18 October, 2017

A Loud CHOGM & A Fragile Opposition For Rajapaksa’s Arrogance

By Kusal Perera

Kusal Perera

Kusal Perera

“Sri Lanka has a strong government and a fragile Opposition”, said Leader of the House, minister of Irrigation Nimal Siripala Silva, addressing the Commonwealth Business Forum on 13 November at Cinnamon Grand. He was for once, saying a truth. What is very naked in Sri Lankan mainstream politics is the fragility of the total Opposition in the Sinhala South. Neither the main Opposition UNP, nor the JVP now in the opposition has been able to hold the Rajapaksa government under check. Rajapaksa seems too tall for the opposition.

The conflict in the UNP too makes Rajapaksa strong and unbeatable. The utterly racist rebels in UNP who quarrel with no answers in how to challenge this R regime, helps the government to ridicule the UNP leadership that does not know what conflict management and resolving a conflict is. In short, neither the rebelling few nor the leading heads in the UNP have common sense to understand, conflicts in a political party are in-house businesses and not public fun. They simply do not know, letting out their grievances in public provides no answers. One of the feuding sides has to win the support of their rank and file with a clear programme that could challenge this regime to force the other to fall in line. To win the support of the rank and file is to democratise party structures and that remains one of the core issues in the UNP. It is a wholly undemocratic party, despite the holly scriptures on rights and accountability read out for media consumption.

This opposition impotence has left the CHOGM now (writing this on 15 November) in full gear with an a la carte offer by the Rajapaksas, almost going waste. There’s fun with government sponsorship. There’s fake variety in all side shows. There’s plenty of contradictions to dig out from the main show at Nelum Pokuna. There’s more to tweet about Rajapaksa talking health and education and Abott lecturing on engagement with Sri Lanka. Of course there are serious and scary stuff building up for the future too. Yet there is no real, active opposition to any, except in Jaffna where the people are on the streets in Nallur protesting and the Magistrate refusing the police to grant a legal ban on protests.

What is now unfolding in Colombo is a CHOGM that wasn’t addressed by the political opposition from at least April this year, only taken to task by the Tamil Diaspora that was shot down as “LTTE rump”. This past few days it was foreign media led by the Channel 4 news team and a small group of local rights activists who took upon them the responsibility to highlight rights violations under this Rajapaksa regime. In the absence of a strong opposition questioning the role of the Rajapaksa government in relation to Commonwealth core values, the hard line defence establishment that plays politics stopped Tamil citizens who were to come to Colombo to raise their concerns over disappeared family members. All buses commuting these innocent civilians to Colombo were stopped in Vavuniya and Madu. The day before, all flights to Jaffna and back were grounded till the end of CHOGM. The train that Channel 4 team including Callum Macrae took to go North was stopped at Anuradhapura using mobs organised by provincial politicos with no police and military that went to Rathupaswela this day going to Anuradhapura. The country, President Rajapaksa said he united by defeating the separatist Tigers, was left bifurcated.

This fact of the law enforcement going dumb before government organised protests is further evidenced in how the police accommodated the BBS protests in front of the UNP headquarters and went to Courts to have a stay order against the human rights exhibition that was organised by the rights group as the “Samagi Balavegaya” event. The heavy crackdown on its participants and arrests of a Tamil youth at the venue with claims he is suspected of LTTE links goes to prove the regime is too bold for CHOGM to restrain.

The fact is, all such open aberrations of the Commonwealth core values by this Rajapaksa regime right in front of Heads of Governments arriving in Colombo for their summit, does not simply reduce them to a dumb lot in governance. They do know, this lot of people from about 47 countries who come for CHOGM will not be taking any of these issues as serious violations of Commonwealth core values, once they leave Colombo at the end of the CHOGM. Even Cameron will not be of much use thereafter to bend this regime. Of all the countries that attend the CHOGM, how many could talk of human rights violations and accountability ? How many actually honour the Harare Declaration ? Most African countries that include countries like Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, Malawi and even Asian countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh will not touch that subject of human rights violations and accountability. In fact Pakistani PM Nawaz Shariff said Rajapaksa would be a cohesive leader for the Commonwealth, even before he left Pakistan to attend CHOGM in Colombo.

