Three letter word of ‘IMF’ not popular in Sri Lanka. However, after the Gotabhaya Rajapaksa government declared Sri Lanka bankrupt, many people claimed that the IMF was Sri Lanka’s only saviour. That’s because all of the opposition parties said that if the country had gone to the IMF before the bankruptcy, it might have been able to avoid it. When the ‘aragalaya’ against Gotabaya’s government began, all supporters of ‘aragalaya’ said Sri Lanka should seek assistance from the IMF.
Because anti-government elements backed them up, the IMF became Sri Lanka’s saviour. When Gotabaya began negotiations with the IMF, the opposition claimed that in order to negotiate with them IMF wanted, a new government with a new mandate formed. Following that, the concept of all-party government spread throughout the country.
Even after Gotabhaya left and Ranil became president, the opposition, civil organisations, and religious leaders in Sri Lanka expressed their opinion that a new government must be formed through a general election in order to reach an agreement with the IMF. However, Ranil disregarded public opinion and signed a staff level agreement.
All opposition parties, civil societies, and religious leaders said that even if a staff level agreement was reached in order to obtain IMF board approval a government with a mandate is needed. The opposition believes the government currently lacks a mandate. The opposition now represents the next government that comes into power as well as the opposition.
If an election held today, the two main opposition parties, the SJB and the JVP, would form the government and the opposition, respectively. Despite the fact that he had no mandate, Ranil was able to obtain IMF board approval. For this he met all IMF conditions and as a result of this, the IMF is once again become unpopular. Those who support the IMF are only Colombo’s leading businessmen and the upper middle class in the society.
Mandate-less Ranil was able to obtain an IMF loan because America, India, and Japan were concerned that a bankrupt Sri Lanka would seek Chinese assistance. During the ‘Aragalaya’ period, there was widespread anti-China sentiment, and the IMF gained popularity. Because of Ranil’s IMF deal, there is a chance that anti-IMF sentiment will resurface.
Also a majority of Sri Lankan’s believe that Ranil’s government is protecting a corrupt regime. Sri Lankans despised the IMF in 2002 and 2015 -2019 because of Ranil’s government’s efforts to implement IMF conditions. Because Ranil arrogantly implemented IMF conditions in 2004 and 2019, anti-IMF, pro-communal Chinese forces rose up.
The same thing is happening now. The looming danger here is whether Ranil will make room for the crestfallen Chinese dragon to raise its head once more. Because present IMF Ranil deal is ideal opportunity for the pro Chinese communal forces to raise their head once again.
By Upul Joseph Fernando