4 October, 2022

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Criminalising Public Protest Will Only Delay The Inevitable

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The pursuit of those who gave any measure of leadership to the public protest movement that peaked in July continues steadily. The most recent victim has been an award-winning actress who entered the presidential home when it was under occupation by public protestors. She had also been an active speaker at the public protests outside the presidential buildings. The hunting down of those who took part in the protests is an ugly feature of current governance that has evoked both national and international opprobrium. But the crackdown continues not because those in power are irrational but because they are rational in their self-interest. They are able to see the deterrence of future protests as key to their long stay in government. They also want to get back to the business of governing as soon as possible.

The appointment last week of 37 state and deputy ministers by the president will supplement the 21 cabinet ministers already holding office. Notably, many of them stand accused of engaging in corrupt actions and abuse of power.  From their perspective, it is a remarkable comeback for them. Just three months ago, the protest movement was at its height, they were driven out of office. The former president was agreeable to an all-party government with no more than 15 ministers and for an interim period until elections were held. The number of ministers under the new dispensation is likely to be more than 60 and the great majority of them will be from the ruling party with the balance being defectors from other parties, making a mockery of an “all party government.”

Indeed, it appears that all major parties are acting in their self-interests, except for those in the protest movement. It is they who got caught up in the emotion of that time caused both by economic hardship and the prospect of quick change. They are now paying the price, one by one, for having thought of the national interest and demanded the ouster of corrupt political leaders and system change. They made these demands despite the fact that the government held both legal power and military power in their hands. The government, on the other hand, is thinking of its own interest and in keeping its parliamentary majority intact by means of patronage politics. The appointment of the large contingent of ministers by the president is due to self-interested pressure from the ruling party. They include those who resigned from the government during the height of the Aragalaya and the defectors from other political parties breaching their own party discipline who have no moral right to accept ministerial positions.

Criminalising Protest 

With their continuing majority in parliament it is the ruling party that holds the reins. There have been fissures in their original 2/3 majority, but the breakaway groups have not coalesced into a parliamentary opposition with a majority to defeat the government. There is anticipation of more ministers to be appointed in the near future as many parliamentarians who have not yet been offered such position are aggrieved. Each of them costs a lot of money due to the plethora of privileges, including vehicles, housing and recruitment of personal assistants. This will be a significant drain on the national budget at a time when the government is hard pressed to reduce the budget deficit due to the fall in national income.

In the context of the continuing crackdown on those who participated in the protest movement, there is no visible mass opposition to the government any more. This has created an impression of political stability. The government has been effective in its efforts to quell the public protests. It has done this by using the full force of the law on those who have engaged in it. The main legal weapon in the government arsenal is the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which was brought as a temporary measure in 1979 to use against the burgeoning Tamil insurrection in the North. The government has used it against some of the protest leaders and disregarded both national and international protests by human rights groups and by the UN system itself. The PTA has not defined the meaning of terrorism and the government seems to have added unarmed protests in defining terrorism.

The criminalizing of public protest by the government may explain why there is no sign of the protest movement coming to the fore again at this time even though the economic conditions of the masses of people continue to steadily deteriorate. The government’s targeting of protest leaders is likely to deter future public protests by unorganized and spontaneous public groups as occurred six months ago. As many as 4000 persons connected to those protests and to the acts of violence during those protests are in government custody. This includes a significant number who participated in the protests without engaging in violence.

With those who gave leadership to the protest movement behind bars or out on bail after being charged, there is little possibility of public protests in the future on the scale that drove the previous president out of office and forced the resignation of the former government. The only check on the government at the present time is going to be international pressure. The advance draft statement of the UN Human Rights High Commissioner in Geneva gives an indication of the legal and economic sanctions that are possible. It will be difficult for the government to deflect the international pressure by either citing constitutional restrictions or the need to prioritise the revival of the economy.

International Sanctions 

The High Commissioner’s statement recommends that the international community should “(d) Cooperate in investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of international crimes committed by all parties in Sri Lanka through judicial proceedings in national jurisdictions, including under accepted principles of extraterritorial or universal jurisdiction, through relevant international networks and in cooperation with victims and their representatives; (e) Explore further targeted sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans against those credibly alleged to have perpetrated gross international human rights violations or serious humanitarian law violations; (f) Support Sri Lanka in the investigation of economic crimes that impact on human rights and the tracing and recovery of stolen assets. ”

An unexpected development is the possibility of a new resolution to be passed against Sri Lanka at the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council later this month. The Sri Lanka government delegation to Geneva has been lobbying with African and Asian countries to prevent this resolution from being passed. Their plea is that Sri Lanka needs the understanding and support of the international community, and not its sanctions, if it is to meet the economic challenges that have plunged the majority of people into borderline or real poverty. However, it is reported that the UK and US, along with Germany and Canada, which are the main sponsors of this resolution have a majority of countries lined up to support the passage of the resolution.