The regime also knows there is no pragmatic opposition that could take them up with the people here in the South, now and post CHOGM. So far, all what the UNP had said and done was mere lamenting and was pushed under attack to say they would not attend the CHOGM inaugural ceremony and sessions. What matters most is not if they attend it or not. But how they challenge all these open violations of rights at least within the majority South.

The bottom line is, neither of the two feuding factions in the UNP had any idea how they could use CHOGM to their political advantage. They also have no alternative democratic programme to this Rajapaksa regime to win the people. Their noise over James Packer and his Casino is only about tax concessions and its legality. They don’t in fact talk about a much larger investment by John Keels Holdings in Glennie Street, Slave Island on an identical project that also includes gaming centres. The hard fact is, except for how the economy should be managed with less corruption and fraud, the UNP is no alternative to this model of economic development that the Rajapaksas are fixing up with massive hotels, shopping malls, pools, night entertainment and gambling for the “growing middle class in China and other Asian centres” as Packer said, Sri Lanka should exploit.

The UNP is unable to challenge this economic model and therefore can not raise violation of rights that come behind and along with it. This model of economic life brings about a flyblown culture that can not go hand in glove with law and order in a decent society. This economic model generates employment that will not want rule of law and the culture they grow with cannot live within decent discipline. Therefore law enforcement is not expected to be independent and fair. In fact justice and fair play within this economic life become expensive commodities that demand a heavy price to be available. Within this model of economic life the Rajapaksas are moving with, justice and law enforcement is meant for profit and poverty is the right of the people to live with.

Sri Lanka in the absence of an alternate political opposition would see the conclusion of CHOGM on 16 November with a grand dinner hosted on November 17 Sunday at Waters Edge by the new Chair of the Commonwealth of Nations in office. The international media hype against a very repressive Rajapaksa regime that tolerates no dissent would continue for a few more days before the fire dies down, while the local media exaggerates the aura of the new Commonwealth chair, greeted with festivities and fanfare that would give the Rajapaksa image another lease of life as a true Sinhala leader. Once again, this time as a democratic open force, it would be the North that would continue to challenge this regime. A challenge the regime would post CHOGM handle high handedly and brutally saying the LTTE rump is active. For the Sinhala South it would be a presidential election early 2014, thanks to CHOGM that crowns the Rajapaksa image.

All the rhetoric at the CHOGM will not be able to hold Rajapaksas from going their way. Most failed and failing States are often taken care of by China. As with SL, India will piggy back arguing it can not leave Rajapaksas to China alone. Economic bankruptcy would thus be for the people while the regime would ride on the two competing nations. The UNP would still remain without any alternative and feuding amongst them. This no doubt would remain a Sinhala Buddhist country for the poor rural South and an amazingly rich destination for a Mecca nightlife. So let’s forget CHOGM.

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Latest comments

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    Thanks Kusal. I know you are a good chap and there are many Sinhalese like.

    ““Sri Lanka has a strong government and a fragile Opposition”, said Leader of the House, minister of Irrigation Nimal Siripala Silva, addressing the Commonwealth Business Forum on 13 November at Cinnamon Grand. He was for once, saying a truth. What is very naked in Sri Lankan mainstream politics is the fragility of the total Opposition in the Sinhala South. Neither the main Opposition UNP, nor the JVP now in the opposition has been able to hold the Rajapaksa government under check. Rajapaksa seems too tall for the opposition.”

    “””Rajapaksa seems too tall for the opposition””” – because successive Sri Lankan PMs and presidents together with Buddhist institution in Sri Lanka have convinced the Sinhalese TAMIL GENOCIDE is the right thing to do.

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      Many of the Sinhala politicians have no integrity, they are bought over by Mahinda with money from the state coffers.

      So Mahinda has all the SLFP and UNP scoundrels with no moral values. Also the estate Tamils and Many Muslims too.

