In 2022, Sri Lanka witnessed its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. Food and fuel shortages and rampant inflation drove protest movements across the country, culminating in the resignation of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The country continues to reckon with the aftermath of the 2022 crisis along with the lasting legacies of a nearly three-decade civil war, which ended in 2009. Priority themes of focus for USIP include transitional justice, fragility of democratic institutions, and Sri Lanka’s strategic role in the Indo-Pacific.
In late July, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe traveled to New Delhi to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The trip addressed several important issues, such as greater connectivity. However, there was one item on the agenda that did not receive much media attention despite its potential impact on Indian Ocean regional security: Sri Lanka’s new standard operating procedure (SOP) to determine which military and non-military ships and aircraft may visit the country.
One year after the Sri Lanka’s massive unrest, known as the Aragalaya protests, the country is still dealing with the aftermath of its most devastating economic crisis since independence, a government without popular support and intensifying geopolitical competition in its neighborhood. The protests, spurred by the economic crisis, led to mass resignations across the government with former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fleeing the country in July 2022. In the year since, the country has secured an IMF agreement, and its economy has ambled toward a slow path of recovery. However, there have still been concerns on the human rights front as the current government of Ranil Wickremesinghe has clamped down on further protests and continually postponed elections.
Despite loosening former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa family's powerful grip on Sri Lankan politics, there's still "a crisis of legitimacy in the country, where people see the leadership can’t deliver" on issues like reconciliation, political reform and addressing the devastating economic crisis, says USIP's Tamanna Salikuddin.