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Watching My Country Drown from Ten Thousand Miles Away

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I was woken up at 4 am by my mother calling me from Sri Lanka. There was a sense of impending doom in the air as she spoke to me in a trembling voice very unlike her usual character. My social media feed was full of angry and depressing political material. My sisters were texting me pictures of the candle-lit dinner they had the night before. It was a little different from the candle-lit dinner they had two nights before, three nights before, and every night before that several weeks ago. Candle-lit dinners are usually romantic, but when done too frequently, they get stale and frustrating. My family and friends are annoyed with the many aromantic candle-lit dinners they’ve had. While you may think the opposite, candle-lit dinners and corrupt governments have more in common than you think. On the 18th of November 2019, I remember my parents shaking their heads in disbelief and gloom at the television. In stark contrast, our neighbors were lighting firecrackers, celebrating what was the beginning of the end for a small island nation; the election of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the 7th president of Sri Lanka. 

 The daily power cuts are 13 hours long, and several people have died while waiting in line to purchase fuel.

The majority claim to have voted for him because he was the only presidential candidate who “gave them (The Sinhalese) hope” in terms of national security, island-wide glory, and economic prosperity. A third of the population, mostly comprising of ethnic minorities, knew better than to vote for a war criminal whose family is responsible for embezzling trillions of rupees. The Rajapaksa family, or dynasty, as they are now, is notorious for their nationalist agenda. They preach patriotism and pride every time they address the nation. Any person with naivety would think they’d service the country because that is how nationalist they are. So how is it that Sri Lanka is facing the worst recession they have ever faced when neighboring South Asian countries have great things going for their economies?

The current situation continues to surprise me by becoming worse with every passing day. The foreign exchange reserves have depleted at an alarmingly high rate, and the government has nothing to purchase petroleum with. The people in Sri Lanka have no food, no fuel, and no electricity. The daily power cuts are 13 hours long, and several people have died while waiting in line to purchase fuel. The government tells them that they have to sacrifice their needs for the country while politicians enjoy free electricity and fuel, not giving a flying quack about the livelihoods of the people they are supposed to represent. Students cannot concentrate in school, and parents worry about feeding their children. The civilians realized that their government was not going to keep its promises. They waited in the dark, sweating profusely, hopeless, and starving, for 2 months. The Sri Lankans have had enough. And so, they took to the streets.

I have done nothing but procrastinate my assignments to keep up with the news of the protests. My parents call me twice a day, telling me that they cannot wait until Sunday. Come April 3rd, the whole nation will have rallied against their abusive government. Civilians of all castes, genders, and races have already taken to the streets because this theft cannot go on for longer. I watch live updates of the protests that have taken place in front of the president’s house with massive respect for the protestors. However, I can’t help but feel afraid for my friends and family. The Rajapaksas will not respond kindly to what they claim is “terrorism” but is in fact retaliation for their ruin of the nation. Gotabhaya has already declared a National State of Emergency, allowing the military to revoke the rights of any civilian who threatens national security. Social media has been blacked out, disconnecting millions of people from each other. Sri Lanka has entered a crucial new stage, and a bloodbath is inevitable. 

While I sit in my room in my relatives’ air-conditioned house, eating strawberries and browsing through Instagram while connected to fast Wi-Fi, my friends and family will be out on the streets, fighting against the tear gas the police will set on them, resisting arrest, rebelling against the monsters who took away their everything. Not everyone will make it out alive. I am ten-thousand miles away from my country, safe from the injustice and violence that my loved ones are experiencing in the first person. I have never felt more helpless. 

(I have created a document with a few links you can check out if you’re interested in educating yourself!)

Hi! I’m a Sri Lankan student studying in the US; I love dogs, biology, spicy food, debate, bullet journaling and the color purple. You might find me obsessing over Sherlock and The Big Bang Theory, or drawing characters from Disney’s Tangled :)
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