GZERO Media logo

BIG STORY, SMALL COUNTRY: SRI LANKA’S POLITICAL CRISIS

BIG STORY, SMALL COUNTRY: SRI LANKA’S POLITICAL CRISIS

President Maithripala Sirisena pushed Sri Lanka, an island nation of 21 million, people into political crisis on October 26 by firing his prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and replacing him with a highly controversial former rival: ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa.


Mr. Wickremesinghe, who has clashed with Sirisena over a number of issues, has refused to accept the move. Sri Lanka’s parliament can’t weigh in right away because President Sirisena has imposed a three-week recess on the body. It’s not clear what will happen when that period ends, but two men now claim to be running the country, and tensions are rising in the streets.

For now, at least, this marks a major comeback for Rajapaksa, a popular but controversial figure whose successful bid to end a decades-long civil war in 2009 has been tainted by international accusations of war crimes. During his tenure as president, Mr. Rajapaska also opened Sri Lanka to Chinese investments at a clip that has recently raised concerns. Last year, for example, China took control for 99 years of a major new port project begun under Mr. Rajapaksa’s administration, after the country couldn’t pay back the loans Beijing had issued to help build it.

The geopolitical angle: Sri Lanka is one of several key points of contention between Beijing and New Delhi as China seeks to broaden its commercial and strategic presence in the Indian Ocean. By bringing back his rival, Rajapaksa, Sirisena is hoping, among other things, to reengage China. Why? Sri Lanka’s economy is sputtering, and the island nation is growing short of cash. China has more to lend than India, and it’s less concerned than India with the risk of throwing good money after bad in a country with volatile politics. The ousted Wickremesinghe tried to balance Sri Lanka’s relations with India and China. Rajapaksa will likely seek to tilt back in China’s direction, whatever India’s objections.

For the moment, Rajapaksa’s return is a point for China in its battle with India for regional influence. As we wrote in February, India chalked up its own win in the tiny island nation of the Maldives earlier this year. Make no mistake, the competition for influence across the Indian Ocean is a story that will only intensify.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

More Show less

On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

More Show less

Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

More Show less

In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

UNGA banner

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal

Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream