Small Wars Journal

Sri Lanka is Already Drawing the Wrong Lessons from the Attacks

Sat, 04/27/2019 - 9:05am

Sri Lanka is Already Drawing the Wrong Lessons from the Attacks by Nimmi Gowrinathan - Foreign Policy

Within 72 hours of last Sunday’s Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, Colombo had passed a 30-day Emergency Regulations act. The measure gives the military carte blanche to enforce the already draconian strictures of Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act, which has been in place since the late 1970s.

The move may have been a predictable reaction to a moment of mass violence. In response to national catastrophes such as Sunday’s attacks targeting churches and hotels, which killed more than 250 people, governments typically try to enact a one-size-fits-all counterterrorism policy, often drawn from the countering violent extremism (CVE) industry playbook. But in Sri Lanka, such prescriptions are more likely to incite violence than quell it.


The recent attacks do bear some of the hallmarks of a classic terrorist strike, but Sri Lanka’s contested political landscape doesn’t fit neatly into existing narratives about violent extremism: namely, prevalent theories that focus on individualized radicalization into groups like the Islamic State rather than the collective struggle of anti-state movements that have shaped Sri Lanka’s own history of violence.


In fact, rather than a case study that reinforces existing theories of radicalization, the attacks in Sri Lanka present an opportunity to reexamine the impact and effectiveness predominant CVE policies—particularly those that endorse the militarization of policing and make at-risk communities more vulnerable to state violence…

Read on.