The focus of the resolution is to help provide legal and other guidelines to countries that want to exercise universal jurisdiction permissible under their laws and try those against whom there is credible evidence. The draft resolution also recommends action against political leaders and state officials responsible for economic crimes that have adversely impacted on human rights in Sri Lanka. The international strategy appears to be to target key individuals guilty of violations rather than adopt sanctions that will impact negatively on the country as a whole. This can be seen in the US, which is sponsoring the resolution on Sri Lanka in Geneva, also pledging to support the government in negotiations with the IMF and allocating USD 60 million as support to farmers and for other welfare purposes.

In this context, where the country needs international assistance, the government is unlikely to be able to whip up nationalistic opposition against the UN resolution on this occasion as it did successfully in the past to win elections. Many would  endorse holding to account those who have been responsible for the downfall of the economy and are now seeking to suppress dissent. The new UN priorities as spelt out in the High Commissioner’s report and the draft resolution will spare the country and target those who are wrongdoers. Repression that delays development and prolongs the sufferings of the people often explodes  at the end to the detriment of all. Unfortunately, political leaders though  are well aware of it may wish  to play the game to its end, stretching the margins, to the national detriment.

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Latest comments

  • 12
    0

    Premalal Jeyasekara, a death row convict, re-elected by retards , freed by court of Rajapaksas is now appointed minister .

    • 13
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      As I mentioned earlier Aragalaya may have failed in meeting it’s demands, but helped exposing the dysfunctional country, corrupt government , SHAM, nepotism…… to the world. Realizing that our governments are part of the problem, they will push for resolutions where cases can be brought against people who are living outside of Lanka, confiscate or freeze illegal assets, prevent from travel and economic sanctions, Friendly countries are now taking a hard approach not to directly fund government but identify those immediate needs and help specifically those who are most vulnerable as in farmers, elderly, children, health needs, assistance with food/medicines, leaving IMF / WB to deal with govt.

      • 5
        5

        The Fake Human Rights show sans Economic Rights and Justice has started in Geneva with USAID Samantha Power doing a little jig with paid for NGOs in Colombo!
        Meanwhile, US-puppet Bondscam Ranil Rajapakse was seen reading out his Sri Lanka Report like a School Boy trying to please the Head Mistress Samantha Power , while the IMF and the Colonial Club of Paris tries to force India and China, with are Sovereign States to sit with third rate US-EU Bondtraders and Vulture funds like BLACKROCK and Hamilton Reserve Bank that have debt trapped Sri Lanka to join their fake Paris Club Debt restructuring project.
        But China and India, which are Sovereign state have told Paris CLub to fly a kite and will not join the COLONIAL Paris Club and its Economic Hitmen like Lazard, Clifford and Chance.. to bail out US colony Ranil Rajapakse’s Sri Lanka… Why should they?!

        • 2
          4

          Dr. JP China’s comments at the Fake Human Rights show in Geneva tells us that there are formidable Asian forces challenging Western hegemony in Sri Lanka which could become like Ukraine!
          The Ranil Rajapakse regime is US backed and brokered to deliver Sri Lanka into the waiting arms of the Washington Consensus and its colonial Club de Paris (a.k.a. Paris Club). Hence Sam Power’s visit to Lanka’s Ranil Rajapakse at this time..

    • 0
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      War Criminal of 2nd world war and Secretary General of United Nations, Kurt Waldheim became Chancellor of Austria. People elected the same as Premalal Jeyasekara

      • 0
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        Is that the reason you wished for a Hitler ? Very funny. Kurt Waldheim, was the fourth U.N Sec-General from 1972 to 1981 and President of Austria from 1986 to 1992. While running for 1986 election (NOT BEFORE)) his services as an intelligent officer for Nazi Germany in Greece and former Yugoslavia, during WW 2 was revealed. Unaware of the facts then President Tito honored Waldheim by awarding ,one of the highest Yugoslav Orders. Because the revelations came shortly before the Presidential elections there has been speculations about the background of affairs. The Austrian Gov appointed an international committee of political historians who cleared him from any personal involvement in war crimes. But in 1987, U.S Dept of Justice conducted it’s own investigations finding enough evidence enough and therefore deemed “persona non grata”. Throughout his term as president (1986 to 1992) Waldhim was sanctioned by nearly every other nation in the world, outside of Arab countries. Isn’t it what your war crime President Gotha is facing now. PJ is already convicted by court, now appointed as Minister, and he is not the only one.

        • 0
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          It’s says in Sinhalese Language, “Ubay Amma , Amma, Apay Amma Summa” in English it’s say Your mother only your mother , our mother is simple mother.

          • 2
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            In Sinhalese Language, does it mean “your mistakes are never yours , but it’s always others”. Grow up and own up, to make any progress.

