‘They will die’: Direct call for Australia to help as Sri Lanka risks food shortage

After working for decades as a maid in the Middle East, Susai Melbin Amma returned to Sri Lanka ten years ago.
depleted her savings. With inflation at 55 percent, she had to cut her meals. The 66-year-old woman cannot afford to buy medicine, and with no cooking gas, she burns books to start a fire.
“I manage to eat as much food as I can,” she told SBS News. “All my pharmacy prescriptions are here. I can’t buy them because I need money.”

“The whole area is suffering. The mere thought of it makes me miserable.”

A driver standing in front of his taxi in Colombo, followed by a line of taxis as far as the eye can see.

Drivers queued up in Colombo for days waiting for fuel. Credit: Aaron Fernandez

caused by decades of economic mismanagement and the disastrous policies of the now deposed President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The United Nations estimates that over 60 per cent of Sri Lankans are already eating less to make ends meet.
The country’s former deputy central bank governor has made a direct request to Australia for immediate food aid.
“If you don’t help the people of Sri Lanka feed themselves, they will die,” said Dr. V. A. Wijewardena.
“If you want death in this country, you can stop helping. But if you don’t want that, feed Sri Lanka. It is necessary”.
In June, for emergency medical care and food. Foreign Secretary Penny Wong cited Australia’s longstanding relationship with the country, saying “if this crisis continues, the implications for the region will be more profound.”
Senior politicians have warned that the country may run out of food in the coming months. Minister of Energy and Energy Kanchana Viisekera asked for help from any “friendly nation”.

“Any country that comes to our aid, we appreciate it. At present, the Government of India is the only country that has provided us with a credit line,” he said.

Long wait for required materials

The ousted president of Sri Lanka, who fled to Singapore this week, has submitted his resignation via email. In that, which swallowed up the island nation.

These words offer little consolation to those who have been waiting for almost a week without seeing their family, standing in line for essentials.

Brian Jason standing in front of a line in Colombo.  He spent six days away from his wife and child, waiting for fuel.

Brian Jason spent six days away from his wife and child waiting for fuel in Colombo. Credit: Aaron Fernandez

“I stand in this line for six days, I haven’t seen my family for basically six days,” Brian Jason told SBS while waiting for fuel in Colombo.

“We don’t have petrol, we don’t have gas. We don’t have a need thanks to these corrupt politicians.”

The race is on to find the next leader of the fighting nation

The process of electing Sri Lanka’s next leader is relatively simple. There will be a vote in parliament next week, and the winner will be the one who receives a simple majority, that is, the largest number of votes.
But a much bigger test will be winning people’s trust. Massive protests forced former President Gotabay Rajapaksa to flee the country.
The favorite is acting president Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was sworn in on Friday.
Although he is not a member of the ruling Sri Lanka Popular Front Party, Mr Wickremesinghe appears to have won their nomination and the party has a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
But Wickremesinghe, 73, remains deeply unpopular due to his alleged closeness to the Rajapaksa family, and pundits told SBS News that a permanent promotion to the top job could spark further unrest.
“At this point, the conventional wisdom is that Ranil Wickremesinghe will win because the party will vote for him,” said political scientist Paikiasoti Sarawanamuttu.
“[The opposition] strongly opposed to Mr. Wickremasinghe becoming president and so there is tension and hopefully not, but nevertheless there is a high possibility that violence may ensue.”
Political scientist Dr. Paikiasoti Saravanamuttu stands at his home in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Political analyst Dr. Paikiasoti Saravanamuttu says unrest in Sri Lanka may not end after a parliamentary vote on the next president. Credit: Aaron Fernandez

Also running for president is opposition leader Sajit Premadasa, who promises to bring the former president to justice.

“We, as advocates of systemic change, must ensure that [Rajapaksa] the type of elective dictatorship never, never happens in our country,” he said.

The next general election will not take place until 2025, but the new government can legally dissolve parliament and call early elections from next March.