Sri Lanka: Mob Rule or Color Revolution

It’s Mob Rule in Sri Lanka. For its supporters it is a color revolution a la Ukraine Maidan in 2014 (more on that later). There are calls to hang and quarter President Gotabya Rajapakse. who was democratically elected by an overwhelming majority   These are not sentiments of rural folk. It’s the call from Western leaning, educated urban affluent folk, plus those comfortably living in western countries. These are the types whose platitudes are about rule of law, democracy, guilty until proven and other trope.
But then the  fruit does not fall from the tree does it. The tree been that beacon of democracy, the US.  Just a few weeks ago there were calls for regime change, including assassination of a world leader, not just by some nonentity but by the leader of the “free” world and one of his senior member in the government.
Then of course there is the history, much to do with oil
Eg 1: Overthrow Assassination of the democratically elected Iranian PM Mosaddegh and the Shah being installed.   When there was a popular revolution and a democratic government kept getting elected under theocratic oversight (no much different from UK monarchy) sanctions against  were done done with the hope of regime change.
Eg 2 : Venezuela. Conspiracy theories of Chavez being murdered. However, very clear the US has continued using sanctions to attempt regime change and install a client Guido (is he from South Jersey). Note: Venezuela and Iran have been able to live with US sanctions because they are energy independent.
Eg 3: Korea the first division a la a possible Ukraine  Vietnam, Kosovo, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria almost all still occupied by the US/NATO

In Sri Lanka this is a class struggle, which the west oriented urban elite hope to regain power by other means  That is not by democratic vote.   The small vocal (in English) is extremely against the current regime.  Not just against, a visceral hatred of the rural types, (godayas or bumpkins), much like visceral hatred of Russia or the rural Evangelicals and deplorables who support Trump. It is very evident in the language used against them, extremely discourteous to say the least.  The Rajapakses have continued the pro rural people, socialist policies started by the Bandaranaike in 1956..The rural people (80 % of SL) are not happy.   Who likes power cuts and shortages of diesel.  But not to the extent of doing protest.  They just need to cut firewood to cook.

The whole do a little protests and then go for sushi meal sums up the depth of these protests. Urban, affluent and no depth or “deep hunger” for change, so no real staying power or commitment. Much like Occupy Wall Street it will fizzle out.

Now the US connection: It’s no coincidence Victoria Nuland the architect of the Ukraine Maidan revolution visited Sri Lanka, India,  Pakistan trying to drum up support for US sanctions against Russia.  India said it was neutral and continued to import Russian crude.  Same with Pakistan and Sri Lanka commenting they were neutral.  Lo and behold a few weeks later a no confidence motion against Imran Khan the Pakistan PM, with rumors his party MP’s were bribed.  The hope was that the pro US Pakistan army (they get lots of goodies from the US) would takeover. In Sri Lanka so called grassroots protests by the urban affluent for which none of the opposition parties claim responsibility.

So why the economic crisis in Sri Lanka. Lanka is being hit by a perfect storm.

a) The consequences of 2019 Easter bombing by Islamics and loss of tourism for three years (20% FX)
b) Economic shut down by a 1+ year lockdown because of Covid (30% FX, eg Garments)
c) Loss of mid east remittance for 2 years, as workers were sent back because of COVID fear. (30% FX)
d) And now having to pay for refined fuels and diesel shortages. Our only refinery Sapugaskanda built by the Iranians is to process Iranian crude or Russian crude.

In my opinion, fuel shortages are the biggest problem. 10 hour power cuts in urban areas. Lines to get diesel, petrol, kerosene and LPG if available. Again not too bad in rural areas. i.e. use firewood. I just built an outdoor fireplace.

Mid east workers started going back starting around Dec 2021. About 40 have left so far from the village.

Tourism had picked up in March. I was getting about 2 visitors a week, about a USD 200 income. Pre easter bombing in 2019 it was USD 600+. The rioting and power cuts are going to kill that goose.

Anyway this is democratically elected govt. Mob rule regardless of how urbane or affluent (and NOT representative of greater Sri Lnka) should not be allowed to stage coup or color revolution.

