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Sri Lankan bishops urge relief package for poor

Statement signed by 15 bishops calls for government to take drastic action to tackle economic crisis

A woman buys kerosene for home use at a petrol station in Colombo on March 25 as Sri Lanka grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades

A woman buys kerosene for home use at a petrol station in Colombo on March 25 as Sri Lanka grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 17, 2022 10:32 AM GMT

Updated: June 20, 2022 06:23 AM GMT

Sri Lankan bishops have urged the government to provide a relief package for the poor amid the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

The foreign exchange crisis has led to a shortage of essential commodities while people queue for hours at petrol stations amid continuous power cuts.

"People are stranded without the basic needs such as food, fuel and gas," Bishop Harold Anthony Perera, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, said in a statement signed by 15 bishops.

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"The political and economic crisis has made people suffer unjustly. Those responsible for this horrendous crisis are yet to be exposed.

"We do not see an organized mechanism and plan by the government to monitor the situation on a daily basis and come up with speedy solutions. The failure of the system has compelled the entire population to clamor for radical change." 

Nationwide demonstrations over the past few weeks have demanded the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government over the mismanagement of the economy.

"We earnestly urge the government to take drastic steps to address these issues and bring about justice, equity and open the way for our children and youth to have a country to live with dignity"

"We call on all concerned to desist from violence and we insist that the government respect the legitimate right to freedom of expression and movement assured by the constitution," said the bishops.

"It is only by addressing these issues expeditiously that the country will be able to move forward with the hope for more long-term solutions, such as agricultural self-sustenance, an export-oriented economy, foreign investment and tourism together with the guidance of the spiritual leaders in our motherland.

"We earnestly urge the government to take drastic steps to address these issues and bring about justice, equity and open the way for our children and youth to have a country to live with dignity." 

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo said Sri Lankans have become beggars.

"The present rulers came to power saying that they led the country to the miracle of Asia. Where is that prosperity today?" Cardinal Ranjith asked while presiding at the feast of St. Anthony in Kochchikade.

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