GENEVA: Sri Lanka must immediately reverse its “drift towards militarisation” and prosecute those responsible for leading the country to its unprecedented economic crisis, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The South Asian island nation has suffered acute food and fuel shortages, lengthy blackouts and spiralling inflation this year after running out of foreign currency to import essentials.

The crisis sparked months of protests against the government over economic mismanagement, culminating in a huge crowd storming the residence of the then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and chasing him from the country.

His successor Ranil Wickremesinghe has since taken a hard line against demonstrations, violently demolishing a protest camp in downtown Colombo and arresting leading activists.

“The new government should immediately reverse the drift towards militarisation, end the reliance on draconian security laws and crackdowns on peaceful protest,” the UN Human Rights Office said in its latest report on the country.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and is in final negotiations for an International Monetary Fund bailout.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2022

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