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Months-long protests in Sri Lanka, amid a worsening economic crisis and acute shortage of fuel and essential goods, finally led to the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. Mr. Mahinda, the patriarch of the Rajapaksa family that looked all powerful in the island nation until a few months ago, resigned on Tuesday after his supporters attacked peaceful anti-government protesters. Over 200 people have also been injured in the violence in Colombo and other cities. The country saw extraordinary scenes of violence, marking an abrupt fall of the Rajapaksa brand that has been dominating Sri Lanka for years. Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa was evacuated from Temple Trees, his official residence in Colombo, and taken to a naval base in the eastern port city of Trincomalee on May 10 for his “security”. Meanwhile, Mr. Mahinda, his son Namal and 15 of their allies were barred by a court from leaving the country. In this editorial, The Hindu wrote, “A larger message from the demise of the Rajapaksa brand is that muscular nationalism and majoritarian mobilisation may not be an endless reservoir of support, and will be of no avail when the masses face economic hardship.”
As the country was struggling with economic and political crises, its Central Bank chief Nandalal Weerasinghe warned on Wednesday that Sri Lanka's economy was on the brink of a total collapse sans political stability. Within days, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mr. Mahinda’s younger brother, appointed former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister. Mr. Wickremesinghe, whose United National Party was decimated in the 2020 parliamentary election, became Prime Minister for the sixth term with support from the Rajapaksas. In this Profile, Meera Srinivasan writes Mr. Wickremesinghe, who had never been known as a people’s man, is now needed by the beleaguered Rajapaksas more than he needs them. “Mr. Wickremesinghe is back in the game. As Sri Lanka descends into further economic chaos, it will soon be known if the political class will choose team play, a hard game, or bloodsport,” she writes.
A new round of NATO expansion?
President Vladimir Putin launched his Ukraine invasion on February 24 apparently to stop further NATO invasion into Russia’s neighbourhood. But in less than three months, the same invasion has prompted two other countries to seek NATO membership. Last week, Finland, which shares some 1,300-km border with Russia, said that it would formally seek NATO’s membership without delay. Sweden is likely to follow suit. Finland, with which Russia had fought two wars during the Second World War, has remained militarily non-aligned ever since. Sweden has stayed out of military alliances for 200 years. If they join NATO, for which their bids should be supported by NATO members unanimously, it would be the biggest strategic setback for President Putin. In this edit, The Hindu writes that while it’s up to these countries and NATO to decide on the alliance’s expansion, it would do little in bringing peace and stability in Europe. The focus should be “on finding a long-term solution to the crisis”.
Another Marcos in Malacanan
Thirty-six years after Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship was overthrown, his son, in an alliance with the family of the outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte , has been elected President of the Philippines. The regime of the senior Marcos was known for thuggery and corruption and was even accused of stealing billions from the state coffers. It took the years-long “People Power Revolution” to overthrow the dictatorship in 1986. Now, Mr. Marcos Jr., who has never disowned the abuses of his father’s regime, got 30.5 million votes out of 67 million votes polled (unofficial results), compared to 14.5 million votes secured by Vice-President Maria Leonor Robredo, his closest rival. In this Profile, Ananth Krishnan writes how Mr. Marcos Jr. rose to Manila’s Malacanan’s Presidential palace and what does his victory mean for the Philippines. In this edit, The Hindu writes, the presidency is an opportunity for Mr. Marcos Jr. to prove his critics wrong. “He can do so by recovering the billions looted during his father’s regime, strengthening institutional democracy and restoring accountability among the political class.”
Death of a journalist
Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin on May 11. The broadcaster and a reporter who was wounded in the incident said Israeli forces shot her in the head. Israel initially denied shooting at her. An independent probe by Bellingcat, a Dutch-based international consortium of researchers, found that while Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers were both present in the area, the evidence supported witness accounts that Israeli fire killed Abu Akleh. During her funeral, video footage emerged of Israeli police beating the mourners. The footage showed pallbearers struggling to stop the casket from toppling to the ground as baton-wielding police descended upon them, grabbing Palestinian flags. The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, later said the U.S. was “deeply troubled” by Israeli police’s intrusion at the funeral of Abu Akleh, who was also an American citizen.
The Top Five
What we are reading - the best of The Hindu’s Opinion and Analysis
- The winners and losers of the war | India has neither lost nor gained anything by refusing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, writes Chinmaya R. Gharekhan.
- A dissonance in India-German ties | Whether the Prime Minister of India’s visit to Germany changed the perception about India’s stand on Ukraine assumes critical importance, writes Shanthie Mariet D'Souza.
- The kernel of Sri Lanka’s waterfront protests | The future of Sri Lanka is volatile and uncertain but there is an undercurrent of hope being sustained by the people, writes Radhika Coomaraswamy.
- Finland’s bid to join NATO | What does Finland’s entry into NATO mean for Russia and the European Union? Will the move escalate the security crisis? explains Rishabh Kachroo in Text and Context.
- Sagittarius A*: The Milky Way’s dark centre | With an Earth-sized eye, researchers imaged the compact object in the galaxy, writes Shubashree Desikan in The Hindu Profiles