Groundviews

The post-Prabhakaran government strategy in Sri Lanka and overseas

In the post-Prabhakaran scenario in Sri Lanka there is an immediate need for the GoSL to engage both the Sri Lankan public and the international community in a meaningful manner, or at least to appear to do so. To date this has not happened. The government’s decision-making from all accounts and actions is too centralized. Opposition MP have not yet been able to visit the IDP camps, a fact that not only breeds discontent among elected members of parliament but also could be seen as gross abuse of government power. It is true that after the end of the government had a great deal of domestic political capital, however, this honeymoon period is now over.  GoSL MUST stop playing hardball with powerful international players such as the EU and the United States. While these countries certainly have no moral right to preach to SL regarding HR, they do have much needed AID money and international political capital, which we as a small low-income country need. Domestically, the president and the establishment would have to engage and follow up on ideas offered by various factions in Sri Lanka to show that they are capable of accommodation.  Doing so would pave the way for power-sharing, as well as rebuilding bridges that have been destroyed. Internationally, we need to engage the international community, by appointing to the foreign ministry competent individuals who are up to the task. The politicization of the foreign ministry would have adverse consequences both for the government and the country at large.

The next major challenge for Sri Lanka would be an economic one, the manner the government handles the IDP issue would have significant economic impact. International community response towards Sri Lanka in the coming months and years would have a significant outcome on weather we grow at 8-9% of GDP for the next ten years or 5-6% of GDP. Presently there is a great deal of aid money tied to the IDP’s, if the government choose to move progressively and quickly on the IDP issue, there would be much needed AID money flowing in to the country. This would help the government tremendously, at present GoSL has very little money for capital expenditure (for infrastructure projects). Thus, playing hardball with international states would not add up to advantages for the Sri Lankan population at large, it only serves the bruised ego’s of a few in government. If the GoSL engages the IDP issue head on, there would be less material that both western states and international organizations can use to discredit the Sri Lankan Government.

Domestically addressing the IDP issue would be of great importance. Currently the government policy of keeping way local members of parliament away from the IDP camps has negative outcomes for both the government and the country at large. Furthermore, it would destroy the faith of some elected members in parliament from the fringes of the political sphere, leading them to loose hope in democracy and further radicalizing there believes. All elected members who are responsible for the people of Sri Lanka must be given full access to IDP camps.

The “Single mindness” that helped the government win the war will not help it govern democratic state, there would have to be compromise between the current government thinking and what the opposition parties wants.  The government would need the help of opposition in rebuilding what is a war torn country, and removing them from all decision making process, in issues of great national importance is a counter productive exercise both for the Sri Lankan state and the government.

The government would have to also take steps to reduce the draconian emergency regulations that are currently in place. Even though the government has the interest of the public at large, the perceptions and the aspirations of the people are changing in a post-war scenario and these needs to be accommodated, to show that real change is happening. Political prudence have to be exercised the heavy-handed approach the government used would have to give in to a softer one.

The government must now do two things; it has to engage the opposition and engage the international community. The war mentality serves a purpose, and that is to fight a war. Now that the war is over we would have to move away from confrontation to engagement. I believe the current government is capable of reaching out to the Sri Lankan opposition; there concerns have to be listened to and then addressed. In the realm of international affairs, GoSL would need to instill the most competent individuals in the foreign ministry. Under the former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragama the Sri Lankan foreign ministry reached new high in international affairs, this distinction is no more. Under the current foreign ministers watch we have seen the politicization of the ministry of foreign affairs, with individuals who have next to no experience being placed in positions of great national importance.

I believe by taking a very few concrete steps in the right direction, Sri Lanka could win the war of perceptions both internationally and domestically as a functioning democratic state, which aspire for the greatest benefit for its newly liberated people and would be yet again a shining beacon of democracy in the world.