Sri Lanka's Lost Revolution

(MENAFN- Asia Times) On July 9, 2022, Sri Lankans protesting the regime of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa shocked the world when they stormed the executive mansion in Colombo.

Live-streaming on Twitter and YouTube, dissidents ransacked the presidential palace and celebrated in the streets as state security struggled to contain the masses.

Days later, news that Rajapaksa would resign seemed to confirm that the island nation's watershed moment for democracy had finally arrived. But two years later, that moment has seemingly passed and what remains is a regime that has learned the lessons necessary to survive.

The precise details of Sri Lanka's deteriorating political situation were recently presented before the UNHRC in Geneva. On March 1, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk covered several regimes, including Colombia and Cyprus. But it was Turk's analysis of the conditions in Sri Lanka that were of particular interest.

“Two years ago, tens of thousands of Sri Lankans took to the streets demanding deep democratic reforms and accountability for economic mismanagement and corruption, which resulted in the most severe socio-economic crisis in a generation,” he told the assembled body.

Turk's somber acknowledgment of an opportunity wasted begs the question: What went wrong? A possible answer can be derived from an understanding of Sri Lanka's complicated past and even more uncertain future.

Since achieving independence from Great Britain in 1948, Sri Lanka has consistently struggled to attain its democratic promise. Located 150 miles south of India, Sri Lanka's modern history has been largely characterized by its colonial past.

Starting with the Portuguese and Dutch, its coastlines were highly valued for their strategic location during the age of exploration. This partition remained largely intact until the arrival of the British, who united the island under its control in 1815.

Sri Lanka's abundance of natural resources and fertile farmland allowed for advanced settlement and economic restructuring , including the establishment of large plantations that grew tea and coffee.

By the time Sri Lanka declared independence in 1948, national industry and political institutions had become largely defined by its British colonial past.

However, underneath the surface, tensions between the nation's Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority were brewing, an antagonism that eventually erupted into a devastating civil war that would last for a generation.

The origins of this conflict predate Sri Lanka's colonial history and can be attributed to a variety of socio-political factors. Beyond a stark difference in social and linguistic traditions, Sinhalese tended to be Buddhist, while Sri Lanka's Tamil population was predominantly Hindu.


Asia Times

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