Lanka @ 63: The ‘military business model’ of post-war economic development

Long Reads

On 4 February, Sri Lanka celebrated its 63rd birthday. After nearly three decades of armed conflict, it is now one of Southasia’s calmest and fastest-growing countries. Its social indicators, apart from the northeast zone, remain the best in the region, and its strategic location is inviting investments from both Asian giants, China and India. Its stock markets are booming, its growth rate bouncing at around eight percent, and tourists are back to enjoy sun, sand, sea, and the island’s natural beauty. Along with big sister India, Lanka is the only other country in the South Asian region with unbroken if rather tattered democracy since independence from the British Raj in 1948, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently congratulated the government of Sri Lanka when it released a Standby Agreement (SBA) loan tranche despite the high ratio of public debt to GDP.

As many economists know, however, stock-market booms do not necessarily correlate with socio-economic peace, equity and justice, or the real economy. On Independence Day, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) marched in protest against authoritarianism, attacks on and disappearances of media personnel and human-rights defenders, and the incarceration of former General Sarath Fonseka, the chief architect in the victory against the LTTE. Major Tamil political parties too boycotted the celebrations, as they have done for decades, in protest of the government’s failure to share power, particularly with minority communities. The opposition’s protest march was attacked by mobs, reportedly backed by the Minister of Public Relations, as police stood by in the highly militarized city that was recently wired with close circuit TV cameras to ensure regime security.

One of the most striking developments in post-war Lanka is its paradoxical militarisation of the government, economy and society. Even though it has been two years since the end of the war, Emergency Rule remains in place and the defence sector, including the budget, has not been down-sized, right-sized or restructured for peacetime operations; but rather, has been on a constant rise. The army constitutes over 210,000 personnel in a country with less than 20 million people; nonetheless, the army, in addition to the significant navy, air force and National Defence Forces, continue recruiting. The current budget allocates 20 percent of GDP for defence expenditures – far more than other South Asian neighbours. Colombo insists that Lanka is a safe tourist destination, and asks foreign governments to lift travel warnings; but it still maintains Emergency Regulations (ER), keeps up counterterrorism rhetoric with the assistance of dubious ‘terrorism’ experts, and buys expensive surveillance equipment such as CCTV cameras to monitor traffic jams, rather than investing in a people-friendly public transport system, in a city that The Economist’s intelligence unit deemed one of the ten worst cities to live.

The Defence Ministry has taken under its wing offices responsible for urban development; land reclamation, development and construction; waterways; and the registration of NGOs. While civilian administrators and expertise from the business community are increasingly marginalised, former or serving military officers are being appointed to key central, local government and foreign-service positions. The government has also been investing heavily in expensive technologies of surveillance such as closed circuit television security cameras and is biometric identity cards. Meanwhile civilian administrators and expertise is increasingly marginalized, to the detriment of knowledge-based, people-centered economic development policy making.

One can now see the post-conflict economy following the former Indonesian model of military business. Under Suharto, the Indonesian military was given corporate representation in the government. Each military branch had its own foundation, which operated businesses in finance management, the travel industry, agri-business, manufacturing and resource extraction. Similar patterns are evident now in Lanka, where the air force is operating flights to Jaffna, and military elites are being placed on the board of an elite (and controversial) golf club, called Water’s Edge.

Post-war militarisation is also indexed in seemingly harmless images of army personnel selling vegetables to bring down escalating food prices. In the navy, personnel are taking tourists on dolphin-sighting tours off the southern coast, and other armed-services personnel are engaged in additional commercial operations. Recently, the minister of higher education, S B Dissanayake, announced that the army would give undergraduates ‘soft-skills training’ in response to student protests against deteriorating conditions in the under-funded public universities. Rather than further politicising and militarizing higher education what is needed in a White Paper on Higher Educational Reform and investment in independent research and development.

“Military Inc.” a book about the business interests of the military in Pakistan., authored by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, a former Director of Research at the Pakistan Navy, also helps contextualize Sri Lanka’s post-war military business development trajectory, particularly in the context of growing economic and security cooperation between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, indexed in the recent visits of Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari and Chief of Armed Forces, General Kayani to Lanka. President Rajapakse and his brothers had earlier visited Pakistan. At the same time, “Pakistan week”, which featured food, fashion, arts, Sufi music and Pakistan’s rich culture and history was also celebrated recently in Colombo, inaugurated by Sri Lanka’s first lady and the Pakistani Ambassador on February 20, 2011.

