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Opinion: Reflecting between elections in Sri Lanka

Incumbent President Rajapakse has made it clear he favors economic growth over the well-being of his populace.

This climate of political uncertainty has been further fueled by the increased militarization of post-war civil society. Outspoken journalists and activists are still regularly abducted and detained under the emergency regulations, without consistent or trustworthy follow-up investigation. Paramilitaries and political groups such as the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) in the North and East are still armed in a time of so-called “peace.”

Even though President Mahinda Rajapakse declared the defeat of terrorism nearly nine months ago, the Prevention of Terrorism Act is still in place, and civilians displaced from the High Security Zones (HSZ) in the North and East are still unable to return to their homes.

Given these conditions of exception, the incumbent President Rajapakse has made it clear that economic investment and growth are more important than guaranteeing dignity and safety for Sri Lankan civilians. By placing the question of a political solution on the backburner, his decisions suggest that he favors centralized executive power and refuses to embrace and implement more devolved forms of power sharing throughout the country.

As Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture in its post-war history, its leaders and constituents need more nuanced ways to justly engage all members of the country’s polity. To do this would involve immediate demilitarization of civil society, decentralization of executive and state powers, and an opening of space for dissenting voices — not only for those in the opposition but also for those marginalized minorities of ethnicity, caste, class and gender.

For some Sri Lankans, the current political events may be laughable. And given the end of the LTTE, perhaps, these political events are perceived by some as less serious than those of the former, conflict-ridden Sri Lanka.

But for those progressives who actively seek long-lasting political reform and sustainable modes of civic participation, the election and its aftermath are leaving a sour taste. Until Sri Lanka’s leaders can question the legitimacy and transparency of their own politics and form solidarities on the grounds of dignity and justice for all, Sri Lankan civilians will not be able to reassemble their lives and heal their trust in the country’s democratic political system.

The writer, an activist and scholar, has chosen to write anonymously for her own security.