The positive achievements of the regime change are quite significant, but paradoxically they remain mostly invisible and intangible. Key among them include making the state less and less repressive, removing the use of fear, terror, intimidation and corruption as instruments of governance, turning the regime behaviour moderate and less leader-centric, dismantling the political culture of the personality cult, demilitarisation of politics and public space, the re-opening of the space for critique and dissent, and the removal of the fear among ethnic and religious minorities of organised violence. These indeed are no mean achievements gained within a space of days and weeks of the regime change. All these are negative achievements in the sense that they are outcome of the government refraining from doing certain things. But they constituted a fundamental alteration of the pattern of regime behaviour evolved during the past so many years.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday criticized a comeback bid by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the rival he beat in elections last January, and his own allies for backing him to become prime minister.
“Sri Lanka’s recent political shake-up has meant that continued volatility has been the order of the day. But are things really changing? In short, they are, but maybe not nearly as quickly as many people have suggested. Rajapaksa’s defeat and his peaceful departure are positive developments. Yet the challenges for the new government in general and Sirisena in particular remain formidable. An important parliamentary election that’s expected in June ensures that Sri Lanka’s political situation will remain fluid in the coming months. The lingering potential for a Rajapaksa comeback further complicates the situation. Rajapaksa was ousted because Sri Lankans craved real reform – not cosmetic maneuvering.”
The shift in political priorities – from “national security and economic development” to one of “good governance”; and the emergence of civil society actor-networks may represent tectonic sifts in the political landscape of Sri Lanka and provide a template for similar transformations in other countries. Perhaps they merely signify ‘little changes’ that would pale in comparison with the bigger changes that may eventually follow.
Although, the coalition criticized the Colombo Port City project as a waste of a colossal sum and promised to terminate it once elected, it now appears that the government is retracting from its earlier commitment. A major promise made prior to its election was the removal of the executive presidency. The Sirisena government is now having second thoughts.
Those who voted for this administration are watching with a keen interest and will no doubt pass judgement on its performance or lack at the soon to be held general election.
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.” 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.