By Rajan Philips –
The crisis of Sri Lanka has become a lot more than the crisis of its government. Aluthgama has exposed multiple complications in our politics, society, culture and governance, and there is no easy remedy to any of them. The Rajapaksa government excels in misgovernment and makes misgoverning look not only easy but also normal. If it is only the government that is the problem, then it can be solved at least partially by changing the government. But when the problem goes beyond the government, and when the social presuppositions and cultural prerequisites of good governance go missing, then we get stuck in a vicious spiral. And we are.
Aluthgama exemplified the collusion of connivance and incompetence at the highest levels. It has since revealed the shocking absence of shame and the alarming incapacity for sorrow at all levels. The government has become too predictable for anyone to expect anything better. What is unpredictable is how much worse it can get. But this government will keep going, winning election after election, a third term after the second, and with no end in sight to its continuing misgoverning. There are no alternatives in the land – be it a common candidate or an uncommon avatar. And if there is an almighty out there, it must surely be agnostic about the future of the once chosen, and Milton’s utmost, isle.
Aluthgama was an underserving Muslim tragedy. What did the Muslims in Aluthgama and in abutting towns ever do to have the Bodu Bala Sena thugs unleashed on them? It was a wholly preventable disaster but one the government wanted to happen anyway. The government sat on its hands in Aluthgama while the town was burning, even as it stood on its hind legs in parliament to pass a redundant resolution against the UNHRC investigation in Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksa government can certainly make a claim to consistency in one respect: it is opposed to all investigations and it will ignore any and all calls for accountability. Sri Lanka’s parliament is opposed to the UNHRC investigating the military actions of the government of Sri Lanka, and the government will not carry out any investigation of who did what in Aluthgama, and why.
Instead, the government will undertake whitewashing, courtesy of the presidential largesse of Rs.200 million and the detailing of the army to rebuild the homes and shops destroyed in Aluthgama and nearby towns. This is the government’s response to the Muslim question, much of which has been its own making in the last three years. And it is similar to the government’s response to the Tamil question over the last five years, namely, building roads and resorts while denying that there is a political problem crying out for a political solution. Is Rs.200 million the price of buying the silence of Muslim cabinet ministers? What is the government’s price tag for the TNA?
Apart from the cheap retail politics, there is a serious and wholesale fiduciary problem here, but one that will concern only a handful of people such as the Citizens for Good Governance. It is normal to have and utilize approved government funds to deal with unexpected events such as a natural disaster, or an epidemic outbreak, where there is no human agency involved and society as a whole must and does take responsibility for redressing victims and restoring their lives. But when a bunch of thugs go about burning buildings and destroying properties, the process of compensating the victims and restoring properties must go hand in hand with the process of identifying and exposing the rascals who caused the mischief and holding them accountable for their actions. To throw public money to clean up the mess while letting those who messed up go scot free, is fundamentally improper and inappropriate. But these are standards that have become so high in the Sri Lanka of today that our political creeps can easily crawl under without the bother of surmounting them.
It would be naïve to expect any serious investigation of those who ran riot in Aluthgama when the puppet strings of the rioters can be traced all the way to the establishment in Colombo. The state police was there and in numbers to serve even if only by standing and waiting. They were not waiting for orders, they had their orders. The President tweeted from afar, just as an ancient emperor fiddled while his capital was burning. But presidential tweeting was no match in the social media to the instant broadcasting of the unfolding arson and violence in Aluthgama. The social media turned Sri Lanka into a glass house while the mainstream media dropped its pants in trying to pull down the house curtains obeying orders for self-censorship from the landlord.
With this exposure and, one would have thought, embarrassment, it seemed reasonable to expect that the government would learn its lessons and mend its ways. Even without undertaking an investigation, the government could have shown empathy to the traumatized Muslims, and embarked on an educational process to ensure that there will not be another Aluthgama. No fat chance of anything like that from this government. On the contrary, the President has cynically exonerated the BBS by harping on Muslim extremism and what he considers to be constitutional violations on the part of TNA politicians. So long as the government does not put Muslim and TNA politicians in jail, the argument seems to go, the BBS and its allies can roam free at large.
