A nation of contradictions:
Lanka failing its people?
By Frederica Jansz
The twelve indicators by wich a country is judged:
- Mounting Demographic Pressures
- Massive Movement of Refugees and IDPs
- Legacy of Vengeance - Seeking Group Grievance
- Chronic and Sustained Human Flight
- Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines
- Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline
- Criminalization or Delegitimization of the
- Progressive Deterioration of Public Services
- Widespread Violation of Human Rights
- Security Apparatus as "State within a State"
- Rise of Factionalized Elites
- Intervention of Other States or External
Sri Lanka today is a nation of contradictions.
The country is supposedly engaged in fighting an "un-declared
war" while professing to still embrace a tattered truce
agreement. We have today a President who typically represents a
South Asian politician. Similar to his counterparts he adopts
contradictory stances on key issues. For instance, his tough
pre-election posture on the peace process and his commitment to
the peace process is a case in point.
President Rajapakse though is on one side of the
table. On the other sits the intransigent LTTE.
A moot point for debate today is that Sri Lanka
has been placed as a Failed State by a Washington-based
independent research group which calls itself the Fund for
Peace. Compared closely on a scale with countries like Ruwanda
and Ethiopia, Sri Lanka is sandwiched between these two nations
as a country that has failed socially, economically and
Consider the ramifications of a Failed State. A
pariah state… a banana republic…a nation slapped by human rights
watchdogs for failing to observe basic codes of human and
democratic rights. (Refer 12 indicators in box)
Of course there will be counter arguments as to
the methodology of the study done by Fund for Peace and the
credibility of its final outcome.
The issue however for all Sri Lankans is more
significant than this. That Sri Lanka has warranted a
microscopic study which found her greatly lacking in maintaining
standards in key areas is not to be easily discounted.
After all, this country does not need any group
to tell it where it has gone miserably wrong. Once considered a
paradise in Asia, Sri Lanka today has turned out to be among one
of the greatest disappointments in this part of the region.
A Failed State results when the leadership and
institutions of the state are weakened and discredited to the
point where the state can no longer fulfill its responsibilities
or exercise sovereign power over the territory within its
borders. In a functioning state the ruling regime has a monopoly
over the administration as well as the use of force. For the
past two decades, the country has been experiencing an internal
conflict between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels. An
estimated 65,000 people have been killed and a million
displaced. Negotiations to resolve the conflict over the past
four years has been on a see-saw. Currently there is an
escalation of hostilities.
In parts of the North and East the government
has no monopoly over the use of force nor does it have control
over these territories.
According to social indicators an estimated
800,000 Sri Lankans work overseas. Sri Lanka's economy in fact
is dependent on some 1 billion dollars every year which is sent
as remittances from her nationals working abroad - mainly in
places like the Middle East.
Sri Lanka continues to maintain a growth rate of
5% with an average GDP per capita estimated in 2005 to be US$
Despite a steady economic growth, large parts of
her population continue to live in poverty. The Tsunami
contributed in no small measure displacing over half a million.
The much-needed aid to the affected has trickled through a
pipeline of bureaucratic bungling. Many victims still live in
intolerable conditions because both the government and aid
donors have failed to provide assistance to meet their basic
It is a fact that the presidential elections
held in 2005 though declared free and fair by the European
Union, underscored the legitimacy of the State as most Tamils
did not vote.
On the economic front, the skyrocketing prices
of essentials have to be brought down; jobs have to be provided
for the hoi polloi; foreign investment has to be attracted;
foreign- aid utilisation has to improve drastically; and
economic reform has to be initiated against stiff opposition
from radical Marxist allies within the current regime.
The resumption of hostilities between government
forces and the LTTE has also increased human rights violations.
Attacks by the LTTE on government security forces have led to
scores of civilians being caught in the cross-fire. On the other
hand, there has been an increase in reports of police abuse and
torture of civilians while in police custody.
The judiciary though independent of the
executive by law, is perceived by and large to be far from
perfect. An overwhelming majority rate the system as being
"poor" and say that it is neither fair nor just. In a poll
conducted recently by 'Lanka Monthly Digest' 72% were
unanimously of the view that the country's legal system is in a
FfP reiterates in their study that there have
been reports of corruption in the Sri Lankan judiciary, and the
country suffers from a shortage of judges.
Additionally, Sri Lanka's civil service is
overstaffed but inefficient. The country is plagued by acts of
bribery and corruption.
While we can argue the merits and demerits of
the study conducted by the FfP, this nation can no longer ignore
stark facts. The reality is that reports such as this assess the
stability and political risk of countries by focusing on key
economic, social, and political indicators, including, as
applicable, their relations with other countries in the region
and local issues. Companies and organizations use these reports
to supplement their own internal political risk assessments for
investment decisions and for developing corporate responsibility
and community engagement policies and practices.
The analysis includes examination of the
pressures on a state (12 Indicators), the ability of the state
to cope (Core Five Institutions…. Leadership, Military, Police,
Judiciary, Civil Service) and the specific investment risk
factor in a country. Based on combining the political and
investment risk assessments, FfP has provided a "total risk"
score for a country as well as called attention to the specific
risk factors for the user. Mitigating options and stakeholders
are identified for each of these.
In short, Sri Lanka today is viewed by the world
as a "total risk" for specific investment.
The fragile nature of interdependence among
nations, threatened by four lethal world conditions --
overpopulation, unequal distribution of resources, deterioration
of the environment and the chaotic status of human rights -- is
the context in which The Fund for Peace operates and has
concluded its analysis on Sri Lanka.
One aspect in this entire scenario stands
crystal clear. Sri Lankans need to confront issues that arise
from the fact of interdependence and the conditions that
threaten cooperation among nations. It isn't enough to note
these conditions and to say vaguely that we are doing something
The Fund exerts two principal efforts to affect
decision-makers. First, it promotes scholarship to define
problems and to provide competent answers. Second, it uses the
knowledge and information it obtains to participate in debates
and inform the public of the facts.