October 1, 2022

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Lately, when Prab Shan visits the Murugan Temple in Montreal’s West Island, he has been praying for his home country of Sri Lanka — a place he last visited in 2019.

People there were living such a peaceful life back then, he said.

“Walking on the streets of the villages up north and seeing all the animals, goats that you have never seen in any other country,” he said. “They are like the size of a cow.”

Protestors in Sri Lanka’s capital are occupying the residences of their rejected president and prime minister. They’ve vowed to stay put until the resignations are official. 

This comes after a three-month crisis in Colombo, the country’s capital, causing shortages of fuel, food, medicine and other necessities. 

Here in Montreal, people like Shan are worried about the suffering residents of Sri Lanka are facing.

“The country is effectively bankrupt,” he said.

“Even the protests have led to so many injuries that we can’t even treat. So, it’s a desperate situation.”

Sri Lanka was in a political vacuum for a second day Monday with opposition leaders yet to agree on who should replace its roundly rejected leaders.

Protesters remained in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence, his seaside office and the prime minister’s official home, which they stormed on Saturday demanding the two leaders step down. 

In a video statement Monday, the first since Saturday’s protests, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe reiterated that he will stay on until a new government is in place because he wants to work within the constitution.

“A government has to function according to the law. I am here to protect the constitution and through it fulfil the people’s demands. What we need today is an all-party government and we will take steps to establish that,” Wickremesinghe said.

Church community worried in Montreal

Back here in Montreal’s Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough, Father Andrew Thuraisingam said he’s happy to see the Sri Lankan government overthrown but sad to see his home country in such turmoil.

Now he is trying to help his community here in Montreal get through this difficult time, said Thuraisingam, who is with Our Lady of Deliverance Catholic Church on Lajeunesse Street.

Father Andrew Thuraisingam says his Montreal church community is doing what it can for Sri Lankans. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

The majority government has long been oppressive in Sri Lanka, and now the community here knows it won’t get better there overnight. Once a new government is in place, the economy will need to be rebuilt, said Thuraisingam.

“We are trying to find help from our community to support them in little ways, but it’s not enough,” he said.

“Every Sunday when we gather, we are continuously praying.”

Supporting family back home

Subitha Tharmakulasagaram’s family lives in the northern part of Sri Lanka. She said she’s been sending money in an effort to support them, but she worries about their health and safety.

“We’re able to send them money. We’re able to try and help our family members, but now the money itself is worth nothing,” she said.

Subitha Tharmakulasagaram says she sending money to her family in Sri Lanka even if there’s nothing to buy. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

“Like what are you going to buy with that money when you don’t have anything to buy?”

Tharmakulasagaram said her community is resilient, which brings her hope that things will get better. 

“They could push us — put us down, [but] we will come back up where we are supposed to be,” she said. 

“We will see that light again. We will come back up.” 

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