Crisis could cause starvation, warns Sri Lankan Speaker

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Sri Lanka’s crippling economic crisis risks causing starvation across the island nation of 22 million while acute shortages of essentials and debilitating blackouts will get worse, the speaker of parliament warned on Thursday.

Scarce supplies of food and fuel, along with re-cord inflation and electricity rationing, have inflicted widespread misery in the country’s most painful downturn since independence from Britain in 1948.

Public anger is at a fever pitch, with crowds at-tempting to storm the homes of several government figures — including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa — and large demonstrations elsewhere.

Parliamentary Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abey-wardana told legislators that more hardships were to come as the country appeared at the brink of a po-litical impasse.

“We are told this is the worst crisis, but I think this is just the beginning,” Abeywardana said at the start of a two-day debate on the worsening economic woes.

“The food, gas and electricity shortages will get worse. There will be very acute food shortages and starvation.” The parliamentary session was disrupted twice as opposition lawmakers shouted slogans denouncing members of Rajapaksa’s once powerful ruling family and demanding they step down.

But chief government whip Johnston Fernando vowed that the president would stay in office to shepherd the country through the crisis.

“We say very clearly that he will not resign under any circumstances,” Fernando said, drawing loud catcalls from opposition MPs.

Security forces have dispersed protests with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets, but a state of emergency imposed by the president last week to quell demonstrations was lifted at midnight.

More than 60 people had been arrested in con-nection with the unrest and many have said they were tortured in police custody.—AFP

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