Protest in Free Trade Zone, photo via Vikalpa
For a long time I thought the current Sri Lankan government was all-powerful, but not anymore. In past months, they’ve gotten a couple of black eyes and had to back down pretty good. It’s interesting. I think the Sri Lankan people still have the power.
To brutally sum, the government wanted to take more money from the private sector to support their bloated staff and gamble in the stock market. People in the Free Trade Zone were like WTF and protested. The cops tried the usual scene and killed a young man. Major scene.
In response, the government backed off the pension scheme and the Police Chief resigned/retired (was fired).
Galle Face Green
The government was trying to sell some land to a Chinese company (ie, the Chinese government). This land didn’t exist, they were going to reclaim it from the sea, but it seemed too cheap and word was that it would be sold outright. The Sunday Times blew this up, kinda giving the impression that they were selling the Galle Face Green, or that the Green would lose its seaside, but anyways, major scene. The government cancelled the project.
This is mostly self-inflicted, as in the political catchers appointed to run the cricket board keep punching themselves in the head, wondering why everything goes dark, and punching again. They messed up the Cricket World Cup financially, then acted all jealous about the IPL, trying to pull Sri Lankan players back. They didn’t listen and that was black eye number one.
Then they started their own local league, which was a total mess. No Indian players would come, there was no marketing done and the whole thing has been postponed. Black eye number two.
Then Kumar Sangakkara gave his famous speech and the Sports Minister responded by calling for an investigation (into the speech). Later it was reported that Sanga had permission and that no one was going to investigate. Black eye numero three, meaning that wing of government is officially out of eyes.
So, this government is not the dictatorship people make it out to be. I don’t think it ever was. Sri Lanka has had two proper dictators from the UNP (one violent – Premadasa, the other more bureaucratic – JR) and one proper dynasty (the Bandaranaike’s). Yet we still emerged with some weird sorta democracy, albeit not a visible one. Visibly, all systems are corrupted and messed. Underneath it all, however, it seems that the people still have some power.