01 Apr 2015

What does the current “100 days” reform campaign mean for the working classes? In addition to the current raft of constitutional reforms proposed during the campaign, workers have taken up the opening in the political space to advocate for wage increases in the private sector.Currently unions are demanding a Rs. 2,500 increase across the board, to be passed as a legally-binding parliamentary act similar to the budgetary relief allowance of 2005. As it stands, the minimum wage paid to workers is around Rs. 10,000, though this also varies across sectors.

01 Apr 2015

The policies of the Sri Lankan state since the late 1970s have seen a widening gap between its neo-liberal foundations and its attempts to claim popular legitimacy, and this structure of politics seems set to persist. This paper argues that the tension between neo-liberalism and populism is articulated in the disparity between the island's urban and rural areas, and vice versa. This defines contradictory aspects of the Sri Lankan state as we understand its appeal to different constituencies, both the new urban middle classes and increasingly impoverished small farmers.

22 Mar 2015

Over the last couple of months, Sri Lankans have been presented with two budgets for the year 2015. The one in October 2014 was introduced by the previous regime in order to ‘curry favour’ with the public ahead of the presidential election of January 2015. The other came from the newly appointed government following the election. Both governments made promises to increase workers’ salaries, but there is a discrepancy between the budgetary allocations and promises made to public and private sectors workers.

16 Feb 2015

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.

08 Feb 2015

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

06 Feb 2015

Of the many pieties that have been promoted in the Western media in the aftermath of Maithripala Sirisena’s victory over incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in the recent Sri Lankan presidential election, none has been more cherished than the notion that Sri Lanka is now on board with “democracy.”[1] This claim is counter-posed to Sri Lanka’s recent cozy relationship with China and other authoritarian countries. A new Cold War is supposedly being fought, with Sri Lanka’s election reduced to its strategic relevance to policy makers.

04 Feb 2015

Rajapaksa, the president who would be king, subverted every democratic institution to serve his personal ends. It took a coalition of ethnic and religious minorities and a substantial section of the Sinhala majority to end his dreams of political immortality.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa, 69, made his bid for an unprecedented third term barely six weeks earlier, a comfortable victory for the incumbent had been choreographed and projected.

03 Feb 2015

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.

29 Jan 2015

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.

19 Jan 2015

While corruption, nepotism and the politicisation of state institutions figured centrally in the lead up to the presidential elections, the Opposition’s economic policy orientation remained unclear. As the election campaign gained momentum with criticism of the Rajapaksa regime’s economic development policies, some actors such as Ranil Wickremesinghe hinted at the need for more liberalisation. However, JHU inside the coalition and the JVP with its own anti-regime campaign became critical of the massive infrastructure build-out on foreign borrowings over the last few years.

30 Dec 2014

The Opposition in Sri Lanka is trying hard to respond to President Rajapaksa’s well-oiled campaign, riding high on a message of safeguarding national security and ensuring development

30 Nov 2014

The opening scene of ‘Modern Times’, a satirical comedy written and directed by Charlie Chaplin, portrays a line manufacturing process during the Great Depression in England.

Chaplin, a factory worker, is bolting screws and loses track of his work as he takes a few minutes off to scratch his hand. He fights with his supervisor and chases a fly that lands on his nose. The scene gives a sense of the oppressive factory environment where every activity of the worker is measured in relation to productivity.

08 Nov 2014

The Meeriyabedda landslide tragedy in Sri Lanka in which dozens have died has exposed the condition of workers in tea plantations in Sri Lanka. This tragedy needs to be investigated keeping in mind the historical disadvantage and dispossession plantation workers have been subjected to.

Meeriyabedda — who or what is responsible?

03 Nov 2014

There is a political rush in Sri Lanka. The Budget Speech was made a month ahead of schedule, the Pope is to visit in January, and now Presidential Elections may be jammed in before or after that. Is this a moment of panic?

Is the ruling regime worried about losing its electoral base? Or is it concerned about a looming economic crisis?

03 Nov 2014

This paper reviews recent issues and trends in poverty and vulnerability in Sri Lanka in the context of neo-liberalism. For purposes of contextualisation, reference will be made to the evolution of economic liberalisation, social inequality, and social protection, since 1977. It begins with an analysis of the contemporary neo-liberal policy regime with its distinctive Sri Lankan characteristics. It proceeds to describe the social and economic crises associated withthe current policy regime, and selected mechanisms by which these crises are transmitted insociety.

29 Oct 2014

"There is a tendency to measure successes and failures purely in electoral terms, overlooking the influential role played by pro-left elements in the social, economic and cultural life of the people, and in shaping the thinking of the intelligentsia." – Santasilan Kadirgamar, "The Left Tradition in Lankan Tamil Politics"

01 Oct 2014

நவதாராளவாதமானது நுகர்வு, கடன்கள் மற்றும் ஏனைய பொருளாதார விடயங்களிலும் எம்மை சமூகமாக அன்றி தனிநபர்களாக இயங்க வைக்க முயற்சிக்கின்றது என்பதுவே உண்மையாகும். அடிப்படையில் சமூகங்களை தனிநபர்களாக தகர்பதுவும் நவதாராளவாத சித்தாந்தத்தின் முக்கிய அம்சங்களில் ஒன்றாகவுள்ளது.

The full article can be downloaded here:

22 May 2014

REBUILDING: Some positive changes have taken place after the war but much remains to be done to support the local economy such as investing in appropriate rural infrastructure, controlling market price fluctuations, and supporting measures to strengthen co-operatives. Photo: AP

As five years after the war is marked by militarised victory celebrations, who speaks for the continuing suffering of the survivors in the North and East?

29 Jan 2014

India’s support for devolution of power and substantive demilitarisation are all overshadowed by the Palk Bay fishing conflict between Tamil Nadu fishers and Northern Sri Lankan fishers