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Militarization of Civilian Institutions and Taking Over Private Property for “Security Purposes” is Matter of Great Concern


Gamini Weerakoon

The conventional belief was that the military at best should be confined to barracks or be on battlefields but after the much celebrated victory over terrorism the forces have not been demobilized as is usual in other countries or found civilian jobs but appear to move into civilian projects under the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development.

In Colombo they moved to take over a part of the Town Hall job of urban development. Parts of Colombo 7 have been ‘beautified’ with the assistance of civilian architects but the first few monsoons showers resulted in some of Colombo’s roads turn into rivers. In the suburbs too the Ministry has taken over urban development.

In the Jaffna peninsula there is a furor now on over the takeover of 7,000 acres of land by the military. With the Rajapaksa government doing its damnedest to prove to the outside world that it is doing its best for reconciliation of the Tamils, taking over 1,000 acres of privately owned land is not the most convincing thing to do. It is believed that the military wants to set up tourist hotels on their own, which is a function of the Tourist Board. Whether the intention is to develop a unique tourist complex, the first ever tourist hotel run by ladies and gentlemen in khaki, is anybody’s guess.

The militarization of civilian institutions and taking over of private property ostensibly for ‘security purposes’ should be watched with grave concern by civilians. Does not the parliament, which is said to be the supreme legislative body, have to approve this kind of militarization that is taking place?

There is a mythical belief – not only in this country but the world over – that militarization leads efficient and productive governance. Unfortunately contemporary history disproves this belief.

Take Pakistan, which has been ruled for more than half the time since Independence in 1947 by military rulers. It is a nuclear power with 180 million population but despite its tremendous resources and the billions of dollars which the United States poured in – it was America ’s only committed ally since the days of SEATO – the economy is in the doldrums and a greater part of the population abjectly poor while the millionaires are doing quite well. This nuclear power has to suffer daily power cuts! The military now has vested interests in industry and most probably will direct the course of action of the new government of Nawaz Sharif.

The long military dictatorship under Suharto in Indonesia, the military dictatorships in Vietnam before the take over by the Viet Cong and the dictatorship of Kim Il Sung and his successors have reduced North Korea to one of the poorest countries in the world where the people are conditioned to be robots. The only country that had a phoenix like rise was South Korea under the dictator Park Chung hee – father of the incumbent president Park Geun hye. He was shot dead by his Intelligence Chief and that led to a democratic South Korea emerging and which is still prospering.

We have seen school maters being promoted to the ranks of Colonels in the volunteer force, under grads being introduced to sort of training in police and army camps and now lands being taken over by the military with the intention of establishing tourist hotels. Does Sri Lankan need any kind of militarization?