Third time’s a charm . . .
Sri Lanka’s election, twice postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, took place on August 5 and resulted in a landslide win for the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda. With a two-thirds majority secured, the SLPP intends to push through major constitutional reforms that would increase the authority of the president’s office, which the SLPP contends would strengthen governance and security policies.
Eroding freedoms under dynastic rule . . .
The Rajapaksas are popular among the majority Sinhala ethnic group for contributing to ending the country’s 25-year civil war with ethnic Tamil separatists and restoring relative stability to the country. The civil war ended in 2009. However, the Rajapaksas remain controversial and divisive with allegations of persistent human rights abuses during and after the war and the absence of a meaningful resolution to ethnic conflicts, especially among the Tamil minority. Civil rights activists also allege the SLPP has masterminded widespread crackdowns on political dissent, and they fear the proposed reforms will further shrink the political space available to critics and minority groups.
Sri Lanka courted on two sides . . .
The election may also have a significant impact on regional politics, with both China and India vying for political dominance in the South Asia region. Though Sri Lanka has traditionally sided with India, its economic relationship with China has strengthened in recent years. The country’s imports from China have grown significantly, while China continues to invest in major infrastructure projects such as ports. Under a nationalist ‘Sri Lanka First’ policy, the Rajapaksas stated that they would simply choose deals that maximize benefits for the country. However, India fears it may lose out to more attractive Chinese proposals.
- Al-Jazeera: Sri Lankan parliamentary elections: Five key takeaways
- Chatham House: Chinese Investment and the BRI in Sri Lanka
- The Diplomat: Post-War Sri Lanka: Fractured and Unjust for Tamils