By Imtiyaz Razak –
Sri Lanka’s just concluded provincial elections [southern and western] suggest that the ruling regime still enjoys considerable amount of supports among ordinary people despite the fact it had lost some ground to opposition parties in both provinces. The reasons for the regime success are complicated, but the fact is that it still enjoys supports.
There are many reasons as to why opposition parties are not successful to mobilize masses to overthrow the regime. Studies suggest that nationalism often provide hands to politicians to win power in electoral democracies. Since the end of the war against the LTTE, the regime was successful to provide stability despite the fact it was fairly tough on liberal dissent. The regime’s intolerance can be understood as the result of external pressure and Tamil Diaspora activities which were and are aimed at punishing the regime for the military collapse of the LTTE, which claimed it was liberation fighters, but murdered Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese who oppose it’s policies, actions, and agendas.
On other hand, neo-liberal NGO and INGOs as well as some “liberal international” actors have been ardently trying to depose the regime, which is rather close to China, rising power of the 21st century. These external forces with the help of both diasporic and local liberals among Sri Lankans have been working very hard in several ways, including financially support to depose the regime for the reason that the regime is basically opposes to the west’s agendas in the island.
I am not a supporter of the regime and do not have any records of supporting any ruling regimes in my life. But I have seen and experienced enough sufferings caused by the neo-liberal regime from 1977-2005 under the United National Party [UNP] which introduced the liberal economic policies that opened the doors to the west while curtailing socio-welfare programs to poor. Sri Lanka also witnessed horrible anti-Tamil violence during the UNP regime. The anti-Tamil violence in 1983 under the UNP regime negatively contributed not only to polarize the polity, but also it led some Tamils to adopt violence.
I am not a favor any external pressure on any country. In Sri Lanka case, external forces know very well that the regime is still popular among masses, especially among Sinhalese. So they may resort to some other options to depose the regimes, including in the form of UN resolutions. In many ways such pressures are very counter productive and would lead to a circle of hatred and violence. It may also help politicians to use that external pressure to garner votes. Being that said Sri Lanka regime needs to address the concerns of all people including Tamils and Muslims. The war crime allegations need to be addressed. Such investigations should begin from 1983 so affected parties including Muslims parties can seek justice.
Winning elections would not provide effective solutions to the entire crisis and problems Sri Lanka faces. In some cases, elections trigger tensions and thus contribute to instability if there is a heavy politicization. What state should do is to take actions to solve the basic problems of common men and women, provide conditions for upward economic mobility and take against the Sinhala extremist forces who now target Muslims.
In any society, trust is the key. When there is deficit in trust from below, it may well contribute to tensions or it may give space to external actors to fish in the troubled waters. The regime lead by Mr. Rajapakshe should know this reality. What ordinary masses generally need is better food, bread, and security. If the regime is able to provide these basic needs to masses, there is less reason to raise concerns about instability. Any failure to this effect may lead to instability.