The Sri Lankan Crisis: How a failed attempt at introducing chemical free farming was misused to undermine agroecology

When Sri Lanka descended into economic, social and political chaos in the first half of 2022, the crisis not only led to the collapse of the Rajapaksa dynasty that had controlled the country for decades after a massive popular uprising, but also to attacks on organic farming far beyond the island itself.

While the eyes of the world were focused largely on the war in Ukraine and its repercussions, attention shifted briefly to Sri Lanka in April, where a situation that had been simmering for many years came to the boil. Popular protests that became known as the “Aragalaya” or Struggle of the People erupted in major cities throughout the country as protesters unified around the call “Gota Go Home”, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after months of skyrocketing prices and shortages of fuel, cooking gas, medicines and food. Public transport collapsed, schools were forced to close and the population was confronted with lengthy power cuts.

The government responded with violence to the peaceful protests, leaving some eight people dead and many injured. The Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president’s brother, resigned from office in May after his home was stormed by the protesters.

His successor Ranil Wickremesinghe extended the state of emergency in place, using the emergency regulations to crack down on protesters, civil society activists, lawyers and journalists with harassment, arbitrary arrests and harsh prison sentences. The emergency measures empowered the president to ban public gatherings, while the spreading of rumours or “disaffection” constituted an offense. Human Rights Watch pointed out that all these provisions are in violation of the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement.

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