Friday, February 01, 2008


As Sri Lanka approaches 60 years of independence, I have been turning the question of independence over in my mind.

What does it mean? The Wikipedia definition is: "Independence is the self-government of a nation, country, or state by its residents and population, or some portion thereof, generally exercising sovereignty."

We can safely say that the country is self governing, leaving the question of the quality of governence aside for the moment.

Ephimeral Ruminations blogs on the subject here.

and wonders how we may be independent in the golbal village.

The world is indeed an interdependent place although the rulers of this land seem intent on isolating the country. Self sufficiency as a concept seems dear to their hearts and their foreign policy has left us with Pakistan, Iran, Burma, Thailand and a handful of others to count as 'true' friends. The fact that most of these 'true' friends are either military dictatorships or one-party states is significant and may well point the way to future developments.

Can we look at independence at a deeper level? Can independence for example be equated with freedom? If so, it seems constrained.

Milton Freidman has observed that "The essence of political freedom is the absence of coercion of one man by his fellow men. The fundamental danger to political freedom is the concentration of power. The existence of a large measure of power in the hands of a relatively few individuals enables them to use it to coerce their fellow men."

By this standard, Sri Lanka seems to fare poorly. Freedom of thought is being challenged by the Defence Secretary (did you know the Public Performances Board operates under the Defence Ministry?), freedom of movement is restricted - by road closures, high security zones, parking restrictions and the like. There is the possibility of arbitrary arrest or detention if you happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Freedom House, a US think tank classifies Sri Lanka as being "partly free".

People may argue that Freedom House is subjugated to US foreign policy. Others may claim that these restrictions are necessary to fight terrorism but if we are to accept this argument then let us then also be honest enough to admit that we are only party independent.

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