As a dedicated fan of the Australian cricket team, I have been watching them play a series of one day internationals, and Test matches, in Sri Lanka. These matches went very well for Australia and concluded last night. (I write about such things here)
Australia had played a series in Sri Lanka in 1999, and I had watched that also. In contrast to 1999, Sri Lanka looks to be a happier and more prosperous place now then it did back then. From what I could see on the television, the grounds this time were not ringed with military style police, and there was evidence of much new building, infrastructure, and normality.
For example, one of the most prominent advertisers on the grounds was a mobile phone company.
However, the peace in Sri Lanka is under pressure. Some background to the civil war can be read here, and news of latest incidents can be read here. The basic problem is that unity between the two sides in the civil war is breaking down, with dissention in the Tamil Tigers, and also within the Sri Lankan government itself. The President fired the Prime Minister and called for fresh elections. The issues can be read about here, and on first reading, I think Samizdata.net is hoping for the Prime Minister’s party to prevail.
The prime minister’s United National Party (UNP) wants to press ahead with market reforms and is pressing for free trade agreements with many countries, including the United States, Singapore, Thailand, European Union member states as well as Pakistan and Bangladesh.
President Kumaratunga’s party is for a market economy with a ‘human face’ and has ruled out privatisation of banks, transport and several other utilities. Her ally the JVP wants state control on key sectors of the economy and supports price controls on essentials, and to curb imports of what it considers non-essentials. Both want to offer a plethora of farm subsidies.
The monks’ party is for an open economy based on ‘Buddhist values’.
I am bemused by the “Buddhist values” of an open economy… and not thrilled to read about farm subsidies! Not enough Sri Lankans are reading Samizdata!
Anyway, if peace can be maintained, I might be able to visit Sri Lanka the next time the Australian cricketers go there. Many Australians went this time, and looked to be having a rousing good time. That sounds like my idea of a good time.