Under Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka defaulted on its foreign debt for the first time in April and the country declared bankruptcy
Under Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka defaulted on its foreign debt for the first time in April and the country declared bankruptcy

It has been a year since protesters in Sri Lanka stormed the presidential palace for five days. Several artefacts were looted from the palace of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the five-day siege, and now the government wants these items back.

The president's secretary has said that those who return the looted items before July 31 will not face any legal action. However, people will face punishment if they are found possessing these items after this period.

"Various valuable artefacts and archaeological items went missing, including coats of arms associated with former governors and presidents of Sri Lanka," the office of Rajapaksa's successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said in a statement.

According to the data provided by the government, over 1,000 artefacts, including items of vintage and antique value, have been missing since the siege.

Activists had already handed over some US$6,000 in cash found in Rajapaksa's bedroom to the police, according to a report in The Independent.

It also needs to be noted that the country had been seeing months of protests against an unprecedented economic crisis when the protesters stormed the Colombo Fort Palace.

The photos and videos from the palace that went viral on social media showed protesters taking a swim in a pool located in the palace. They could be seen lounging on furniture and working out in the home gym. Protesters even torched the prime minister's private mansion.

Sri Lanka is still in the throes of its worst financial crisis since its independence in 1948. The country has had to deploy troops after protests erupted across the country.

The economic crisis led to a severe shortage of food, fuel, and other basic amenities. The public's resentment grew with each passing day. The situation spiralled out of control, and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa eventually fled the country.

The 73-year-old fled the island under military escort in July after unarmed crowds stormed his official residence, following months of angry demonstrations. Rajapaksa is accused of mismanaging the economy to the point that the country found itself unable to finance its debt.

Experts say that the pandemic-induced economic recession coupled with government mismanagement is what exacerbated the crisis in the country. The pandemic also came as a blow to the country's tourism sector.

The Sri Lankan government has also turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to seek a bailout after running out of foreign exchange reserves. The IMF agreed to a $2.9 billion bailout. However, the road ahead is still tough.