Timeline of Sri Lanka crisis

Sri Lanka emerged from devastating civil war in 2009 only to be rocked by bombings in 2019 and then have its economy walloped by Covid.
Timeline of Sri Lanka crisis
Demonstrators and government supporters clash outside the President's office in ColomboAFP

COLOMBO: The two-month-old crisis in Sri Lanka deepened on Tuesday, with the government ordering troops to shoot looters on sight after a day of violence, which saw mobs torch houses belonging to the ruling Rajapaksa clan and the prime minister resign.

Protesters took to the streets in March demanding new leadership over acute shortages of food, fuel and other essentials.

The South Asian country emerged from a devastating civil war in 2009 only to be rocked by Islamist bombings in 2019 and then have its economy walloped by the Covid-19 pandemic, which left the island bereft of tourists.

Here is how the crisis unfolded:

March 31: President's home threatened

Demonstrators stand near a bus that was set on fire at the top of the road to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence during a protest in Colombo
Demonstrators stand near a bus that was set on fire at the top of the road to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's residence during a protest in ColomboReuters

Hundreds of protesters, rallied by unidentified social media activists, try to storm the home of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, demanding his resignation.

April 1: State of emergency

As protests spread, Rajapaksa declares a state of emergency, giving security forces sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects.

April 2: Troops deployed, curfew

Soldiers secure and cordon off the area near Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's home in Colombo
Soldiers secure and cordon off the area near Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's home in ColomboAFP

Sri Lanka declares a 36-hour nationwide curfew and deploys troops.

April 3: Cabinet resigns

Almost all of Sri Lanka's cabinet resigns at a late-night meeting, leaving Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda -- the prime minister -- isolated.

April 4: More resignations

Gotabaya Rajapaksa offers to share power with the opposition under a unity administration led by him and Mahinda, but is rebuffed.

The governor of the central bank, having resisted calls to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), announces his resignation.

April 5: President loses majority

President Rajapaksa's problems deepen as finance minister Ali Sabry resigns just a day after he was appointed.

The embattled leader loses his parliamentary majority as former allies urge him to quit. He lifts the state of emergency.

April 9: Biggest street protest

Tens of thousands march on the president's office, demanding that Rajapaksa resign.

April 10: Medicine shortages

Sri Lanka's doctors say they are nearly out of life-saving medicines, warning that the crisis could end up killing more than the coronavirus pandemic.

April 12: External debt default

The country announces it is defaulting on its external debt of $51 billion as a "last resort" after running out of foreign exchange to import desperately needed goods.

April 18: New government

The president unveils a new government, ousting two of his brothers and a nephew but keeping on his eldest brother Mahinda as prime minister.

April 19: First casualty

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna party activists and supporters take part in an anti-government demonstration in Colombo
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna party activists and supporters take part in an anti-government demonstration in Colombo AFP

Police kill a protester, the first casualty of several weeks of anti-government protests.

The next day the IMF says it has asked Sri Lanka to restructure its colossal external debt before a rescue package can be agreed.

April 28: General strikes

Men walk past closed shops at the Fifth Cross Street wholesale market in Colombo following a one-day general strike called by trade unions on April 28, 2022
Men walk past closed shops at the Fifth Cross Street wholesale market in Colombo following a one-day general strike called by trade unions on April 28, 2022AFP

A general strike brings the country to a standstill.

May 6: New state of emergency

Protestors participate in an ongoing anti-government demonstration outside the President's office in Colombo
Protestors participate in an ongoing anti-government demonstration outside the President's office in ColomboAFP

After a second strike, Rajapaksa declares another state of emergency.

May 9: Day of violence

Vehicles of Sri Lanka's ruling party supporters burn after set on fire during a clash with anti-government demonstrators, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Vehicles of Sri Lanka's ruling party supporters burn after set on fire during a clash with anti-government demonstrators, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri LankaReuters

The government sends troops onto the streets after several people are killed in clashes between anti-government demonstrators and supporters of the premier bussed in from the countryside, who are accused of attacking peaceful protesters.

Mahinda Rajapaksa resigns as prime minister.

He has to be rescued by the military after thousands of protesters storm his residence in Colombo.

Demonstrators torch several homes belonging to his clan around the country as well as the homes of several pro-Rajapaksa politicians.

A lawmaker from the ruling party shoots two anti-government protesters, killing one, then takes his own life during a confrontation outside the capital.

Another ruling-party politician kills two protesters in the south of the island.

The authorities announce a nationwide curfew.

May 10: Shoot-to-kill orders

The defence ministry orders troops to shoot on sight anyone involved in looting or "causing harm to life".

But protesters continue to defy the government curfew.

The top police officer in Colombo is assaulted and his vehicle set ablaze.

May 11: Sri Lankan President flags racial, religious disharmony

A government supporter carries a national flag outside the president's office in Colombo
A government supporter carries a national flag outside the president's office in ColomboAP

Sri Lanka’s president urged people on Wednesday to reject what he called attempts to foment racial and religious disharmony, as clashes broke out in many parts of the country over the government’s handling of a devastating economic crisis.

May 12: Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed as new Sri Lanka PM

Ranil Wickremesinghe
Ranil WickremesingheReuters

Ranil Wickremesinghe, a political veteran who has been prime minister of the island nation five times before, faces the daunting task of leading his country through its worst economic crisis since independence.

Rajapaksa, whose elder brother Wickremesinghe replaced as Prime Minister, has called nationwide curfews and given security forces sweeping powers to shoot at anyone involved in looting or putting people's lives at risk.

"We are facing a crisis and we need to get out of it," the 73-year-old leader said.

"First step is to get into the PM office. We have an economic action plan and crucial ministers will be appointed soon. I will lift the economy," he added.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Parliament to discuss no-trust motion against president on May 17.

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