      If the bulk of the politicians are such untrustworthy bastards, how can the country have true values in its governance.

      What you have is what you get for the Sri Lankan Sinhala and Muslim communities, and for some Tamil scoundrels.

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        The UNP differs only in style when it comes to the UPFA but the methodology of both is same.The former has a urbane tint and the latter is rustic with the support of the so called left and some Muslims under the leadership of the Muslim Congress,the Tamil LTTE and other assorted Tamil militant scoundrels.

        Who says there is an opposition to Jarapakse when he had today warned UK at CHOGAM to not raise questions on human right violations in the island in 2008.

        Hark back to the time in 1983 when JR said “.. the Sinhalese will be happy as long as the Tamils are starved..” When Jarapakse is doing better than that what hope for an opposition? That’s very unlikely.

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        Thiru — would you say Prabakaran had integrity. He took a bribe and put MaRa in power. He took guns and money from Premadasa and killed Tamil children. Would you call him a scoundrel also?

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          Sunil,
          Prabakaran cant do anything now. Whereas Murderer Rajapakse can do something.

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            Ah… so is it your belief that the only difference between them is one is dead and the other is alive (i.e. both are scoundrels)?

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        Clown Sharma and the Queen could well marginalize and ignore Rajapassa until the next Common Poverty of Nations Circus is held in two years time in Mauritius if Rajapassa does not behave!

        Indeed, this is crafty Manmohan Singh’s plan!

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      Kusal, good one and dead on about UNP and lack of opposition – but we cannot forget CHOGM since we have to foot the MEGA bill of the Colombo Commonwealth circus to boost the Rajapakse dictatorship.
      Rather. Sri Lanka civil society and people like you need to focus on the need to hold Kamlesh Sharma and the Commonwealth of Nations as much as Rajapakse, ACCOUNTABLE.
      A clear distinction must be made between the people of Sri Lanka who are silent because as you say there is no leadership from the OPPOSITION. But the corrupt and criminal Rajapakse regime does NOT represent the great silent majority.
      It is time to hold Kamlesh Sharma and the Common poverty of Nations ACCOUNTABLE to the common citizens and peoples that it claims to benefit. If this is not done Commonwealth of Clowns which violates its own core values and promotes dictators should be shut down.

      Thus, we the people of Sri Lanka, which are suppose to head the circus called the Commonwealth, MUST DEMAND a comprehensive, measured and results-based EVALUATION of this British colonial relic organization’s performance in the past 2 decades – has it reduced poverty and inequality in the 60 years of its existence or made it worse? Why is its agenda a poor imitation of the UNDP agenda?
      We also MUST demand that a REVIEW of Mahinda Rajapakse’s appointment as Head of the CHOGM circus and set benchmarks for democratization so that he is required to demonstrate progress in restoring the proper Chief Justice, the 17 Amendment to the Constitutions, Right to information and pass a bill against Hate speech and return of lands and demilitarization of north – or otherwise Rajapassa should be stripped of being head of CHOGM circus.

      ON the larger issue of accountability of Commonwealth – No organization is above MONITORING, EVALUATION and results measurement. Given its track record a TRANSPARENT EVALUATION of the organization and its RESULTS is required and should be the HIGHEST PRIORITY.

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    Please see below extracts of an opinion by Philip Collins written for The Times. See here for article in full here http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article3922533.ece

    The Rajapaksa regime is happy to butcher its citizens. Britain should have joined the summit boycott.

    “This is a regime of unspeakable brutality whose original ethnic hatred has transmuted into a love of power and a ruthless happiness to butcher anyone who stands in the way. This is a regime from the dreams of tyranny.

    “This is no country for any summit of a reputable international body such as the Commonwealth. This is no place for a British Prime Minister or heir to the throne to visit. Foreign policy sometimes means dialogue with the deranged but there has to be a line and the Sri Lankan Government long ago crossed over to the darker side.

    “The evidence of slaughter is irrefutable. A United Nations panel of experts concluded that the henchmen of the Government were guilty of torture and the rape of rebel supporters. Almost 6,000 victims of enforced disappearances are still unaccounted for.

