Sri Lankan Polity in Peril

One of the salient features of the South Asian politics is that the region is highly unstable in terms of politics. Almost every nation in the South Asian region has undergone through a history of political instability and this is not something new to the region’s politics. This time it is Sri Lanka which has exhibited a fragile political process which has created a crisis in the island Nation. Sri Lanka’s president Maithripala Sirisena sacked the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and brought his political rival Mahinda Rajapaksa into the position. Earlier, Sirisena was a member of Rajapaksa cabinet and he defected his party to contest elections in 2014. Sirisena again repeated the history of defection by aligning himself with his former rival. The political situation in Sri Lanka is worsening day by day, it has created an unprecedented constitutional crisis in the island nation. This also would mean that for the neighbouring country India, it is yet another diplomatic challenge that the nation must face from its immediate neighbour.

The political crisis in Sri Lanka has created a constitutional crisis which has created a division of power across three corners. Now, there is a lack of clarity regarding who has the actual control over the island nation and this has also created a cloud of uncertainty of the political and economic domains of the island nation. This is in fact is a setback for Sri Lanka which was recovering from the civil war that it fought with the LTTE. Similarly, there is also mounting pressure from the international community under the UN human rights council which is looking into the violation of human rights during the civil war against the Tamil Liberation force.

The recent development also underline the power hunger of Sirisena towards controlling the politics of Sri Lanka. While the Prime Minister does not have the power to remove a President, Sirisena has acted otherwise by removing Wickremesinghe from office and appointing a new Prime Minister. Sirisena also didn’t follow the due process of Parliament whereby the elected representatives determine the Prime Minister.

While the recent development is undoubtedly a threat to the Sri Lankan democracy, this also remind us how fragile the Sri Lankan democracy is. Unlike the democratic process that we follow in India, Sri Lankan democracy is still in its nascent stage and has weak institutional framework to protect the nation from falling into such democratic crisis. Some of the implications of this development are going to last in the Sri Lankan democracy forever. For instance if Sirisena’s actions are justified as valid by the legal system in the country, then this will create a bad precedent for the future democracy. Since both the legislature as well as the executive failed to resolve this crisis, now the only hope is with the judicial system of the country. However we have to wait and watch whether the judicial system of the country will be able to step into this crisis and resolve the trouble in a timely manner.

While this is an internal domestic political crisis of Sri Lanka, it has also created concern within neighbouring nations as well. For instance, from the perspective of the Indian diplomacy, this crisis has created an uncertainty about how India should approach the Chinese influence in the Sri Lankan economy. The current situation has created a cloud of uncertainty and it is better for the Indian diplomacy to not engage until and unless the crisis settle down in the island nation. We do have the history of intervening in Sri Lanka internal politics and getting into the unnecessary trouble, which was case with the intervention of India using its peacekeeping forces in 1987 against the Tamil Liberation forces. At that point of time the intervention by India created a huge backlash from the Sri Lankan society and ultimately, the price that India paid for that intervention was the life of our former prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

Following the election of Sirisena in 2014, India was in a relaxed position as it felt like it got a pro-Indian President in the island nation. However, given the nature of the political storm in Sri Lanka, it should act cautiously so that its interest in the island Nation as well as the surrounding Indian ocean region is protected from the growing influence of China.

Picture Credits : indiatoday.in

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