Sub-titled “Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy” Dr. Siddiqa’s book analyzed a taboo subject – the range and depth of the Pakistan military’s business interests. Dr. Siddiqa coined the term MILBUS (military business), to describe a military’s business operations and activities. She defines ‘Milbus’ as ‘military capital’ used for the personal benefit of the military fraternity’. She estimates that the military’s private business empire was worth as much as £10 billion in 2005. Retired and serving officers own 12 million acres of public land in a country (where poverty is extreme among landless peasants), and run secretive business conglomerates, and manufacture everything from cement to cornflakes. Ms. Siddiqa also notes that these economic interests of the military have been a major factor in the ambitions of the Generals who have ruled the country for more than half of its 60-year history. Pakistan has a history of military rule, extensive military interests in business, along with multiple ethno-religious conflicts that have compounded the country’s poverty and conflict trap, now further complicated by the U.S led “war on terror”.

Mission creep

Militarisation is often accompanied and legitimated by the assumption that the country’s civil society and business community are unpatriotic, incompetent or corrupt, or all three and what is needed is a benevolent dictatorship or the military – or both for a country’s development. This logic, that the military can do a better job at tasks performed by civil society or the business community, is clearly dangerous; in the past, it has been used to legitimate military coups and/or military rule. Sri Lanka experienced just such a coup attempt in 1962.

Military businesses thrive thanks to invisible state subsidies in the form of free land, the use of military assets, and loans to bail them out when they run into trouble, as Dr. Siddiqa has noted. Military business also gives rise to corruption and is not economically rational, especially in the context of already high public debt. In Indonesia today as the military is being reformed and State subsidies withdrawn under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, military businesses have folded.

That democracy can sometimes be inefficient and tedious is no reason to dismantle it. During its 63 years of independence, Sri Lanka has weathered two armed conflicts: the first in the south, against the Marxist-Maoist JVP; the second in the north, against the LTTE. Both conflicts contributed to dramatically transforming civil-military relations and the quality of democracy. Sri Lanka might have won its ‘war on terror’ for now, but the root causes that escalated into the 25-year conflict have yet to be addressed. Neither has the process of comprehensive post-war settlement or reconciliation begun. In fact, the much-hyped growth rate and development trajectory might be widening the gap between rich and poor, and thereby deepening the roots of social conflict.

In the current context, Sri Lankans might not tend to discuss militarisation, because they are indeed grateful for the sacrifices that the military made to defeat the LTTE. However, militarisation, poses the real danger of military mission and mandate creep. Almost two years after the end of war, in the context of the failure to repeal Emergency Regulations (ER) it is clear that it is ironically the political leadership of the country that is steering the post-conflict militarization and transformation of civil-military relations, in a manner detrimental to democratic institutions and traditions. This might be politically expedient and lucrative for the regime in the short term, but the primary purpose of a well-trained military is to fight external threats to a country. The blurring of civil-military roles will dilute this focus. Especially when coupled with emergency rule, it will concentrate and centralise power in the presidency; it will also confer a level of impunity to the police and armed forces, encouraging them to disregard civilians’ basic rights.

Already, the detrimental effects of militarisation can be seen in Lanka. In the name of ‘city development’ and gentrification, the military has been used to displace poor people in urban areas. Examples include building a New Port City in Colombo for a Formula One race track, building super malls and five-star hotels. Along the A-9 road to Jaffna, the military runs tea shops, competing with recently returned impoverished internally displaced peoples (IDP). In the war-ravaged north and east, it has acquired extensive public and private lands under the banner of providing ‘security’ and is setting up large farms to grow vegetables and fruits in the Mannar District. The ramifications of this however, have left Tamil and Muslim farmers landless, as some of their lands, now occupied by the military, have been ear-marked for business ventures, including a coal-fired power plant, tourism projects and agro industries.