1983 comparisons and the new culture of excuses
What is more remarkable, and worrisome, if there is anything worthwhile left in the current Sri Lankan dispensation for us to worry about losing, is that similar arguments and exoneration attempts are emanating even from those on the political left who justify their support of the President by claiming that they do not support the actions of his government. Some of them are still part of the government and its bandwagon. A notable, if not the only, exception is Dayan Jayatilleke, even though he seems to be in full flight of a process of intellectual externalization to demonstrate a thread of consistency through the various twists and turns of his political past. In any event, he deserves to be commended for accurately and eloquently exposing the religious-securocratic-nepotistic make-up of the present regime and its non-SLFP social bases at home and abroad. I will not name the others, even though they deserve to be named and shamed, who would rather be all the President’s men at this time in contrast to the principled positions they took thirty one years earlier in 1983. Rather, I would express my hate only for their opinions while retaining my good wishes for them personally. Their publicized opinions on the Aluthgama tragedy deserve to condemned, because they are not critical reflections associated with the political left, but are a part of the chorus of excuses for the government. In fact, they even border on anti-Muslim innuendos.
First, their comparison to 1983 and the commendation that the government acted much sooner in Aluthgama than was the case thirty years earlier is nonsense. The only relevance of 1983 ought to be that nothing like that should ever be allowed to happen again in Sri Lanka. It should not be the benchmark for evaluating repeats of anti-minority pogroms such as Authgama. When the current anti-Muslim hysteria began in 2011/2012, there were enough warnings by Muslims and others that the country was heading for a repeat of 1983 in 2013, this time targeting the Muslims. What did not happen in 2013 has happened in 2014, in Aluthgama. The government could have easily arrested and stopped the anti-Muslim campaign including its acts of violence long before it exploded in Aluthgama. On the contrary, the government not only did nothing to stop the BBS before the Aluthgama disaster, but it is also refusing to do anything after the disaster. It deserves no commendation at all in a false comparison to 1983, and certainly not from anyone who calls himself a leftist.
President Jayewardene, tongue in cheek, blamed the 1983 riots on Marxists and Naxalites. He even arrested a few leftists to prove his point. Some of them have gone occult now and are seeing an invisible hand behind the BBS. Others are seeing western conspiracy and even Tamil diaspora connections. Still others are trying out pseudo-social science hypotheses to give the BBS some benign explanation. Then there is the utterly despicable attempt to explain the intolerance against the Muslims in Sri Lanka as a reaction to the emergence of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. It is unworthy of those on the left to attempt to make this connection, which is analytically untenable and quite dangerous politically and socially.
There is no need to elaborate the obvious that all Sinhalese are not racists. Everyone knows that. No society is absolutely intolerant and chauvinistic. The hallmark of progress in a society is the cultivation of a political system and social norms that are consistent with the inherent plurality, tolerance and inclusiveness involving substantial sections of that society. What I call ‘cultivation’, albeit not too rigourously, is a constant work in progress. It is also a struggle against those sections of society who are not readily inclusive and tolerant, a struggle that should not be violent but democratic, educational and experiential. The question after Aluthgama is whether the BBS represents the highest common factor of tolerance and inclusiveness in Sinhalese society? The question is also whether the Rajapaksa government is helping or hurting the democratic, educational and experiential struggle to establish in Sri Lanka a political system that is plural, tolerant and inclusive. The answers these questions are obvious and need no elaboration from me.
S.Modaya / July 7, 2014
All Sinhalayas may not be racist, but the great majority are Sinhala Buddhis modayas!
Amarasiri / July 7, 2014
Rajan Philips –
This is called Para-Sinhala Buddhist racism. The indifference to other human beings by the Para-Sinhala in the Land of Native Veddah is Amazing. Please read the comments by the US Ambassador on the Sinhalese from South India, as proven by the DNA in Their bodies.
Well articulated. Thank You. Please sign the Petition.
Sign the petition UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISION: Charge the BODU BALA SENA,(BBS) Its Leader GNANASARA Thero for GENOCIDE
Why this is important to me
To STOP further GENOCIDE in Sri Lanka against its peaceful Muslim community similar to the Genocide unleased against them on 15th of June 2014, in southern Sri Lanka. 90% of the people of Sri Lanka are AGAINST this racist violence but NO ACTION is taken by the Government which indirectly supports this groups racist actions and agenda.
“Aluthgama exemplified the collusion of connivance and incompetence at the highest levels. It has since revealed the shocking absence of shame and the alarming incapacity for sorrow at all levels. The government has become too predictable for anyone to expect anything better. What is unpredictable is how much worse it can get. But this government will keep going, winning election after election, a third term after the second, and with no end in sight to its continuing misgoverning. There are no alternatives in the land – be it a common candidate or an uncommon avatar. And if there is an almighty out there, it must surely be agnostic about the future of the once chosen, and Milton’s utmost, isle.”
“Aluthgama was an underserving Muslim tragedy. What did the Muslims in Aluthgama and in abutting towns ever do to have the Bodu Bala Sena thugs unleashed on them? It was a wholly preventable disaster but one the government wanted to happen anyway. The government sat on its hands in Aluthgama while the town was burning, even as it stood on its hind legs in parliament to pass a redundant resolution against the UNHRC investigation in Sri Lanka. “
Amarasiri / July 7, 2014
“All Sinhalayas may not be racist, but the great majority are Sinhala Buddhis modayas!”
