Shock Doctrine in Sri Lanka
Posted on August 16th, 2019

By Lakshman I. Keerthisinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

Sri Lanka enjoys a geographic position in the middle of very significant sea lanes and transit lanes that is an envy of many nations. The US acknowledges that, and we know we have a partner in Sri Lanka that shares our interests, making sure that those transit lanes and sky stay open for free navigation in this region and beyond. So we have a mutual interest, as do other nations who want free transit”Alaina B. Teplitz – American Ambassador

Recently during a Parliamentary debate the subject of ‘Shock Doctrine;’ emerged. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is a 2007 book by the Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein. In the book it is argued that neoliberal free market policies have risen to prominence in some developed countries because of a deliberate strategy of “shock therapy”. This strategy centres on the exploitation of national crises to push through controversial policies while citizens are too emotionally and physically distracted by disasters or upheavals to mount an effective resistance. The book suggests that some man-made events, such as the Iraq War, were undertaken with the intention of pushing through such unpopular policies in their wake. The use of “Shock and Awe” in the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the guise of searching for weapons of mass destruction which were never found and the subsequent occupation of Iraq, which Klein describes as the most comprehensive and full-scale implementation of the shock doctrine ever attempted.


In this backdrop, the proposed Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to be signed between Sri Lanka and the United States relating to several matters including military training and cooperation is not inimical to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka in any way according to US Ambassador Alaina Teplitz, but many critics have opined that the said Agreement adversely affects the sovereignty of our motherland. The Agreement would have been already signed in its present form if not for the objection by President Sirisena which is very laudable indeed. Discussions are ongoing between the two countries about the Agreement and once the two countries reach agreement on it, it will be published on the internet. The US Ambassador expressed these sentiments when she called on the Malwatte Mahanayake Thera the Most Ven. Tibbotuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Mahanayake Thera and Asgiriya Mahanayake Thera Most Ven. Warakagoda Gnanarathana Mahanayake Thera at their Aramayas in Kandy.


 Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has said that violent incidents in the country have created unrest between the Sinhalese and the Muslims, in the country including the 21st April massacre may have been to provoke the people to violence. “These forces are trying to create unrest in Sri Lanka to pave the way for international interference. Some forces are trying to provoke people and create religious unrest. The recent incident at Katuwapitiya is a perfect example of this. 

They are attempting to create unrest among the Sinhalese and the Muslims. I ask all Catholics not to raise their arms against Muslims as they are not behind these destructive efforts. It had been done by a group of individuals who had gone astray. They are backed by some international forces. We don’t have to harm innocent Muslims because of this group,” His Eminence stated.


In the recent past, including the 21st April massacre, several attempts have been made to provoke clashes between the Muslims and Sinhalese leading to a situation as described in the Shock Doctrine referred to above. When the country is in shock and turmoil, it facilitates these international powers to easily creep in and get what they desire by providing military assistance and finances.

Diplomatic immunity

It is to be noted that Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) Sri Lanka is expected to sign with Washington, can bring US military operations into the country affecting Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The SOFA could provide US Department of Defence military and civilian personnel status equivalent to that of US Embassy administrative and technical staff under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. Accordingly, US personnel are immune from criminal prosecution and are immune from civil and administrative jurisdiction except with respect to acts performed outside the course of their duties.


In conclusion the Carrot and Stick used by Washington is trade and economic assistance which China has so far failed to offer Sri Lanka. The question is whether recent unexpected communal and religious upheavals which may have caused havoc in the country are pre-planned to shock Sri Lanka in to subjugation forcing Sri Lanka to turn in to a US military base in the Indian Ocean region replacing Diego Garcia which the US has to hand over to Mauritius. Intelligence services in Sri Lanka should guard against probable application of ‘Shock Doctrine’ in Sri Lanka as elections draw near.

(The writer is an Attorney-at-Law with LLB, LLM,
MPhil. (Colombo)- [email protected]

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