Lanka seems to be following the Pakistan model where military business and national development policy process is closely linked. Dr. Siddiqa coined the term MILBUS (military business), to describe a military’s business operations and activities and defined ‘Milbus’ as ‘military capital’ used for the personal benefit of the military fraternity’.  In Sri Lanka at this time key civil administration posts, including that of Provincial Governor remain in the hands of the military, particularly in the north east and the revolving door between high military office and private security business is increasingly lucrative. At the lower end, military business competes with small-scale business and vegetable traders and farmers, who meanwhile complain that they are being put out of business because they cannot compete with the military which is subsidized.   It is increasingly clear there is need for structural adjustment and down sizing of the defense sector and budget. While down-sizing a military presents challenges since not all may join lucrative UN peace keeping operations overseas, using Navy personnel to farm in Uswettakyawa, however successful and bountiful the produce may be, is a waste of the time of highly trained military cadre and tax payers’ monies and is not economically rational.

Security trap

Despite a heavy concentration of military personnel (40,000 army, 10,000 police), the security situation in Jaffna, the cultural heartland of the Sri Lankan Tamil community, has been deteriorating. Recent weeks saw a series of killings, forcing the former Jaffna district MP of the Tamil National Alliance, M K Shivajilingam, to suspect the armed forces’ complicity. ‘How can killings take place without their knowledge?’ he asked. ‘We feel someone is organising and overseeing these incidents to keep the people of Jaffna in a climate of fear.’

The large military presence in Jaffna contributed to the besieged population’s sense of insecurity. It is well known that in Jaffna former LTTE leaders are working with military intelligence. Minister Douglas Devananda, a leading ally of the government and one whose paramilitary cadre were also implicated in the killings, has declared that the killings are not simply the result of random criminal activity. The largest bank robbery in Colombo was traced to army deserters, of which there are 50,000 in number and security personnel have been implicated in timber theft on public and private lands and moterways.

The question is: has or how soon will militarization reach the tipping point and become counter-productive in the absence of human and social security particularly in the northeast?  Post-conflict, rather than reaching out to the Tamil-speaking communities and making recovery and reconstruction a priority, the government, after initially denying access, has now sub-contracted reconstruction work to international donors and UN agencies. The Indian Government, which is facing its fare share of corruption scandle over construction delays particularly with regard to the Commonwealth Games and the Ardash project is to construct housing for the internally displaced in the north.  When will the disaster survivors get homes? Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka government keeps on spending billions on wasteful tamashas such as Bollywood awards nights; the Independence Day Dayata Kirulla Exhibition; and paying an international advertising and public-relations firms, Bell Pottinger, to burnish the government’s tarnished post-war image. The government is also bidding to host the Commonwealth Games in 2018 in Hambantota, which could cost the state coffers as much as USD 10 billion. SLR 400 million has already been spent to formulate the bid. And there are plans to build a Golf course in Hambantota!

One should not forget that the lack of transparency and delays in aid operations after the 2004 tsunami meant that disaster victims were kept homeless for years and this contributed to the return of conflict. The government should, therefore, focus on enabling local government in the north east to coordinate, monitor and evaluate recovery and reconstruction projects to ensure that recovery projects are completed in the specified time. Although Colombo claims to steer a ‘middle path’ between the socialist closed-market economy and the neoliberal paradigm that increases inequality and conflict, what we see is a highly unequal, militarised and skewed neoliberal development model.While select sectors of the economy – the security business, tourism and gambling are benefiting many other sectors are de-developed and impoverished by the current development model and paradigm.  Finally, populist nationalism glosses the sell off and or mis-appropriation of public lands, assets and natural resources. Meanwhile a tourism-centric development policy is benefiting members of the ruling family, related crony capitalists and segments of the security establishment.

Juggernaut

In the past decade, a culture of militarisation has developed in the South Asia region due to a number of internal and external factors, particularly as a result of the US led global ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is despite the fact that the region has the highest poverty count in the world. China’s rise, and-expanding military budget and ‘string of pearls’ strategy in the Indian Ocean, has, no doubt, fuelled the process, while “Arming without Aiming”, a book recently published by the Brooking Institution in Washington, has critiqued India’s military modernization spending spree. Militarisation in Lanka has only been further legitimised with Asia becoming wealthier and emerging as a global economic centre. The central problem is that militarisation is being used to safeguard a skewed economic development model beneficial to the Rajapakse regime and its cronies. At the same time a new military elite loyal to the defence secretary and the president’s brother is also being nurtured, lending them access to administrative jobs, state lands and business opportunities.

