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Archbishop condemns Sri Lanka's politicians: ‘They fooled the people, our flock’

by Glyn Jones
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As Sri Lanka faces its worst economic crisis in decades, the Archbishop of Columbo has put the blame on the country's president and politicians. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith fears there will be more protests, demonstrations and violence as prices spiral.

The value of the Sri Lankan rupee has dropped, and for the first time in its history, the country has defaulted on its international debt. As a result, there are severe shortages of imported products including food, fuel and fertiliser.

On Tuesday, a government minister said Sri Lanka will shut schools and only allow fuel supplies to services deemed essential like health, trains and buses for two weeks in a desperate attempt to deal with the severe shortage.

The Archbishop of Colombo said conditions are grave for large numbers of ordinary people.

"In families of fishermen, estate workers and slum-dwellers there is starvation, especially among children,” he told Premier.

"The entire hospital administration has become helpless with the lack of medicines. And many hospitals are closing down one-by-one.

"So, all of this is affecting our people extremely negatively and there is a lot of suffering."

The economic crisis has already resulted in violence in the South Asian country. Earlier in June, police opened fire on a demonstration against rising fuel prices in Visuvamadu, a town 200 miles north of the capital Colombo.

Cardinal Ranjith fears there could be more civil unrest.

"We are worried about it,” he said. “We don't want violence. We want people to be looked after."

The 74-year-old archbishop has blamed Sri Lanka's politicians for the crisis and said they have "fooled the people, out flock."

"All of this has been the result of mismanagement and absolutism of the rulers. And as a result the people are suffering.

"The President is living in a bunker and surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of soldiers and police. He has no dealings with the people."

Sri Lanka's top Catholic said he felt obliged to use the strongest language to condemn the country's politicians, at one point telling Premier they are "absolutely clueless" and have "failed the people".

"As a Catholic and as a disciple of Jesus Christ, we have to follow his teaching,” he said. "So we cannot be unconcerned about the suffering of our people. We have to stand with them.

"That is what we are doing and that is why we should be speaking out."

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