By Yuri Prasad
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More workers set to join mass revolt in Sri Lanka  

Unions are beginning to understand the importance of joining the protests against the government in Sri Lanka
Issue 2803
Protests in Sri Lanka

Protesters clash with police outside the parliament of Sri Lanka in the capital Colombo (Picture: Alamy/ Dinuks Liyanawatte)

Workers’ organisations are playing an increasing role in the revolt in Sri Lanka and could prove decisive. Millions of workers struck for a day last week to demand the resignation of the hated Rajapaksa regime and an end to the economic crisis gripping the island. In the capital Colombo, thousands of trade union members joined the protesters already camping in front of president Rajapaksa’s office for nearly three weeks.

“Life has become hard in this economic crisis. Gas, electricity, food and bus fares are all overpriced at the moment,” a government worker, who wanted to stay anonymous, told reporters. With five members in her family, she says she finds it hard to provide for them with her salary which has stayed the same despite a steep hike in prices of food, medicines and fuel.

“Last year, the price of rice used to be around 99 rupees—about 22 pence. It is currently at 215,” she said. Many mainstream commentators are quick to blame the economic collapse on high levels of government borrowing. They say that this proves that there can be no break from neoliberal economic policies without incurring a catastrophe.

But the high borrowing strategy was deliberately encouraged by international markets and bankers. Between 2000 and 2020, they were more than happy to proclaim the strategy whilst Sri Lanka had some of the highest growth rates in the region. Those same bankers, now backed by the International Monetary Fund, are now demanding that working people pay for the crisis with a programme of massive austerity.

They want to see a move to “liberalise” the economy by cutting fuel and food subsidies for those who need it most. No wonder that the unions are being pushed from below to organise more protests this week and for another, bigger general strike later this month. Protesters in Sri Lanka must continue to take to the streets and demand the end of the Rajapaksa regime and austerity for good. 

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