Sri Lanka has been engulfed by unprecedented crises as a results of state policies on the economy and social issues, says the Australian Advocacy for Good Governance in Sri Lanka.
In a statement by its president Dr. Lionel Bopage, the group says from food security to human rights and freedom, various aspects of day-to-day life have been adversely and very badly affected.
The government’s responses to IMF conditions lead to human rights violations and worsen their sufferings, rather than easing their difficulties, says the statement.
Strongly condemning authoritarian actions by the executive against democracy, the group calls upon all like-minded groups and organizations to pay their attention to Sri Lanka’s plight and cooperate with her people in this time of challenges.
The statement further said;
The people of Sri Lanka are facing unprecedented crises, as the government's policies aimed at addressing economic challenges and social issues have led to widespread suffering among the population. The situation is dire, and various aspects of daily life - from food security to human rights and freedoms are affected.
The government's response to economic challenges in compliance with conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has come under intense scrutiny for undermining human rights and exacerbating the plight of the people rather than alleviating their hardships.
A shocking revelation is that more than 17 percent of the population is grappling with some form of food insecurity, requiring urgent assistance. According to the United Nations, an alarming 31 percent of children under the age of 5 are malnourished, highlighting the severity of the crisis.
With ongoing issues of corruption, wastage, and mismanagement, the economic burden on the citizens is further intensified by the doubling of the Value Added Tax (VAT). An 18% VAT has been introduced even for basic needs such as food and textbooks. Measures of social protection are not only inadequate but are also politicised, leaving vulnerable communities in dire straits. And the burden of the economic recovery process falls disproportionately on individuals with low incomes, exacerbating inequality.
Adding to the growing concerns are new repressive measures aimed at curtailing freedoms of expression and association. A proposed counterterrorism law threatens to grant authorities sweeping powers to suppress dissent, raising fears about the erosion of democratic values. Disturbingly discriminatory policies and social exclusion of non-majority communities persist, deepening social divisions.
Furthermore, the Online Safety Commission that will be established under the new Online Safety Act is set to control social media, impose over-censorship, and may demand removal of content within 24 hours without judicial oversight. Online satirical jokes may no longer be able to be used to expose corrupt and dishonest politicians. We vehemently condemn these measures, which use executive powers to undermine democracy and impose them without inclusive consultation.
We urge the various civil society groups in Sri Lanka, the diaspora community, and like-minded international organizations to take notice of the unfolding crises and stand in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka who are facing the full brunt of these challenging times. Humanitarian assistance and diplomatic efforts are essential to address the pressing issues and to ensure that the government adopts just policies that prioritize the well-being of its citizens.
Dr. Lionel Bopage
President, Australian Advocacy for Good Governance in Sri Lanka