Sri Lanka no longer a Failed State

“Successful country maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders”.

By Thomas Johnpulle

(September 25, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Failed States Index 2009 has been published by the Foreign Policy magazine and The Fund for Peace organization. Sri Lanka is no longer a failed state. However the shift from 2008, when Sri Lanka was a failed state, is rather due to the worsening situation in Kenya, Yemen and East Timor than any improvement in Sri Lanka. In fact the situation has worsened by one (1) point! Total score in 2008 was 95.6 and in 2009 it has got worsened to 96.7. (source: Click Here)

Still, what is more significant is not making the list of failed states. When the list of failed states included Sri Lanka last year, it was used by many interested parties to promote fancifully termed evil methods to divide the island nation. They may find it unpalatable that our nation is not on their dinner plate anymore. Another group laments over this. It is the Tamil Eelam camp. The worldwide Tamil Eelam camp knows very well that Sri Lanka must break into pieces for Tamil Eelam to come into existence. It is therefore more than likely that these elements will work hand in hand to destabilize the island nation and show to the world that it has failed. Sri Lanka cannot control this ultra rich, worldwide campaign but what it can control is its territory and how it is used to strengthen Sri Lanka and banish all traces of Tamil Eelam. With the war’s end and resultant economic development which has already begun, future looks promising for Sri Lanka. Investor confidence is very high as indicated by the Colombo Stock Exchange while direct investments are also set to rise rapidly. Development of vast areas that were not contributing to the national economy for close to two decades is an added bonus. A total of close to 10,000 square kilometers of fertile land was run as a de facto state by the LTTE until May 2009. Ensuring its use by all ethnic groups for national betterment is the only way to earn the much anticipated and often faked peace dividend.

In detail

The Failed States Index comprises of 12 indicators broadly falling under social, economic and political categories. ‘Group grievances’ indicator ranks Sri Lanka pretty bad with a score of 9.8 which has remained static over the past two years. IDPs, factionalized elites and improper conduct of the security apparatus also rank high in the list. Economic decline and external intervention have scored low suggesting that these factors are not so bad.

Year to year differences are shown by almost all indicators. Demographic pressures, human rights, IDPs and uneven development have worsened over the past year while the two bad indicators ‘factionalized elites’ and ‘delegitimization of the state’ have improved. Worsening human rights and IDP situation is understandable in the context of IDP camps and other nasty effects of war.. However, it is very temporary. The government has promised to resettle most IDPs within this year and large scale resettlement activities are already happening. By next year these two issues would be settled to a great extent. Uneven development is a direct consequence of the war. LTTE held over 15% of the land area of the country and at one point over 50% of the coastline. There was absolutely no way to carry out development in these areas when the government couldn’t even ensure basic security. Things have changed and rapid development initiatives are already underway.

Demographic pressures are more complex to address as Sri Lanka has a very high population density in areas outside the north-east. This puts unbearable pressure on economic activities. Exercising the right to live in any part of the island nation, government should carryout development work in liberated areas for the benefit of people of all ethnicities. Otherwise severe demographic pressures can drown the national economy, cause rampant unemployment, cut down the food supply, increase unrest and lead to unsustainable development.

Most woes can be traced to decades of war. Interestingly, most countries making up the list of failed states have ongoing wars. Lebanon overcame war in 2009 and left the failed states list consequently.

Essential considerations

Any model has its drawbacks. When making decisions based on a model, these drawbacks must be taken into account.. All models are based on judgment and although objectivity underlies judgments in theory, direct and indirect influence of lobbying, propaganda, myths and false beliefs can affect judgment.

Using the Failed States Index to play god is a despicable act but interested parties are doing so at least in the case of Sri Lanka. The index is not an all inclusive ranking. For instance it doesn’t in any way replace vital development indices like per capita income, quality of life and human development.

Another major drawback is that it is based on US value systems with little regard to other value systems in the world. For instance, sovereignty, collectivism, sustainable development and safeguarding social/cultural/religious values are variably important in other notably eastern value systems. In other words, imposing one value system over another must not happen.

National priorities should always be set by the people of the nation. Allowing them the decision making right goes a long way in resolving conditions that give rise to a failed state.

Max Webber was an eminent sociologist who invented various theories used extensively in politics, economics, social sciences and even in international affairs. He famously said a “successful country maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders”. When it couldn’t, it becomes a failed state. This view is still a better overall guide in managing a country successfully so that it doesn’t end up a failed state. What is legitimate depends on the operation of law of each country, how laws are made and how laws are implemented. This primary definition also takes away the subjectivity that is attached to the use of physical force. It is increasingly valid after WW2 where terrorism, civil wars and externally sponsored internal conflicts have gripped many countries. It is foolhardy to assume or give the impression that a state should not use physical force. Undesirable side effects of using legitimate physical force depend on the relative strength of the enemy too.

Problems are regional not national

Please refer to the interactive map at (Click Here). The world is divided into critical, in danger, borderline, stable and most stable nations. A careful look reveals that these classifications are regional and not national. For instance, the whole of Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, Japan and South Korea and nations in the southern part of South America are stable or most stable.. In the same token, most Asian, Latin American and a good part of African countries are either ‘in danger’ or borderline. Even almost all critical (failed) countries follow a regional spread cutting across national boundaries.

What it means is that the problems associated with the 12 indicators cannot be resolved meaningfully by looking at each country. Instead a broader, regional viewpoint is needed to address these issues. All the three (3) critical regions in Asia have one thing in common - extreme external meddling. World superpowers are very heavily involved in all these cases. It proves that external influence, no matter how innocently intended, can only make things worse. What requires is a more participatory approach to problem solving while fully appreciating the regional context.

The international community should therefore change their ways in handling Sri Lanka. Allowing the Tamil Eelam movement to drive international relations with Sri Lanka is catastrophic to all good intentions. It cannot achieve anything of lasting significance. It also goes against the regional context which means it is sure to fail. Nothing can be obtained by forcing the Sri Lankan people who are used to a value system which holds in high esteem such ideals as co-operation, mutual respect, respect for sovereignty, ethnic integration and collectivism. This value system binds Lanka to regional heavyweights both in terms of political power and deep historical/cultural significance.
-Sri Lanka Guardian
Nathan said...

Mr John Pullai,

You are very old and just talking nonsence. Go to old people home and leave young generation to decide.

Dayarathna said...

As the saying goes truth hurts. We all thought Sri Lanka still a failed country. Apparently it is no. This is good news for everyone. I don't know why a few rebelious sections still act ignorant.

manuri said...

Old is Gold nathan,sad that you do not get it right.

manuri said...

Old is Gold nathan,sad that you do not get it right.

Gowri Rajendran said...

Well said, Mr. Johnpulle!