The Norwegians, the Israelis and the christian Fundamentalist West knows that.
So They use some Sinhala Modayas, tell lies, and get them to go berserk.
Now, Thanks to Sinhala Modayas, Sinhal;\a Buddhism is considered racism and Terrorism.
It is worst than Al Queda, They are terrorists, but they are NOT racists. Of course they treat women like dogs, leashed. But not Racists.
Sinhala Buddhists Modayas are racists.
30 year ear war with Tamils,and now with Muslims. This is racism.
Amarasiri / July 7, 2014
Dear Rajan Philips,
Since the US has determined that BBS is a terrorist org and many others have concluded that based on evidence.
Can you make a request for the US to Designate BBS as a Terrorist Organization, just the same was LTTE was made a Terrorist Organization based on its terrorist activities.
Then those who support BBS will be considered Terrorists Funders, and will have to be exposed.
The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS – translated as the Buddhist Power Force) is a radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organisation based in Colombo, Sri Lanka that was formed during 2012. The BBS seeks the enforcement of Buddhist predominance in Sri Lanka. It has organised various campaigns against the country’s minority Muslim and Christian communities which, according to the organisation, poses a threat to Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese-Buddhist identity. The BBS engages in hate speech and attacks against minority religions. Its headquarters are located at Sri Sambuddha Jayanthi Mandira in Colombo. Sri Sambuddha Jayanthi Mandira is owned by the Buddhist Cultural Centre, an organisation founded by Kirama Wimalajothi.
Ethnicity and religion are closely linked in Sri Lanka, with the Sinhalese majority predominantly Buddhist, the Tamils mostly Hindu, and Muslims regarded as a separate ethnic group.
Amarasiri / July 8, 2014
Rajan Philips –
Right to know Petition.
Public at Kurunegala throng to sign petition on right to information
MONDAY, 07 JULY 2014 19:44 0
The second stage of the signing of a public petition demanding to legalize the right to information was held on 5th July at Kurunegala public market.
The event was organized by Action Committee for Media Freedom, an organization established with the participation of 10 media organizations, and Kurunegala media organizations collective and civil organizations collective.
The convener of the committee Saman Wagaarachchi expressing his thoughts at the event stated that public of Kurunegala was very much enthusiastic towards signing the competition. He further stated that the public response towards the petition was better at Kurunegala than the response received on 5th May at the initiation of the project in Colombo.
It is significant that large number of local journalists took measures to extend their support towards the programme. The organizers hope to collect1 million signatures for the petition. Kandy Programme will be on the 14th Monday in Kandy Town.
Sam / July 8, 2014
Yes, Govt has lost over the control of anything to this day..
Police is on their side.
No justice is given to any average as the healthy brains see it.
Nothing like any kind of crime investigations end up for the justice of the victimized.
Nothing like an inch of move towards the permanent peace for the future.
Those were the days that the state had to struggle for getting the Tamil representatives to the discussion table, but today, even if it is the easy – no talks are held with them or even making any efforts to hold them.
Govt is the most incapable one, ecxcept the fact the crush of LTTE in the country had been well managed for what a price… ones those who have no respect for human losses, can do anything.. that they have proved – repeatedly in the post war sessions. The man with excutive powers dare to use helicopters to visit Drug dealers and money pumpers to their election campaigns…
Today, they the criminals cant survive without MR regime, … And MR cant survive without them.
This is the reality of the day. Senior mouth pieces have been made shut by all thggish machineries run by Gotabaya the hidden executioner of the Rajapakshe family.
Budusaranai Apita is what the many like me can wish for the future, if changes would not be possible.
Davidson Panabokke / July 7, 2014
It seems I am not the only one who looks forward to this author’s articles:
peacemother1 @peacemother1 3m
@IPUparliament #Aluthgama: The Crisis Of #SriLanka Is More Than The Crisis Of Its #Government https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/aluthgama-the-crisis-of-sri-lanka-is-more-than-the-crisis-of-its-government/ … @WFUNA @TonyAbbottMHR
justice / July 7, 2014
It appears that only politicians and prominent citizens, except the muslim members of the government,some of them ministers, appear to be concerned.
The Minister of Justice,a muslim,said “I have let down my community……….”
and subsequently appears to have taken no action with regard to law enforcement,especially about identification of the looters and arsonists,and their backers.
Are they silent because of the fear of loosing their ‘prestige,privileges,perks & power’ ?
