Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo called on the country’s president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to take full responsibility for the economic crisis and resign.
“The biggest obstacle to liberating the country from this sad situation is the fact that the Rajapaksa family continues to stay in power,” said the cardinal in a statement released on Tuesday, July 5.
The prelate said the “blatant neglect of duty” of the ruling party “has made it very clear … that this family considers their political power as being more important than the wellbeing of the people.”
“Everything done so far amounted to only political jugglery,” said Cardinal Ranjith.
He condemned “the stubborn and oppressive burdens that had been placed on people, fleecing them and stealing their money and assets of the country in a corrupt manner.”
“People are spending days in queues going through untold hardships to obtain essentials and the government has no cohesive plan or project which could definitely free them from this situation,” said the cardinal.
“On behalf of the suffering people,” Cardinal Ranjith urged Rajapaksa and his government “to accept responsibility for the sad situation and to step down from their positions.”
The Church leader said the president and his government “have no moral right to continue office anymore under these circumstances.”
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament on Tuesday that Sri Lanka is bankrupt and the unprecedented economic crisis will drag on through the end of next year.
Wickremesinghe said the once-prosperous country would go into deep recession this year and acute shortages of food, fuel and medicine would continue.
“We will have to face difficulties in 2023 as well,” the premier said. “This is the truth. This is the reality.”
He said Sri Lanka’s ongoing bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund depended on finalizing a debt restructuring plan with creditors by August.
“We are now participating in the negotiations as a bankrupt country,” Wickremesinghe said.
“Due to the state of bankruptcy our country is in, we have to submit a plan on our debt sustainability to them separately. Only when (the IMF) are satisfied with that plan can we reach an agreement.”
The IMF last week said more work was needed to set the nation’s finances right and repair its runaway fiscal deficit before a deal could be struck on a funding arrangement to address its balance of payments crisis.
It has also told authorities to do more to fight corruption and bring an end to costly energy subsidies that had long been a drain on the government budget.
Sri Lanka is almost entirely without petrol and the government has shut down non-essential public services in an effort to conserve fuel.
There have been clashes outside the few petrol stations still selling fuel, with tens of thousands lining up for the slim chance of securing limited supplies and no fresh stocks expected for at least two weeks.
The United Nations estimates that about 80 percent of the public are skipping meals to cope with food shortages and record prices.
Wickremesinghe said the IMF expected Sri Lanka’s economy to shrink by seven percent this year, even worse than the dire forecasts issued by the country’s central bank.
He said inflation could climb above 60 percent, and rapid currency depreciation over the past few months had wiped out the value of savings by half. – with a report from AFP