July 13 2021, Colombo, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is at present confronted with unprecedented challenges. The COVID-19 crisis in Sri Lanka has been characterized not only by the immediate public health and economic challenges which have been pervasive across the world. It has also brought to the fore a number of underlying issues that have been made explicit in the context of the pandemic. Weaknesses in governance, processes which threaten to undermine constitutional democracy in Sri Lanka and structural inequalities within society have each been amplified during this period.
The present Government enjoyed overwhelming support from voters promising a move towards a more ‘disciplined’ no-nonsense approach to governance, paving the way to increases in the efficiency of administration and the acceleration of economic development. Promises of such nature have been tied up with the increased authoritarianism we have seen since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office. The constitutional project of the new Government, it was argued, would result in governance that was free from the constraints of checks and balances on executive power. These checks and balances it was argued, created indecisiveness and inefficiency within government. The pandemic represented a perfect opportunity to demonstrate this in practice. However, the multiple setbacks in the handling of the COVID-19 response have called into question this narrative of efficiency and exposed the limitations of the proposed technocratic and militarized governance model.
This study by the Centre for Policy Alternatives examines the varied challenges faced by Sri Lanka through the lens of governance, militarization, reconciliation and development. It will provide a critique of Government policy, exploring how a lack of coherent and considered policy making, the adoption of ethno majoritarian political ideology and the implementation of militarized governance has resulted in adverse outcomes.