Policy planning is afoot for big-budget infrastructure projects to turn Lanka into a development ‘hub’ in areas of maritime capability, aviation, commerce and trade, power and energy, and knowledge. Sri Lanka, with the help of the IMF and foreign donors, plans to spend around USD 1.5 to 2 billion a year on road-and-rail development, power production, port facilities, and water and sanitation. But how sustainable many of these large capital intensive infra-structure projects are and who would benefit from them is questionable. Lanka is currently dotted with half-built, unused and abandoned ‘infrastructure’-development projects constructed without adequate research and understanding of peoples’ development needs and priorities, and without consultation and coordination with communities for which they were built. White elephant infrastructure in the absence of comprehensive and integrated urban or rural development planning and expertise merely contributes to the already high public debt. The current policy seems to be if there is a buyer for public assets, let’s sell!

Violence in Jaffna despite the heavy military presence shows the limits of the military paradigm for security, economic development and sustainable peace. Already there is evidence of that we may be reaching the tipping point of militarization. A military juggernaut once set in motion might not be easily reigned in, while often those who set it in motion also suffer the consequences. Sustainable security can only be achieved by deepening democracy and embracing inclusive development. Otherwise, the regime’s dream of turning Lanka into the ‘wonder of Asia’ could morph into an Asian nightmare. Lanka is not Egypt or Tunisia, but sooner or later militarisation will be challenged as people come to notice that the traditions of democracy are gradually being eroded to create a national-security state and a ruling dynasty.

Last week, the Army Commander Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya delivering a keynote address at a workshop organized by the Engineering Department of the University of Moratuwa in a five star hotel in Colombo on “Strategic Dimensions of Cyber Warfare”, noted that cyber warfare is an emerging threat to the entire world. Although the physical war waged for 30 years had ended in Lanka, it was noted that warfare does not come to an end by eliminating terrorists from Lanka as the ‘cyber war’ or the war on the information highway continues. He did not mention Egypt, Tunisia and Libya where cyber activism has helped topple military dictatorships. Is the current Colombo regime ‘fighting windmills’? Or ‘war crimes’?

Increasingly Sri Lanka’s welfare state democracy that once placed the island at the top of the social development index in the developing world despite low per capita income is being replaced by a militarized neo-liberal developmental state, cloaked in nationalist rhetoric that has little to do with the spirit or practice of the teachings of the Buddha or ahimsa. Sri Lanka still has the best social indicators – health, literacy, education – in the region. This is due to its immediate post-colonial investment in social infrastructure and the welfare state, not in the defence sector. Now that the war is over, Lanka needs to once again lead the way in Southasia. It has to demilitarise and reinvest in human security and social development, particularly in education, and enable power-share among the island’s diverse ethno-religious communities.

  • Vasala Rajasuriya

    No, sorry, a strong and powerful military is in Sri Lanka’s interests. Any further separatist rebellions – by Tamils or others – need to be crushed at the outset by overwhelming force. Sri Lanka needs to continue to invest in its military and ensure a large force ready for mobilisation at short notice.

    • Ram

      “Any further separatist rebellions – by Tamils or others”

      Others – Muslims? or Kandyans? or Chetties of Colombo?

      We should not pretend that the call for separatism can come from other communities other than Tamils.

      That means Tamils have problems in living under an unfair system of post colonial Sri Lanka.

      • Vasala Rajasuriya

        “That means Tamils have problems in living under an unfair system of post colonial Sri Lanka.”

        No one is stopping members from the Tamil community from joining the Sri Lankan security forces. But I think Sri Lanka needs a strong military that will wipeout any separatist force if necessary. India’s strong and powerful military is one of the factors holding the country together.

    • The Mervyn Silva

      You are very wrong, the Vasala! We are having the big military to be crushing the rebellion even before it is starting!

  • wijayapala

    Hi Darini, interesting article but I have a few observations:

    1) Despite the evident “militarisation,” Sri Lanka cannot be compared to Pakistan because it does not have military rule. The leaders of the country are civilians and they have to be elected. The MoD which oversees the military also is controlled by civilians.