Published by


I am 3/4ths Sri Lankan (Jaffna) Tamil, 1/8th Sinhalese and 1/8th Irish; a proper mutt. Maternal: Grandfather a Govt Surveyor married my grandmother of Sinhalese/Irish descent from the deep south, in the early 1900’s. They lived in the deep South, are generally considered Sinhalese and look Eurasian (common among upper class Sinhalese). They were Anglicans (Church of England), became Evangelical Christians (AOG) in 1940's, and built the first Evangelical church in the South. Paternal: Sri Lanka (Jaffna Tamil). Paternal ancestors converted to Catholicism during Portuguese rule (1500's), went back to being Hindu and then became Methodists (and Anglicans) around 1850 (ggfather). They were Administrators and translators to the British, poets and writers in Tamil and English. Grandfathers sister was the first female Tamil novelist of modern times I was brought up as an Evangelical even attending Bible study till about the age of 13. Agnostic and later atheist. I studied in Sinhala, did a Bachelor in Chemistry and Physics in Sri Lanka. Then did Oceanography graduate stuff and research in the US. I am about 60 years old, no kids, widower. Sri Lankan citizen (no dual) and been back in SL since 2012. Live in small village near a National Park, run a very small budget guest house and try to do some agriculture that can survive the Elephants, monkeys and wild boar incursions. I am not really anonymous, a little digging and you can find my identity.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

I posted this comment on the Open Thread a month ago. Reposting it here for topicality –

Sri Lanka is slowly slipping into a Venezuela type debt spiral – bad tax policy decisions combined with infrastructural borrowings coinciding with the Corona period have caused intractable loops.

The South Asian environment is only conducive to multi-regional unions like India – as smaller states are always operating in “controlled instability” mode. I feel that only the powerful Union model of India allows smaller regions to experiment with public tax and economic policies while having the safety net of incomes of other regions.

Consider the state of Punjab – if it was a separate country, it would have descended into fiscal chaos long long ago. Or Uttar Pradesh, for that matter. These states do not have any fiscal safety net – yet they have been chugging along nicely within the confines of the Indian Union.

A well managed South Asian state could theoretically exist independently within reasonable economic boundaries. After Sri Lanka is 100% bigger than the Netherlands with only about 50% more population. Why can it not be well managed?

The reason is political innovation. Every once in a while, there comes along a leader who wishes to outperform his contemporaries by vast margins. Like Rajapaksa. Or even like Kejriwal.

The big unseen advantage of Kejriwal is that he is operating within a vast ocean of provincial tax money that will bankroll his “free public goods”. When Rajapaksa does the same thing, his system blows up within a decade. In a way, the Indian Union enables political innovation and experimentation by subsidising the risks among its vast, disparate regions.

The door should be opened for Sri Lanka to join the Indian Union.

2 years ago

Another view: rock bottom for Sri Lanka is still better than UP. I’m a bit of a conservative in this view but long-term prosperity is more based on social capital than structural relationships between polities. If SL joined the Indian Union and diluted its social capital, increased its stability in exchange for subsidizing laggard Indian states and a much larger cohort of kleptocrats, it would be a pyrrhic victory at best.

2 years ago
Reply to  girmit

I understood the essence of your reply.

I used the example of Netherlands for exactly this purpose – sandwiched between two great European entities – Germany and France – they have carved out a distinctive way of life (social capital) with economic sustainability. Same aspects – access to great sea routes, population and area in the same log-zone.

This kind of “balancing success” is missing in the South Asian democratic context. Go big or go bust…..that seems to be the rule. An entity can retain the “hard shell of a distinct social identity” only as long as there is a visible surplus. Sikkim, Bhutanese, Nepalese populations have opted for sub-nationalism with hard temporal benefits.

The alternative is that Sri Lanka can indeed survive and flourish as an autocratic state (example: Singapore) without caring for the fig-leaf of a democratic label.

sbarrkum seems to have missed the point – the route of democratic experimentation only works in South Asia within a large union. Autocracy can deliver better results for smaller entities wishing to build distinctive character.

One more point –

Sri Lanka is exactly like Kerala – higher HDI than the rest of India, ports, tourism but without manufacturing. But Kerala does not suffer from food rationing or power cuts while suffering joblessness. The benefits of a Union!

Keralite elites (Sridharan – Delhi Metro, Shashi Tharoor – UN, Byjus – unicorn, Geeta Gopinath – IMF) are able to nurture and grow their ambitions very well within the comfort of this Union.

Sri Lankan elites (listen to Arjuna Ranatunga!) are strait-jacketed and hamstrung into a provincial mode. And they are indeed entitled to acrimony against the State for handicapping them. Elites are the canary in the mine!

The Indian Union has this magical quality of ennobling normal men and women regardless of their province or region while cushioning them from the hard falls that Life subjects them to from time to time.

Brown Pundits