    “In May 2010 the International Crisis Group gathered eyewitness statements, hundreds of photographs, video, satellite images and electronic communications that all told the tale of the intentional shelling of civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations by the Sri Lankan armed forces. There is reliable evidence too that the Sri Lankan military withheld food, water, and medicine in war zones.

    “The film No Fire Zone (so-called after the Government shepherded civilians into safe zones and then subjected them to barrage) by Callum Macrae and Zoe Sale features harrowing tales told by survivors of the worst war crimes, recorded on small cameras and mobile phones. They document sexual violence, summary execution, torture. It is close to unwatchable and it is quite unmissable. The superb documentary work done by Jonathan Miller for Channel 4, which David Cameron watched before he left for Sri Lanka, has also exhibited the terrible anger of the Rajapaksa Government.

    “The Sri Lankan Government has furiously and ludicrously denied all claims that its forces committed atrocities. In June 2010 Mr Rajapaksa insisted that his soldiers never killed a single civilian. “Our troops”, he said, laughably, “carried a gun in one hand and a copy of the human rights charter in the other.”

    “There is no question at all about what is going on. After a visit in August of this year, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, concluded that Sri Lanka is “heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction”.

    “There is, nonetheless, a case for ignoring all this and going along to the Commonwealth summit. David Cameron will be the first foreign leader to visit the northern province since Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948. He will use his time with President Rajapaksa to demand that Sri Lanka establish a commission to investigate war crimes, human rights abuses and the constant intimidation of journalists.

    “This is right. but entirely forlorn. Mr Rajapaksa has repeatedly refused to do any such thing and will refuse once more. Sri Lanka does not recognise the International Criminal Court and there is no chance of the UN marshalling the votes to force a war crimes commission.

    “It would be better if the Prime Minister had followed the example set by his counterparts in Canada and India and stayed at home. Two years ago Sri Lanka was denied the right to hold the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit. Now, as summit host, Mr Rajapaksa will travel the globe as the Commonwealth’s official face for the next two years.

    “There is no prospect that Mr Rajapaksa can be cajoled into democratic decency. Tyrannies repress their people by definition. Terror is their modus operandi. We might as well turn up in Colombo and ask for metamorphosis from one species to another. We really ought not to offer the cloak of respectability to such a dismal tyrant as this.”

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      Right thinking Sri Lankans defeated you square and fair in the battle ground. Don’t run to west to get what you could not by violence. We did not budge down to bombs and we will not budge down to international pressure.

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        I know you wont budge to anything including BUDHISM.

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    Packer Jr wouldn’t sink A$ 500 Million if Srilanka is a failing state as Mr Perera tries to portray.

    Then there is Capital Alliance another Oz outfit building 400 room hotel and 300 luxury apt tower next door to James’s dig.costing another A$ 400 Mil.

    Surely these people know a bit more or can afford to hire people who know better than Mr Perera.

    How can the UNP match the Economic Model of Gotabaya, when their Treasury Spokesperson wants James Packer in the lockup at Slave Island Cop Station, because he is going to build a hotel and lease it to a licensed Casino operator who is already in Business in Colombo.

    What a genious in law and order?

    Then their Leader and his Chief Body guard and mentor ,the Brigadier of the Cinnamon Stick Militia hold exhibitions at Sirikotha to display C4 McCrae’s digitally spruced up LTTE gallery.

    To top it all the Cinnamon Faction goons bash Buddhist monks on the steps of the UNP HQ at Sirikotha.when they protest at the anti Lankan activities of Foreigners

    UNP , once the party of the Cosmopolitan Intelligentsia and the Sinhala,and Tamil Velllas and the Anglicans used to hold cocktails to rub shoulder with white dignitaries when they were in town even on small occasions and dance away the night reminiscing about good old days.

    This time around when CHOGM,the mother of all Colonial shows is in town. UNPers not only are behaving badly, but are also locking themselves out of Heads of Nations deliberations.

