >> i do not think the government has any support any longer. yesterday was absolutely a
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turning point. they called up goons and thugs to the official residence of the prime minister and let them loose on the protesters. what they did not expect was the reaction of the general public. several people lost their lives. if there was any competence left, that dissipated yesterday. we are in a very precarious situation. that confidence needs to be rebuilt. the only way that the confidence can be rebuilt is to have a new government. hopefully the president would resign because the cry for his
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resignation has gotten even louder. otherwise, we are going to go into some crisis. of course, we are in a huge crisis. it could even worsen. i shudder to think what might happen if there is no solution in the next 24-48 hours. anchor: do you think the president might resign especially now since he has emergency powers? he has given officers the power to detain without arrest warrants. >> the power is enormous and it was consolidated under this president under the 28th amendment. this president has hurt the calls of the protesters calling for his resignation. 87% wanted the president to
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resign. that is a huge number if you think about it. a significant portion, including his own base. i do not see him leaving that easily and that is the unfortunate situation. him holding onto this office is having a huge detriment to this country and its citizens. so i fear unless more pressure is brought to make the president resign, we will see more dire times. i want to say this. the president resigning does not mean it will leap a vacuum. the constitution provides for a prime minister to be appointed and a president to be appointed by parliament. so there are specific measures provided in the constitution that can be taken very quickly as soon as the president resigns.
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anchor: if they are removed, given the dire state of the economy, the challenges are likely to continue. we could see austerity measures. this could be very painful for many people in sri lanka who are already suffering. even with these economic realities, will we see discontent continue? >> i think sri lanka can come up up this dire situation eventually if we put in place the right policies. when i have seen this elsewhere in the developing world when countries have come out of such serious situations. i have a little bit of optimism for sri lanka. but we need three things. the first is we need to restructure the foreign debt, which is held by private creditors and also the bilateral
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creditors, and that includes china and india and japan. that is a tricky conversation. the second thing is we have to agree on when to implement on macroeconomic stability and debt management. that will be a complex discussion. there is something called an enhanced program from the imf which is $1 billion per year and we will have to show substantial progress and that is the tricky bit. the third thing the government has to do is to put in place a program of structure reforms to deregulate the economy and to make sure inclusiveness. that program is essential.
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there are three important elements in that reform. we have to encourage women's participation in economic activity. women participation rates are low and this is a problem. anchor: it sounds like you were saying wholesale economic changes necessary, but let me ask you, does wholesale economic change require wholesale political change as you see it? >> yes, and i agree with him. we need to be able to get these reforms started, but you need the political will to do it. i think this is the best time to get these reforms done. but we need to ensure people are
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protected somehow. we need to be able to protect the people who are going to get the worst hit with these reforms. those are the things we are thinking about right now. that is the first thing we will need to do. the imf is fully on board with that fact. we hope that we will succeed. anchor: i want to ask you something. taken a step back from all of this, i have seen speculation on the part of various different people, that this is part of a conversation that could shake the country. do you think the protest we have seen, is this part of nation building? >> definitely. i believe we have this unique
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opportunity and i think it is a very important thing to remember. while we have seen the last few weeks citizens have come out peacefully, united. there have been some issues, but recognizing there was a lot to do, but people can be united in building this country. there is also recognition that there needs to be structural reforms brought in that changes the structure of this country. one of the key reforms is abolishing the executive presidency. reconciliation, economic justice, although of that can come together. we have a unique opportunity to push this country forward and bringing stability and economic growth. these are long-term plans. immediately what we need is to have a government that gives
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people the confidence that this is possible and that is the problem right now. anchor: it is a very tricky situation for sri lanka. thank you so much for joining us to discuss what is happening on the ground now. we will be watching it very closely. thank you to all of our guests. and thank you too for watching. you can see the program again any time by visiting our website. for further discussion, to go to our facebook page. you can also join the conversation on twitter. goodbye for now. [expletive] oh q
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