By Rathindra Kuruwita
Restricting political activities at the Galle Face Green marks a repressive turning point in Sri Lankan democracy, says senior political scientist, Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda.
“This is a suppression of democratic space. The government is getting ready to deal with future political turmoil. The Aragalaya movement in 2022 showed that people wanted to be involved in the decision-making process and some changes in the Lankan polity occurred because of it,” Dr. Uyangoda said in a brief interview with The Island. Ranil Wickremesinghe administration saw public involvement in politics as a serious threat to its existence, he added.
“Sri Lanka is moving from a democracy towards quasi authoritarianism through weaponising national security. This has happened in the USA too. The attempts to create a national security state only ramped up after the end of the war. This is ironic,” he said.
Prof. Uyangoda said that in the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) the government has greatly broadened what qualifies as a terrorist activity.
“A number of things in the ATA are activities that are now punished under criminal law. Suddenly these activities have become terrorism related offences,” he said.
Uyangoda said in many countries in the world people are suffering because of the economic crisis. In parallel there are protests across the world.
“When the government does not listen to people, it is natural for them to get off the streets. When the government makes protest a terrorist activity, we can only see this as a massive defeat of Sri Lankan democracy,” he said.
He said that apart from two constitutional amendments, all the other changes to the constitution since 1978 are attempts at shrinking the democratic space.
“If the proposed ATA is passed, even the small democratic space that remains will be reduced drastically. The outcome of this will be that anyone who comes into power from now on will start looking at citizens as enemies,” he said.