ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Question of Militarisation in Post-war Sri Lanka

A political economic study of militarisation in Sri Lanka must situate it within the neo-liberal transformation of the country, the changing role of the state in the economy this has entailed, and the state-society model which has enabled regime consolidation through significant electoral victories. The international image of the military as a force of untrammelled power within Sri Lanka and the image being constructed within Sri Lanka of the military as capable of winning all battles are both flawed and undermine progressive politics. The need is for serious analysis and a far-reaching debate on militarisation which can enable dissent and contribute towards post-war democratisation.

This article benefi ted from discussions with Thushara Hewage.

Only under the second Bonaparte does the state seem to have made itself completely independent. As against civil society, the state machine has consolidated its position so thoroughly that the chief of the Society of December 10 suffices for its head, an adventurer blown in from abroad, raised on the shield by a drunken soldiery, which he has brought with liquor and sausages, and which he must continually ply with sausage anew. Hence the downcast despair, the feeling of most dreadful humiliation and degradation that oppresses the breast of France and makes her catch her breath. She feels dishonoured. And yet the state power is not suspended in midair. Bonaparte represents a class, and the most numerous of French society at that, the small-holding peasants 
– Karl Marx
In the case of a Bonapartist dictatorship, the state does not need a serious popular support to the extent a fascist one does, because its function is to serve in the long run the interests of the dominant class by playing upon the dynamic of the fundamental contradiction itself. Thus it allows for the existence of legal political struggle which it favours and directs accordingly.
 – Nicos Poulantzas (Martin 2008)

 The military is prominent in the image and discourse of Sri Lanka within and without the country. This is in part due to the military’s decisive victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but also an effect of its continued prominent presence in the country as well as the continuing war crimes debate in international media and forums. Yet there is little clarity by what is meant by militarisation. Is it the consolidation of the power of the military as an entity? Is it a process of significant change in the relationship between the military and the regime, the state and society? Or is it a process of increasing securitisation of state institutions and society? How is a security consciousness including the inculcation of military discipline in society related to state power and the politics of the regime? These are important questions when thinking about militarisation. However, the absence of conceptual clarity and the lack of a debate on militarisation in post-war Sri Lanka have hindered nuanced analysis of militarisation. This article attempts to raise some questions about the relationship of the military to the ruling regime, state, economy and society as well as the processes of securitisation in Sri Lanka. This article is both a call for and premised on the importance of bringing class back into a much needed debate on militarisation.

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