The heavy international focus on prosecutions for war-time human rights abuses in Sri Lanka is a reductive view, often shutting down discussion as opinions become divisive. On the one hand, calls for prosecution come with the demand to have international judges, to ensure a credible process that addresses the deterioration of the criminal justice system. On the other hand, prosecution is often said to betray “war heroes” and international participation to undermine sovereignty.
The global economy is in crisis. The global recovery that was hoped for following the Great Recession of 2008 has failed and is now in the throes of deflation. Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s has the dangers of deflation - leading to falling prices and falling demand in a downward uncontrollable spiral - shaken the global economy on this scale.
Exactly a year after his election, President Maithripala Sirisena has initiated a welcome process to rewrite the country’s Constitution. The government is also moving ahead on transitional justice processes to address the UN Human Rights Council resolution unanimously adopted in September last year. However, progress on both the constitutional and transitional justice fronts, which seem to have the consensus of both the President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe coming from historically opposing parties, depends to a large extent on the country’s economic future.
The 2016 Budget has been welcomed by the business and economic establishment. The big question is whether economic policies good for business are necessarily good for the economy and the people? To what extent are the economic policies in the 2016 Budget and the Prime Minister’s Economic Policy Statement different from the crisis-prone economic policies of the past?Economic policies in recent decades have been dominated by a neoliberal vision of transforming the economy to ensure the greater accumulation of profits by finance capital.
The parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka held risks of polarisation and the re-emergence of authoritarian politics. But the Lankan voters rejected divisive politics for the second time this year. The United National Party (UNP) will likely form the new government, while the moderating presence of President Maithripala Sirisena as leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the engagement of smaller parties like the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) will help reinforce democracy.
A year ago, on July 4, the late Bala Tampoe led a walkout of the trade union leaders in the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC).
In a statement signed a month later by Tampoe and four other trade union leaders, they explained the reasons for their walkout to the Minister of Labour saying it was as a result of the failure to implement a series of agreements spanning many years.
Sri Lanka’s tragic postcolonial history is marked by lost opportunities. Regimes in Colombo were unable to forge a political settlement for six decades and after 1987, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) unilaterally returned to war closing every opening for a political settlement. The Mahinda Rajapaksa regime bent on consolidating power rejected the golden opportunity at the end of the war.
විරුද්ධ පක්ෂය විසින් ප්රධාන වශයෙන් මතුකළ කාරණා වන දුෂණය, ඥාති සංග්රහය හා රාජ්ය ආයතන දේශපාලනීකරණය මෙවර ජනාධිපතිවරණයට පාර කියුවද තවදුරටත් ඔවුන්ගේ ආර්ථික ප්රතීපත්තීන් අපැහැදිලිව පවතී” ඒ වෙනුවට මැතිවරණ සමයේ රාජපක්ෂ රෙජීමයේ ආර්ථික සංවර්ධන ප්රතිපත්තිවලට එල්ල වූ විවේචනවලට ප්රතිචාර දැක්වූ රනිල් වික්රමසිංහ වැනි අය වර නැගුවේ තව දුරටත් ලිබරල්කරණය වු ආර්ථිකයක අවශ්යතාවයයි” කෙසේ වුවද වත්මන් පාලන හවුලෙහි කොටස් කරුවෙකු වෙන ජාතික හෙළ උරුමය මෙන්ම ජනතා විමුක්ති පෙරමුණ රෙජීමයට විරුද්ධව ගෙන ගිය ස්වාධීන අරගලයේදී විදේශ ආධාර මත සිදුවූ සංවර්ධන ව්යාපෘතීන්ට මහත් විරුද්ධත්වයක් මතු කළේය” කෙසේ නමුත් රාජපක
Since the end of the war, Sri Lanka’s economy is being transformed through a rapid process of financialisation. Such widespread financialisation facilitated infrastructure development, a real estate boom linked to urbanisation and expansion of credit leading to increasing indebtedness of the rural population. In short, financialisation contributed to the geographical changes of the economy through beautification of Colombo and infrastructural connectivity of the country.
In the run up to the presidential elections, the Opposition manifesto had little to say about economic policy. However, it did state that it was committed to free education and healthcare, including by increasing state expenditure for those sectors.
Whether the new Government will keep its promise is also related to a global debate on universal social policies versus targeted measures to address social ills such as poverty and social exclusion in education and healthcare. This debate also has implications for addressing the rising inequality in the country.