Gota’s Gone. Now What?
Police barricades smashed aside by protestors on 9th July 2022, lie by the side of a street leading to Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, one of several government buildings stormed and sacked by angry mobs demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapakse. By the end of that fateful day, Rajapakse, accused of corruption and ineptness, and blamed for creating an economic crisis unparalleled in Sri Lanka’s history, would announce his resignation, and flee the country four days later. A full month down the road, Sri Lanka remains in crisis; led by a caretaker president picked as a successor by Rajapakse himself, and with a cabinet full of ministers who legislated the very policies that crushed the economy they’re now tasked with repairing. Much to the chagrin of large segments of the population, no charges of corruption have been brought to bear on Gotabaya Rajapakse, now living in self-imposed exile in Singapore, or on his brothers and nephew, powerful cabinet ministers in his government, and still members of Parliament. Instead, the authorities have focused on dismantling protests and targeting individual protestors with petty — though punitive — charges of trespassing, vandalism, and theft. While the past month has seen some easing of fuel shortages, mostly through much delayed rationing, Sri Lanka still hasn’t seen any of the economic measures necessary to begin the long process of recovery.

• 18mm • f/3.5 • 1/125 • ISO1600 •


A Break in the Aragalaya

A tired protestor celebrates as news arrives on social media that Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapakse has agreed to step down. Galle Face Green, Colombo. 9th July 2022. Months of public protest culminated in violent clashes between demonstrators and the authorities, and the storming of the presidential palace and several government offices. Rajapakse would flee to the Maldives several days later.

• 35mm • f/4 • 1/250 • ISO400 •

Divided by the State, United by Need
Protestors offer bottles of water to the policemen barricading them out of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance, at Galle Face, Colombo. 9th April 2022. The country’s economic crisis has hit the middle and working classes hard, and demonstrations across the country are calling for the resignation of President Gotabhaya Rajapakse and his entire cabinet, accused of corruption, ineptitude, and nepotism. On top of rampant inflation and widespread shortages of electricity, cooking gas, and fuel, the debt-ridden government has struggled in recent months to pay the salaries of its police and armed forces.

Keeping Out the Extremists
A young family tries to negotiate, to no avail, their way through a police barricade leading to Colombo’s Independence Square, a popular venue for protests in the city. President Gotabhaya Rajapakse, faced with widespread public protests demanding his government’s resignation over mismanagement and corruption, called the protestors extremists, and reacted with a 36-hour curfew across the weekend, and a social media block, hoping to discourage further visible dissent. Both tactics failed; unable to gather in Colombo City, large protests continued in the suburbs, through the evening and into Sunday night, while the widespread use of virtual private networks (VPNs) circumvented the state’s blockade of Facebook and Whatsapp. Sri Lanka, 3rd April 2022.
Armed troops of the paramilitary Special Task Force (STF) man a barricade blocking access to Colombo’s Independence Square. Sri Lanka, 3rd March 2022.
A Special Task Force (STF) police officer refuses to let me past barricades blocking Colombo’s Independence Square. Sri Lanka, 3rd March 2022.