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The Sri Lankan Elections and what it means to India and the world

BY: Vinod Subramanian

The Sri Lankan Podujana Peramuna Party (SLPP), headed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, recently swept the parliamentary elections, securing about a 2/3rds majority. What does this mean for the people of Sri Lanka, and the international community at large?

While the economy is in shambles with outstanding debt payments worth almost $4.5 billion due this year, tepid economic growth due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the slump in the tourism sector after the Easter bombings of 2019, it is perplexing how the SLPP managed to win this election. There are also brewing social tensions among various communities in the island nation. 

The SLPP inherited most of these issues from the previous government, and was appointed as a caretaker government in November 2019 after the victory of Lt. Colonel Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the presidential elections. The President’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed as the interim Prime Minister.  The elections were then postponed twice, and finally held in August 2020.

However, it appears that the government’s successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has worked in its favour. The people of Sri Lanka also felt a sense of stability from the current government after a few years of turmoil. 

What are the immediate priorities of the government and what does this mean for the Sri Lankan people? 

The economy urgently needs to be fixed. Debt payments need to be made, jobs need to be created, wages need to be increased for tea plantation workers, and foreign investments need to be reworked. 

Sri Lanka has successfully crushed terrorism from militant groups. However, extremist Islamic terrorism is still a concern. The Tawaheed Jamaat group, responsible for the Easter bombings of 2019, is still active. The country also needs to ensure that innocent people are not targeted. Further, many members of the Islamic community feel persecuted. And it will be the government’s responsibility to ensure that communal cohesion is maintained among its citizens while the backbone of terrorist groups are dealt with. 

Another major concern emanates from the Northern and Eastern provinces dominated by the minority Tamil community. They voted for the opposition parties, and are now concerned that they will be ignored. 

In 2009, when Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President of the Republic, the dreaded Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), a UN recognized terror group, was defeated by the Sri Lankan armed forces. However, it has been alleged that the civilian population endured mass atrocities. The minority Tamil Community was reportedly the most affected.

What do these results mean for India?

Wary of discontent with the current ruling party, India immediately reached out to the newly elected President in November.  The External Affairs Minister, Dr. Jaishankar, paid a visit to the Sri Lankan capital Colombo and communicated the Government of India’s intentions to work with the new administration. 

There have been three high level visits since then, including the Sri Lankan President’s, Prime Minister’s and Foreign Minister’s trip to New Delhi. 

The Reserve Bank of India (the Central Bank of India) also agreed to implement a currency swap agreement worth $400 million with Sri Lanka. This is expected to provide relief to Sri Lanka, currently owing heavy international debts. 

However, everything is not so rosy. Recent reports indicate that the Eastern Terminal Project in Colombo, which was being jointly constructed between India and Japan, may be cancelled by the government. New Delhi is also closely watching the Rajapaksa administration’s ties with Beijing. However, India has been assured by the administration that its interests will not be threatened by external factors. The relations between India and Sri Lanka are based on historical and cultural ties with common interests and are only expected to grow stronger.

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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