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Insights and Analysis

Sri Lanka’s 75th Year of Independence Marred by Economic, Political Woes

February 8, 2023

By John Rieger and Tracie Yang

Sri Lanka’s 75th anniversary arrives at a moment of peril and, perhaps, possibility for this nation of about 21 million in the Indian Ocean. Once admired as a model of economic development, Sri Lanka has been beset by turmoil since the country defaulted last April on its foreign debt. The event sent tremors through the economy, creating widespread suffering and political protest among a population that still harbors some of the divisions of the 30-year civil war that ended in 2009. 

Last week’s independence day observances struck a dissonant note as the dire economic situation left Sri Lankans with little reason to celebrate. But our guest this week says she places her hopes in the nation’s young people and the spirit of social and political change that swept the country in huge demonstrations last summer. It’s a precarious situation, says Dinesha de Silva, the Asia Foundation’s country representative in Sri Lanka, who joins us this week from Colombo with insights into the real story.



Protesters fill the streets of Colombo ahead of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation last July. (Photo: Sakuna Miyasinadha Gamage)

Related locations: Sri Lanka


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