Colombo: Sri Lanka is facing a large-scale economic crisis, a level of economic emergency of unprecedented nature, with nationwide anti-government protests demanding the resignation of the country's president Gotabaya Rajpaksa.
Sri Lanka has been suffering from the worst economic crisis in its history since gaining independence. The dire economic situation was caused by shortages of foreign currency as tourist flows dried up during the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing the country from purchasing enough fuel.
The pandemic has also negatively impacted remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad. There is an acute shortage of food and basic necessities, including fuel and gas, with many parts of the island nation facing lengthy power blackouts.
Faced with economic hardship, Colombo-based taxi and auto drivers are now forced to sell the national flag at the protest site Galle Face for their livelihood.
Piyal, who used to drive auto-taxi in Colombo, is now selling flags on the road for livelihood.
"I am basically an auto driver and due to shortage of petrol...and everyday curfew announcement by the government, I am selling flags on the road at the Galle Face protest site. Earlier, I earned around rupees 2500-3000 a day. But for several days, I did not earn enough from auto-taxi," Piyal told ANI.
Piyal has a family of four is now earning his livelihood by selling flags. As the country is facing economic uncertainty, Piyal himself is not sure about his future.
"Not able to earn much money by selling flags, but so far better than auto-taxi business. Sri Lanka is facing very tough and difficult times. No gas, no food, and no diesel fuel are available. Tell me what we should do... How to run my family," he said.
On the occasion of the Vesak festival, the Galle Face protest site has been decorated, with anti-government protests continuing to press for the demand for Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's resignation.
Auto taxi drivers selling the flag are thankful that the protest is counting in the Galle Face and people are finally buying the flag to participate in the anti-government protest site.
Another Sri Lankan, Nalinder, who is unhappy with the country's failing economy, reached at the Galle Face protest site. He works as a manager in an India-based company and bought a flag for his daughter as he feels for countrymen like Piyal.
"My country's economy is at its lowest level. We want to build our country's economy, so supporting my country and that's why my family is here at the protest site. I bought at least one flag from an auto driver who is selling flags because he is not able to manage fuel for their autos," Nalinder told ANI.
Nalinder believes it's the corrupt government and the mismanagement of politicians that has led the people of Sri Lankan to this crisis.
"Due to corrupt politicians, Sri Lanka is going down with the economy. They have to do many things but they are not doing enough for the country. That is why my country's economy is very bad now. The people of Sri Lanka want to change," he said.