    2) With regard to the point that the military is loyal to the Rajapakshas, how did this happen? What else would be the result when the opposition quite explicitly identifies itself as anti-military, to the extent of openly ridiculing the military’s battlefield gains against the LTTE? How would members of the military react in this situation in ANY democracy? Is there any other democracy having an opposition that is so dismissive of its own military?

    3) You have not explained how all the positive social indicators Sri Lanka had before the war did not prevent the island from getting engulfed in a 25+ year war. Are health, literacy, and education enough to sustain peace, given Sri Lanka’s postcolonial history?

    • The Mervyn Silva

      I am agreeing fully and one hundred percent also. We are not like the Pakistan. We are having the civilian to rule over the military that is ruling over the civilians. I am telling our Majesty very often,Our Majesty, the conqueror of the Universe and the winner of the World Cup for bashing the Terrorism, as long as we are having the civilians to be ruling the military we can be letting the military be doing aything they are liking to the civilians. As long as we are not as bad as teh Egypt and the Pakistan and the Tunisia, the peoples will be happy to be letting the military be doing whatever they are liking – and we are liking them to be doing – and just be going on watching the World Cup or any other cup that is on the television.

    • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

      wijayapala,

      Sri Lanka ceased to be a Democracy in 1970. Since then it has meandered along as a DemoCrazy, and since 2005 it has become a ‘One Family Dictatorship.’ This country today is only a Democracy in name. A Fake Democracy to be exact.

      ps.was Gotabaya, Basil (during Rajapaksa’s 1st term) and Chamal elected to their present posts or just SELECTED???

      • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

        Basil and Chamal are elected MPs. In the previous administration they were advisers who are appointed. Gotabhaya is a civil servant.

  • eeurekaa

    Darini
    Thank you for this fine piece(you never disappoint me).

    Vasala and Wijayapala
    Very many Sinhalese(who know a thing or two) have gone up to LLRC and told how wrong governance of decades led to the armed struggle. Even if the old habit is changed now some future generations might benefit.

  • eeurekaa

    ”After nearly three decades of armed conflict, it is now one of Southasia’s calmest and fastest-growing countries”

    Is that why the government has said that it has no intention to re-apply for the GSP+ facility? But then ”the government now hopes to look toward small and medium enterprise development with the EU” – http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/10015-no-intention-to-re-apply-for-gsp-sl.html

    Is it because it cannot meet the EU conditions(human rights) to get GSP+?

    • wijayapala
    • TT

      “Is it because it cannot meet the EU conditions(human rights) to get GSP+?”

      It may be because there is NO NEED to meet those conditions as they are not economically and politically justifiable.

      Development benefits people and EU cannot retract it unlike GSP+.

      I’m amused how EU now wants to give things to SL. They are realizing their irrelevance. Now they are willing to do what SL asks. This way they can never get SL to sign the Rome statute, etc. SL should never sign it. The only good thing Ranil did was not to sign it.

  • Heshan

    Excellent article. In fact, I have commented extensively on the military and its burden to Northern/Eastern society, in several posts on this forum.The author of this article does a slightly better job, but the basic point is the same: a poor country like SL cannot afford a massive military. Where economics is concerned, the important point is that most of the revenue generated by the military does not go back to the local community but gets channeled elsewhere. One implication is that local businesses experience diminished growth prospects, since the primary driver of growth – competition – is not allowed free reign. Furthermore, if the Government is subsidizing these military-run businesses, as the article states, that is even worse. It means that these businesses are not subject to the primary market drivers – supply and demand. An oligopoly or monopoly will be the end result, and if it is an essential item, the consumer will be bearing the cost.

  • wijayapala

    Hi Ram

    That means Tamils have problems in living under an unfair system of post colonial Sri Lanka.

    Sorry but I did not understand your point. Were you saying that only the N-E Tamils have legitimate grievances because they resorted to violence, unlike the Muslims and other communities? So the Upcountry Tamils do not have legitimate grievances because they never killed anybody?

    Or were you just being sarcastic (which I can very much relate to! ;-))

  • TT

    This contains heaps of inaccuracies and irrelevant assertions.

