In conversation with Prof. Sumanasiri Liyanage
Prof. Sumanasiri Liyanage, who hasÂ written to Groundviews regularly, teaches political economy at the University of Peradeniya, is a well-known political analyst, columnist and on the Board of the South Asia Peace Institute (SAPI).
We began our short conversation with the crisis facing the main opposition party in Sri Lanka, the United National Party, flagging serious issues others on this site like Dayapala Thiranagama have also noted. Prof. Liyanage’s critique of the party stems from his observation that in recent years it has lost sight of a political party’s raison d’Ãªtre – the capture of political power as opposed to issue based advocacy best suited for NGOs.
We also spoke about the demise of Mangala Samaraweera’s Third Way politics, and the end of the SLFP Mahajana wing after Mr. Samaraweera recently joined the UNP. I noted that many commentators, including those like Publius on Groundviews, who hailed Mr. Samaraweera’s vision at the time , now failed to ask what went wrong and why his Third Way did not materialise.
Prof. Liyanage also made some observations about the continuation of zero sum politics even post-war, noting that it was largely the result of the spirit and expression of the constitution. I also contested him on his submission that he saw no change between the present Rajapaksa regime and those in the past vis-a-vis media freedom, the timbre of democracy, the space for civil society and dissent. Towards the end, Prof. Liyanage also talks about the nexus between democracy and development, noting that he feels there is no correlation between the two.