A few “racists” appear to have begun the rioting and common thugs seized the opportunity presented to enrich themselves by looting homes and businesses, and commited arson to ‘cover up’.
Joseph Pillai / July 7, 2014
As I read the introductory paragraph, I had a flicker of hope that Rajan was at last about to turn his capable, inventive, and well informed mind to exploring the deep and enduring sources of Sri Lanka’s mortal ills.
What followed was vintage Rajan in fine form, with delightful wit, original metaphor and telling allegory. And he gives free vent to his contempt and scorn for all the evil doers and their hangers on, though I think he should not have pulled back from naming and shaming some his old cronies of the left.
However, all of his analysis, commentary and invective are in relation to current or relatively recent players and events. As with his previous contributions, and indeed as with the contributions of most others in CT, there is no serious attempt to formulate or address the fundamental ‘Why’ and ‘How’ questions of our recent history. As a result, the piece ends with jargon-filled suggestions for ways forward which are devoid of practical content, and rhetorical questions with predictable and despairing answers.
I believe it is possible to think beyond this thrashing around analyzing and commenting on the crises of the present, to be able to discern clearly the main forces and structures of historical causation that are specific to Sri Lanka and have been shaping our existence and future as a post medieval polity and society. Apart from accidents of nature, historical causes are the result of human agency, but they transcend individual players and events, operating largely through the creation and shaping of a ‘public mood’ or, to use established academic concepts, a ‘zeitgeist’ , ‘dominant rhetoric’ or ‘group think’. These societal forces which transcend the individual may be regarded as sociological, anthropological, or historical ‘entities’. To understand why and how we got to the sorry state that we are now in, we need to identify and describe, as clearly as we can, the nature, endurance, magnitude and traction of all of these ‘entities’ that are at play in our island. Would Rajan and his assorted cohort of erudite and gifted commentators in CT and elsewhere in the Sri Lankan cyberspace please step up?
Spring Koha / July 8, 2014
Both Rajan and Joseph write well crafted views that entertain but stop short of the bleeding obvious; that all our governments and Sinhalese politicians since independence have never forgotten that it is the Sinhala-Buddhist majority that has to be kept onside at all times. There is no ‘left’ or ‘right’ in this desperate scramble. Language, anti-Tamil, anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, Anti-Burgher – all grist to the mill. Just let the proxy forces of evil follow their course and manipulate the result to their best advantage. Bugger the nation in this eternal internecine struggle for power.
Peace Lover / July 8, 2014
Please watch this video to check out the vocabulary of a Modern SriLankan Buddhist Monk
Davidson Panabokke / July 8, 2014
1.‘’President Rajapksa’s style of governing is saying different things to different people, and letting his Ministers say even more different things to even more different people – Modi Resets The Clock To 13A, 1 June 2014,https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/modi-resets-the-clock-to-13a/
2.‘’The United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Government yesterday said South African Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit was to strengthen bilateral partnerships and to derive knowledge pertaining to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The government quashed opposition by the UPFA constituents, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the National Freedom Front (NFF), to the presence of Ramaphosa, calling it a controversy gone beyond any reasonable proportion’’ – Ramaphosa to teach Govt. about South African TRC, 8 July 2014, http://www.ceylontoday.lk/51-67783-news-detail-ramaphosa-to-teach-govt-about-south-african-trc.html
‘’Minister Wimal Weerawansa said the government had assured him that South African Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, was in the country only as a tourist’’ – Govt. assures Weerawansa Ramaphosa only a tourist, 8 July 2014, http://www.ceylontoday.lk/51-67769-news-detail-govt-assures-weerawansa-ramaphosa-only-a-tourist.html
Davidson Panabokke / July 9, 2014
A lot of things have been failing to change the head-and-heart of our Prez. How about trying:
Transformative Political Leadership: Making a Difference in the Developing World
by Robert I. Rotberg(2012)
Accomplished political leaders have a clear strategy for turning political visions into reality. Through well-honed analytical, political, and emotional intelligence, leaders chart paths to promising futures that include economic growth, material prosperity, and human well-being. Alas, such leaders are rare in the developing world, where often institutions are weak and greed and corruption strong—and where responsible leadership therefore has the potential to effect the greatest change.
In Transformative Political Leadership, Robert I. Rotberg focuses on the role of leadership in politics and argues that accomplished leaders demonstrate a particular set of skills. Through illustrative case studies of leaders who have performed ably in the developing world—among them Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Seretse Khama in Botswana, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, and Kemal Ataturk in Turkey—Rotberg examines how these leaders transformed their respective countries. The importance of capable leadership is woefully understudied in political science, and this book will be an important tool in exploring how leaders lead and how nations and institutions are built.