Sri Lanka is expected to close its diplomatic missions in Norway, Iraq and Australia today. The decision to reduce the country’s diplomatic
Sri Lanka is expected to close its diplomatic missions in Norway, Iraq and Australia today.
The decision to reduce the country’s diplomatic missions to 60—announced in early April—comes in response to the worst economic crisis the country has faced since independence in 1948. Various compounding factors created the crisis, including a lack of foreign reserves, agri-sector issues, ill-advised tax cuts, the war in Ukraine and the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government has poorly managed an attempted recovery from the crisis, resulting in major protests throughout the country. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s failed attempt to declare a national emergency at the beginning of April led the governing party, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, to lose its grip on power and further intensified the country’s political turmoil.
With rising public frustration and calls for the president’s resignation as well as that of his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahindra Rajapaksa, there is a risk of a heavy-handed response from the government. Such tactics, like constraining civic space, risk further polarizing the situation. Further, despite the assurance of the Sri Lankan government that the embassy closures will not affect bilateral relations, expect negative impacts on foreign direct investment, tourism and foreign employment.