    “The army constitutes over 210,000 personnel in a country with less than 20 million people”

    That is just 1.05% of the population! In some standards this is not enough. Sl should ideally have a military reserve many times more. There was a time when the SLA was just 8,000 including the reserves. And what happened? LTTE, etc. made good use of it.

    “The current budget allocates 20 percent of GDP for defence expenditures”

    This is most absurd. SL defence expenditure is ONLY around 4% of the GDP!! :)

    “Lanka seems to be following the Pakistan model were military business and national development policy process is closely linked.”

    No. Pakistani military is a net forex earner. USA, etc. donates billions of $s every year to Pakistan. That is why Pakistan follows a military-centric industrial/business strategy. SL is quite the oppositte.

    “Violence in Jaffna despite the heavy military presence shows the limits of the military paradigm for security and sustainable peace.”

    This sporadic and infrequent violence is absolutely nothing compared to how things were! Regular assassinations, massacres, bombings, etc. have stopped. It is not possible to completely stop the violence.

    “One should not forget that the lack of transparency and delays in aid operations after the 2004 tsunami meant that disaster victims were kept homeless for years and this contributed to the return of conflict.”

    In my view, it was a clever defence-political strategy to deprive the LTTE tsunami aid. Even if it had got aids, there is no guarantee people would have benefitted. The war is no big challenge for SL. SL can win wars! Fear of war should NEVER be a criterion to change decisions in future. Having a large army supports it.

    “The question is: has or how soon will militarization reach the tipping point and become counter-productive in the absence of human and social security particularly in the northeast?”

    This is a good point. It is already proving to be counter-productive in the absence of multi ethnic agri and fisheries based colonization schemes in the NE. The only way to put to good use the 15,000 sq kms won by the military is to distribute its economic benefits to people of all ethnicities. This is not happening. General SF had a plan but MR doesn’t seem to have any vision to make NE multiethnic and hence sustainably peaceful. Unlike in the past, the presence of a powerful monopolised military helps in creating new multiethnic settlements in the NE. It must be used. Otherwise there will be no economic fruits for people outside the NE despite winning control over 15,000 sq km of land and adjoining sea.

    “It has to demilitarise and reinvest in human security and social development, particularly in education, and enable power-share among the island’s diverse ethno-religious communities.”

    Quite the opposite is true. SL should continue to invest in BOTH military and human development plus a military co-ordinated economic and human development. Power must be shared between multiethnic teams only. Certainly not with monoethnic political parties. A strong military is an enabler of it.

    The bottomline is SL needs a strong military to frustrate seperatist, racist, terrorist and other undesirable elements and to foster economic development.

    e.g. Tens of thousands of Sinhalese and Muslims were killed and chased away from almost all the districts in the north when SLA was relatively weak. This must be avoided in future at all cost. Resettlement in hundreds of villages abandoned due to LTTE, etc. attacks can only happen with the support of SLA.

    e.g. Rioters ran amok in Colombo when there wasn’t enough numbers to deploy in north, south, east, west and the centre at the same time. never should it happen again with a strong SLA.

    There was a time some unintelligent persons preached there was no military solution to the problem. Well, it did have a military solution! Some may disagree with me but for most Sri Lankans there is relative peace today that was unimaginable a few years ago. It is impossible to satisfy everyone and there is no economic or political justification to do so either.

  • eeurekaa

    ”That means Tamils have problems in living under an unfair system of post colonial Sri Lanka.”

    http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2011/02/27/northern-homes-will-not-be-returned-at-cost-of-national-security/
    Northern Homes Will Not be Returned At Cost Of National Security, 27 February 2011

    Some people have the ”National Security”.
    Tamils won’t won’t have any security even after 63 yrs of ”independence” and the successive governments have been prepared to spend billions of dollars on war but not let Tamils have their basic needs.

    http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2011/02/27/rajapaksa%e2%80%99s-dictatorial-allies-foretell-his-future/comment-page-1/#comment-185604
    Rajapaksa’s Dictatorial Allies Foretell His Future

    Nice pictures for who hise behind ”National Security”.

