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'Is Sri Lanka Becoming a De Facto Junta?'

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Since Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office as President, he “has bent the democracy to its breaking point” as Sri Lanka slides further into military totalitarianism, writes Laxmanan Sanjeev for Foreign Policy.

“In the last several months, Rajapaksa has embarked on rapidly militarising the state administration. He has appointed a number of retired military officers to key positions in the civil administration, and his government has moved more than 30 agencies under the remit of the defense ministry. Moves such as his lengthy dissolution of Parliament and his shock pardon of a sergeant recently sentenced to death for killing eight civilians, including children, during the country’s civil war suggests a disdain for the legal system and constitution. With each passing day, Sri Lanka appears to be edging closer toward military totalitarianism,” Sanjeev writes.

“Speaking at a remembrance ceremony for fallen soldiers in Colombo on May 19, Rajapaksa vowed to protect those who fought in the civil war and said that he would not hesitate to withdraw from international organisations that target them. Already, the president appears to be signalling that security forces and police can act with impunity,” he adds.

“While Rajapaksa’s machinations over the past months may have drawn withering criticism from watchdogs and rights activists, it is unclear how this has affected his popularity among the wider public. Rajapaksa is hoping the Aug 5 vote will seal his grip on power after he won last year’s election on a seemingly popular national security agenda.”

Read the full piece here

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