    And to add insult to the injury Cosmo Intelligentsia and their Socilite Missus were missing at His Royal Highness’s 65th.

    And it was left to our Kurukkan Prez and his family to make a cake and sing happy birthday to him.

    How sad? I mean the UNP and its loyal followers.

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    ““Sri Lanka has a strong government and a fragile Opposition”, was a statement made by that loud-mouthed minister of Irrigation Nimal Siripala Silva. While having lots of skeletons in his own tomb Nimal Siripala Silva is in the process of white-washing the tombs of his godfather’s clan. Soon Nimal Siripala Silva will be caught with his sarong down when it is vice versa, that is when the strong government will be fragile and the opposition strong. Then even his secretary will not be able to hold his sarong tight around his big belly when what happened to Mrs. B, after the non-aligned conference happens to MR after the CHOGM

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    Brilliant article Kusal, albeit very pessimistic. Probably you are correct and SL as a society wouldn’t be able to get away from its destiny, seems obliged to pay for its utter immoral behavior shown during last 3-4 decades.

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    Can Nimal Siripala Silva ask his conscience whether there was a genuine election when he said “Sri Lanka has a strong government and a fragile Opposition”.

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    This is a crucial meet in the run up to Geneva 3 in March 2013. CHOGM has drawn the spotlight on the Govts poor human rights record and no amount of pomp and pagentry can gloss over that issue. It is now up to MR to prove his words by actions.

    Commonwealth Priciples, Values and the Charter cannot be sacrificed to develop a country or countries. Least of all the Chairman of CHOGM should set an example by walking the talk.

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      Correction – Geneva 3 in March 2014

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    If Sri Lankans here that either praise or abuse MR really love their country, then they should be immensely proud for the fact that their country is hosting CHOGM. The honor and dignity of taking on that role has been vested on one of the 8-founding members of the Commonwealth, and not on MR as a person or a President. The honor has been given to the country. Of that we all should be proud.

    Yes, MR is benefiting from the opportunity, as he considers it as prestige from him. May be it is, as he is the President of the country at the time. No one could deny it as he has been elected by the people. But he is also in the firing line from many angles. No matter how thick skin he has, he must also be feeling the presence of a black cloud over his head. Anyone with a sensitivity and consciousness would feel it badly at the end of the day when one is with oneself and one’s own thoughts. Even a President cannot avoid it.

    I think the critics that hurl abuse at everyone for allowing CHOGM to be held in Sri Lanka are really abusing themselves. It is a kind of hatred that they dish out to others, and in the process, their own bile and venom play havoc with their health and welfare. Thats the way the system works. So try to love your country despite its shortcomings to perfection, as much as you hide your own imperfections and try to love your ego and personal agendas.

    MR might not be such a brute, if he could generate a feeling of reassurance within himself that enemies are not trying to topple his head. Most of the work of the LTTE loving diaspora, through their activities, are projecting an enemy, real or virtual So, no wonder that MR shows his fangs, and this violent confrontation is continuing.

    With the way things are portrayed in this website and media, Sri Lankans are now seen by the world as a violent nation. It is sad, because if we ask each other or our friends, they all say individually that we are the nicest people on earth. People with the highest sense of hospitality, ready to open their doors and even pour out their hearts to a total stranger. Yet, what makes our group behavor so violent. That is the real question that we should ask ourselves.

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      Your post can be summed up with ” My country love or leave it” attitude. This argument didn’t work in the US when parroted by American right wingers angry at those who question American overseas military engagements.

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    These peole are bloody fools, can anybody think that, one person can intimidate a sovereign nation based on what that person believe??? If you do then you are a bloody damn fool. Cameron humiliate the UNHRC also by saying he will use this organisation to discredit SL. This clearly shows UNHRC is working to fulfill the agendas of few country’s Cameron violated all internationally accepted diplomatic norms, SL should not allow every tom, dick and harry to come to SL and allow to make threatening remarks, this is a very very serious violation of SL’s integrity. Sri Lankan government must act furiously and at least should kick out British ambassador from the country.

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