ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Militarisation, Lankan Style

The military in Sri Lanka is being transformed from a politically non-partisan entity into the de facto praetorian guard of the Rajapaksa family - a force willing and able to overstep legal and constitutional limits in defence of Rajapaksa rule. Concomitantly, civilian spaces are being infused with a "Rajapaksaised" military, and civilian institutions compelled to submit to its authority.

Sri Lanka’s unexpected loss at the T20 World Cup finals in late 2012 plunged the country into despair. The fact that the defeat happened at home raised the shock to a new level. The day after the cricket fiasco, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary and younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, offered his take on why Sri Lanka lost its fourth cricket world cup final. At a function to mark the commissioning of 23 principals of leading national schools as brevet colonels, Rajapaksa attributed the defeat to the “absence of leadership training” (Sri Lanka Mirror, 8 October 2012).

Rajapaksa’s “analysis”, considered in confluence with the occasion on which he made it and his full official title (Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development), indicates both the extent of Lankan militarisation and its sui generis nature. In Sri Lanka, militarisation is advancing with disturbing rapidity, and making inroads into traditional civilian preserves. The motive force behind these meticulously planned waves of militarisation is not the military leadership. The authors and directors of Lankan militarisation are the country’s civilian rulers, the Rajapaksas. The militarisation drive is part – and a critically important one – of the grand Rajapaksa scheme to strengthen “Rajapaksa power”, concomitant with dismantling democratic freedoms and subverting judicial independence.

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