The Economist magazine in its issue of 23 March 2013 under Politics in Sri Lanka in examining the military’s role in Sri Lanka says: JOSEPH STALIN is unhappy that the country’s schools are losing their independence. .
The article states that “The boss of a Sri Lankan teachers’ union claims that the country’s schools are losing their independence. Last month, unions say, nearly 4,000 headteachers were invited to interviews at the National Cadet Corps. Successful applicants will get 45 days of training, and then full military titles”. The idea, supposedly, is to improve discipline in schools.
The army’s grip is spreading across Sri Lankan society. Activists talk of a general effort to promote military culture among the young, especially among the ethnic Sinhalese majority. Prominent academics and former diplomats say that militarisation has been going on ever since the end of a bloody civil war in 2009. No effort has been made since then to shrink the armed forces.
Indeed, their image is promoted everywhere. On fine evenings in a park in Nawala, a suburb of Colombo, the capital, office workers and families mingle among winding paths and ponds. Children stop to gaze at a favourite attraction: a battle tank beside a gurgling fountain. The park opened in January; it is one of many built by the armed forces.
Elsewhere soldiers fix roads and bridges, put up and renovate houses, remodel cities and even grow and sell vegetables. The army has a brand of hotels, Laya. Not to be outdone, in September the navy launched its own resort called Sober Island (rum, or at least alcohol, served). The navy has also taken to dredging canals and running boat services. Meanwhile, the air force offers helicopter tours and even a beauty salon, “Airforce Clippers”, in Colombo, handy for bridal dressing, sari draping and possibly a crew-cut.
Behind all this is the defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who also holds the portfolio of urban development. This month his elder brother, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, officially opened a two-storey banqueting hall on the edge of a lagoon, built by the air force.
Sceptics say all this kind of stuff should be curbed. In the north and east, where the Tamil minority bore the brunt of war, the presence of military men breeds worry. No good reason exists for them to breed crocodiles, run school seminars, conduct whale-watching tours, or operate nurseries. The government retorts that it is better to use servicemen and -women for development than demob them. Their cheap labour, it argues, saved the country 1.5 billion rupees ($12m) last year. It denies private businesses suffer from the competition.
Yet activists fear that a chief reason for spreading military influence is indoctrination. “Leadership training” for university entrants is now run by the army inside military camps, for example. The other Stalin would have applauded. (The Economist)