By Lasanda Kurukulasuriya
Former minister Mangala Samaraweera’s decision not to contest the upcoming parliamentary election, despite his name being on the candidates list, is unlikely to have been an arbitrary one. Samaraweera is not the type of politician to fade into oblivion simply based on the chance that he may lose. An advocate of far-reaching neoliberal reforms, his leanings towards a pro-US foreign policy are well known. A high point being his signing up to make Sri Lanka a co-sponsor of a US-led anti-Lanka resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in 2015, when he was foreign minister. In all likelihood Samaraweera has a clear political plan in mind, for which he has powerful backers.
Days before his announcement to the people of Matara that he was stepping down from parliamentary politics, and asking them not to tick his name on the ballot paper, Samaraweera issued a wordy statement on his proposals for economic reform. Titled ‘A New Deal for Sri Lanka,’ it described, in apocalyptic tones, a picture of doom and gloom that he said the country was facing, soon to manifest in conditions of mass unemployment, debt and hunger. For the first time, a default on sovereign debt was expected, he said. In the electoral context, it remains unclear to which faction the former finance minister will hitch his political fortunes.
Fast-tracking the MCC
Two days after the New Deal statement, on 9th June, the Sri Lanka police carried out a brutal assault, followed by arrests, of a group they said planned to stage a demonstration near the US Embassy in Colpetty, over the murder of George Floyd, an African-American, by a White police officer in Minneapolis, USA. Video footage that went viral showing the man being suffocated under a policeman’s knee, shocked the conscience of the world. It triggered unprecedented protests in cities across the USA and Europe, that drew tens of thousands of multi-racial protestors for days on end.
The incident also triggered renewed debate over the structural aspects of racism and police violence in neoliberal society. Floyd was not the first such victim. “In the dominant narrative, the debate is framed in terms of “racist policemen” or African Americans that ‘do not respect the police,’” wrote Silvia Arana in a 2016 article in ‘Latin America in Movement’ website. “But the reality is that the racism and the abuse of police power fulfill a vital function for the neoliberal system: the police are used to repress poor African-American communities, with the aim of avoiding any form of rebellion in the face of the sacking of resources and the concentration of wealth in the hands of the elites.”
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