    • Vasala Rajasuriya

      The Sri Lankan state needs to ensure its security. That’s why the HSZs must stay – whether Tamils like it or not. Now this may sound rather callous but the reason the HSZs are there in the first place is because there was a separatist movement that wanted to steal away Sri Lankan land. Tamils in the north need to understand that the HSZs are there because of the LTTE and the threat Tamil separatism posed to the Sri Lankan state. Without any confidence building measures from the Tamil side shunning all sorts of separatism and violence, I’mm afraid the HSZs will remain in some form or another. When the state is convinced that there is no separatist threat, or threat of guerrilla war, then the HSZs will automatically be dismantled.

    • TT

      Tamils?

      Don’t generalise. Devananda, Pillayan, Karuna, Thondaman, Ganesan MP, etc., etc. are all Tamils. Some of them play an integral part of national security!! They are there thanks to national security policy.

      So your assumption is false. You cannot generalise.

      If anyone irrespective of ethnicity goes against national security of any democratic country, they will be in trouble. How much trouble depends on how much trouble they cause.

      If Tamil Tigers didn’t take up arms, there is no need for such huge HSZs! Billions spent on national security are not wasted. Of the $1.6 billion spend, $1.5 billion comes back into the economy. Salaries, food, services and even some weapons are locally procured.

      On the other hand most SL free education benefitted doctors, engineers, IT graduates, etc. (cost to the taxpayers = $ 15,000 each + lost opportunities for others) from the NORTH leave the country soon after earning the qualification THAN others. It is much much higher than Muslims, Sinhalese and Tamils from the upcountry. This money is completely wasted as SL taxpayers get nothing in return for their investment. First year cost of a SLA soldier is only $8,000 and $ 7,000 comes back into the economy! Guns are not replaced every year and second year on, the outgoing out the country is even less. In addition they contribute immensely to development (directly and indirectly), maintaining law and order, village level development, uplifting poorest families they come from without subsidies, etc.

      I’m not saying we should replace one with the other! We should selectively maximise the benefits to SL (not to the Tamil diaspora) while maintaining national security and honouring equal individual rights.

      I know some don’t agree with me but I’m ONLY interested in SL’s well being.

  • Gerard Francis

    I liked this article and the basic premise Darini conveys ; a ballooning military will in time destroy the stability of the country, any country.
    What has been left unsaid by her for obvious reasons or perhaps because she believes it to be untrue is that militarily defeating the LTTE is in fact a death knell for this country ( I can see the hackles rising) from a local and international standpoint – there are no more ‘ them’ , it’s all ‘us’ and what if we don’t like ‘us’ or those around decide to control us. Remember how the LTTE and the GoSL under Premadasa together worked on getting the IPKF out.
    Time will tell

    • TT

      Premadasa got rid of ‘them’ not us.

      SL military defeating LTTE is the best thing happened to SL. It is surely the death knell of the LTTE, Tamil Elam project and violent seperatism but most Sri Lankans love it. Unlike the IPKF the Sri Lanka military is made up of brothers, sons, fathers, uncles, friends, etc. of us – Sri Lankans! We are the armed forces and armed forces personnel are part of us.

  • http://srilankalandoftheblind.blogspot.com/ PresiDunce Bean

    Dear David,
    You forgot to mention that Basil, Gotabaya and Chamal are Mahindas’s brothers. Also you didn’t mention that Basil and Gotabaya are American citizens. Isn’t it ironic, that when Mahinda is away from the country, 2 US citizens govern this country???

    • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

      Dear Dunce, I was merely answering your question; I try to stick to the topic and not ramble off like you. Why do you feel it is ironic that two US citizens have control of the country? Isn’t it far more ironic that in spite of all the western bluster, it is citizens and resident permit holders of their own nations who are responsible for the actions in SL?

      • Not-A-Rajapaksa

        Blackler:
        You are so eager to rush to the defence of those to whom you pay constant obeisance, that you appear to miss every element of sarcasm, irony etc. Such brilliance in the defence of the indefensible!

      • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

        First of all, my name is not Blackler. At least have the civility to not misspell my name, before you attempt to correct my style of discourse. As for sarcasm, let me quote R from The World is not Enough: “Ah, the famous Bond wit — or at least half of it.”

  • justitia

    The northeast is essentially under a military regime and the south is essentially a police state.
    Both the military and police act with complete impunity as reported in the media. None can qusetion their actions – not even the judiciary.
    As the author surmises, sri lanka is well on the way to becoming another pakistan.