Home Contact Us  
   

South Asia - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#5432, 13 February 2018
 

Dateline Colombo

Sri Lanka: The New Regime and the Revolution
Asanga Abeyagoonasekera
Director General, Institute of National Security Studies (INSS), Sri Lanka
 

At a meeting in Davos in 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a speech supporting the agenda on globalisation. Meanwhile, back in the US, President Trump was highlighting the importance of the US confining its national boundaries. “America only does not mean America alone,” said Trump in Davos. The president received a standing ovation for a speech that resonated the importance of collective action to build a better world. However, global reality, with its increasing political fractures, tells a different story.

Sri Lanka too is witness to political bipolarity at a critical moment in the island's political narrative. For a closer examination of the developments underway in Sri Lanka, a study of the 'Silent Revolution' of 2015 against the monumental French Revolution provides illuminating points for analysis. Alexis de Tocqueville ideas on the French Revolution state that the “chief permanent achievement of the French revolution was the suppression of those political institutions, commonly described as feudal, which for many centuries had held unquestioned sway in most European countries. The revolution set out to replace them with a new social and political order, at once simple and more uniform, based on the concept of equality of all men.”

In comparison, what did the Sri Lanka’s Silent Revolution achieve? Did the present government take precautions to make sure of importing nothing from the past into the new regime? What kind of process did the new regime follow? And what restrictions were set to differentiate themselves in every possible way? Was the word revolution used simply to fulfill a political aspiration?

Messages from the leadership are loud but inconsistent. Sufficiently exposed to bipolar political promises, public absorption of rhetoric has reached exhaustion. This is a poor note to send the electorate after casting their franchise at the local elections in Sri Lanka. Looking at this bipolarity from the top, one could design a “political bipolar index (PBI)” to assess local leaders' (lack of) responsibility.

For politicians, political power remains the raison d’être. The struggle toward electoral victory, subsequent power struggles, and influence over public policy is visible across societies. In certain dignified societies, persuasion remains an acceptable choice over coercion. However, in some societies, politicians prefer the baton, tear gas, and machine guns. In an orderly society, coercion and conflict are transferred from the battleground to councils of law.

Some regimes have the muscle to ward off a revolution while others fail. Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa regime failed to ward off the Silent Revolution in 2015. It was a peaceful revolution by ballot. To apply de Tocqueville’s words, “The regime which is destroyed by a revolution is almost always an improvement on its immediate predecessor, and experience teaches that the most critical moment for bad governments is the one which witnesses their first steps toward reform.” Today, the Sri Lankan government is experiencing what Tocqueville wrote in 1856, in his book on the French Revolution.

The local government election results revealed the mood of the polity. Local elections remain a perfect barometer to identify political cyclones on the horizon. Then one could also name the next revolution 'Silent Revolution 2.0' in 2020. An actual revolutionary scenario will offer new faces and fresh voices. However, such a reality remains doubtful.

Sri Lanka celebrated 70 years of independence on 4 February this year. The country displayed its achievements since independence in the print and electronic media. Alongside its achievements, the country has also faced nearly a thirty-year war with two youth insurrections in 1971 and 1989. The revolt was against the political system of that time which failed to create better economic conditions particularly in the field of employment. The situation has not improved. The economic condition worsens with high borrowings and debt. This was clearly indicated by the latest Moody’s Asia Pacific rating. Sri Lanka did not rank favourably, especially when compared to with 24 Asia Pacific countries. Earlier, the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index report reflected the same dismal ratings.

Since independence, successive governments have failed to make Sri Lanka a developed nation. A toxic mix of high-level corruption and bad governance remain at the heart of the problem. According to senior journalist, Malinda Senevirathne, “a system of government run by the worst, least qualified or most unscrupulous citizens” and an absence of technocrats with the right skill set to deliver could be the cause of this situation.

President Sirisena’s findings from the Central Bank Bond Commission and the revelation of malpractice to the public should be appreciated. His actions reflected transparency at the highest level. In a country like Sri Lanka where the appearance of civil power is little more than a wispy gauze veiling the reality of political power, disclosures from the Bond Commission are grist for the mill of politics-as-usual and not a force disrupting the status quo. Only if appropriate action is taken following the revelations contained in the report and the funds recovered to the public can progress be measured in terms of restoring civil power over political power.

In this revolutionary political moment that began in 2015, revolutions within revolutions are needed to harness the scattered and disgruntled polity. The ballot in hand has proven that the results will be a clear epiphany.

Views expressed are the author's own. 

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Changing Political Horizons in Sri Lanka?

The Geopolitics of Floating Bases and the New World Order

Monuments Over Mortality?

Sri Lanka: Leveraging the Politics of Geography

The Forgotten Professions: The Plight of a Nation

Crisis and Foresight Analysis

Steering Co-operation Across Oceans

Sri Lanka: National Interests in a Globalised World

Re-building Sri Lanka: An Island at a Crossroads

Forecast 2017: Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Foreign Policy: Diaspora and Lobbying

Securing Sri Lanka's National Interests

Understanding our “Blindspot” to Make Peacebuilding Comprehensive

Oceans of (Dis)trust

Death and Democracy

The Island and the Mainland: Impact of Fisheries on Indo-Lanka Relations

New Delhi-Tamil Nadu Relations and India’s Sri Lanka Policy

Remembering Tagore in Turbulent Times

Politics of Promise: Between Sirisena and Rajapaksa

Conflict to Co-existence: Debating Heritage and Homogenisation

Forecast 2016: A Roadmap for Sri Lanka

China Prepares for a Modern War

Riot and Responsibility: Governance in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka and the World: Terrorism and Effective Reconciliation

Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.