The biggest threat to Sri Lanka’s democracy today comes from the Sri Lankan business community. Recently, when the opposition and trade unions organized a demonstration, the Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka issued a statement asking them to stop the demonstration and support the government to overcome the economic crisis. When protests are held, the government says that the business community is asking them to suppress those protests.
Recently, the tourism minister said that the hotel owners are angry because of the protests. This is a new weapon used to justify the suppression of human rights in the political history of Sri Lanka. President Ranil Wickremesinghe has started using this weapon. He uses the strugglers to suppress the struggle. The business community is used to suppress protests. Through his personal friendships, he has succeeded in silencing non-governmental organizations in Sri Lanka that raised their voices against the ones who rose against repression. These non-governmental organizations were mum on the repression of Ranil’s government.
This is a more terrible repression than the repression of the Rajapaksa. Because Ranil’s government has strategically killed the voices raised against the Rajapaksa’s repression. This is because Ranil has tamed and destroyed civil societies in Sri Lanka so that even if a Rajapaksa-style leader emerges in the future, they cannot raise their voice against the suppression of that leader.
Only international community can change this. There are three factors that give Sri Lanka great hope that the international community can control it. The first is the IMF facility; the second is G.S.P. Plus concession. The third is foreign tourists. Ranil’s government shows that even as it suppresses the protests, the IMF supports him. Regardless of its repressive policies, the European Union is prepared to give the G.S.P plus. European nations support his tyranny and send tourists to his country.
In 2010 Sri Lanka lost the G.S.P Plus concession because of Mahinda’s government’s human rights violations. There is no difference in the repression carried out by Ranil’s government today and Mahinda’s government then. Against Mahinda’s government’s human rights violations EU withdrew the GSP plus. If the European Union, approves the repression of Ranil’s government and continue to grant GSP plus it will be giving a wrong message to the people. On the other hand it granting the GSP plus to the business community who say that protests in Sri Lanka should be suppressed. Granting to the business community which does not realize the value the EU give to the democratic rights is ridiculous. They will get the G.S.P plus and will incite the government more to suppress the protests by repression.
The best lesson the business community that advocates government repression can be taught is taking severe decisions on IMF relief, GSP plus, sending foreign tourists. Then they will pressure the government to protect human rights. Ranil Wickramasinghe has been recognized by the people of this country as a leader liked by Western countries. The Rajapaksas have been identified as a leader that Western countries do not like. This is a good opportunity for the international community to tell the people of Sri Lanka that it is not important for the leader to be a friend of the West, but more important is to be a friend who protects and respects human rights.