  • 6
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    Criminalising Public Protest Will Only Delay The Inevitable

    There are killing taking place everywhere he did not stop until know Ranil target is to control the peaceful protesters, where he penetrated to president due to the protester now he is remanding them is his first action, to divert the attention of appointment of parliamentarian is from one side. Revenge is not worthy of you. If you concentrate on revenge, you will keep those wounds fresh that would otherwise have healed. Now people are calling for a wave of nonviolent disobedience, gaining publicity and compassion for his cause

  • 7
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    I’ve just seen the Heading.
    Kudos to Jehan Perera; Since of late, he has started writing sensibly!
    What made the changeover in him. I am going to make a guess. His master’s voice!
    .
    Having said that let me read the article.
    .
    “The appointment last week of 37 state and deputy ministers by the president will supplement the 21 cabinet ministers already holding office”.
    Why make the rest sour. Not good for Unity. Find them some deputising job. Good for the stability of the House, at a time of uncertainties.
    .

  • 12
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    Most parliamentarians in the current SLPP regime have great faith in Ranil W to standby them in order preserve their way of life—that is CARRY ON wasting TAX PAYERS money and to avoid the long arm of justice catching them. It’s very very sad that in our beautiful country PEOPLE who live/work with conscience are being persecuted while the corrupters & murderers are in the throne.
    ONLY in SL
    —the victims become the accused and are incarcerated.
    —in the name of democracy and sovereignty the minorities are subjected all sorts of suppression
    — hoodwinking not only their own citizens but also the UNHCR has been mastered by all the GoSL over the 7 decades.

  • 8
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    Most current parliamentarians are trying their best for SELF PRESERVATION and NOT self sacrifice in order to bring peace prosperity & harmony in the isle.

  • 4
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    The Aragalaya missed the opportunity, yes Gota gone,but should have called for an fresh election with new faces,
    Now the lots we have knows very well themselves no chance of coming back so unit then take what ever possible.
    Look after each other, a minister entailed for three vechials it seems, one for himself, then secretary, then for officials ,we can’t say politicians are corrupt, the system is corrupt, not all of them are Gandhi.

  • 4
    1

    Criminalising Public Protest Will Only Delay The Inevitable says the essayist with profound foresight.

    The Amnesty International also holds the same view.
    The American Ambassador too echoed the same point.

    For the Time being things seem to be ok for Ranil and his Sponsors=The Rajapakses…..
    Still, Ranil is on top of a Volcano which has not begun to spew Lava. But it is a question of Time.[ RW might as well read the book: A brief history of TIME by Prof: Stephen Hawkins ] whilst he squats atop the volcano.

    Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned; Likewise when the Aragalaya takes a different shape and form…………………….
    I dread to think………………

  • 2
    0

    “Criminalising Public Protest Will Only Delay The Inevitable “

    Jehan PhD is now enlightened, after writing a shipload of essays on how to defeat UNHRC on its initializing of any action over Langkang for War Crime-Genocide. International community delaying any action to protect Lankawe government is only setting up the foundation for the next world war start from Langkang. In the past Jehan PhD has been an ardent advocate of hiring Lord Nasby to argue for Langkang in UNHRC and was a leader to promote Ranil Evil to Emperor with the “Anarchy Theory”. Sinhala Intellectuals, from 1948, postponed development of the country, while creating novel issues on Tamils side to win elections that were not contested on any policy. The International Community won the Tamils war for the Old King thinking that they could keep him with them, if they supported him in war. The UNHRC’s 2014 report, which has 42 War Criminals identified, should have been presented to at that time. But that time secretary, John Kerry, who was blinded by the Boston Sinhala Intellectuals did a serious disservice for world’s human right movement by suppressed that report only to make the 2015 election as a regime change, but not a system change.

  • 0
    0

    As now Sec Kerry’s team is back again on scene, which is trying to punish few individuals, but not the governments as a team, which is responsible to oust UN team and SLMM out of Langkang and go for a Genocide. Punishing one or two military personnel is not going to change the needed cultural system change in Langkang politics, which is the one that can solve the politicians’ long, deep rooted, economic crimes, corruption, narcotics dealing, money laundering, prostitution ring operations……. with full impunity by holding diplomatic position in government. IC members who are coming to Langkang with the thought of buying Langkang’s seasoned Aappa Diplomacy politicians with a bag of toffees or a few pennies for farmers, cannot do anything better than Sec Kerry did in 1977. They must help UNHRC to overcome every obstacle it faces and arrest and investigate at Hague the War and Economic criminals. This not just brings true relief to Tamils, but if Sinhalese are looking for a system change, that is the only way it can be done, by balancing with Evil Ranil’s oppression. Any other smart actions from IC can only delay Royal coming back to power by days or weeks.

  • 0
    0

    Even if any host country put a war criminal in prison for 7 years, whenever royals come back, they will have re-doubled their might within Sinhala Buddhist, just like it happened after the Yahapalanaya Regime Change. Country needs a system change. UN, UNHRC & IC-individual members need to understand and help protestors to engineer a change on foundation with their sovereign votes. I need to mention two countries, Japan & America, who are very badly misunderstanding the current situation in Langkang, as per the news coming on the public media. They must take their lesson from Jehan PhD’s line that is “Criminalizing Public Protest & allowing the criminal government to continue to run the show Will Only Delay the Inevitable . Ranil Evil was installed on EP seat only to safeguard Royals from UNHRC. When he came there, he discovered that it is also a very good place for him to have his UNP resurrected. This has scared the Royals. So it is not just total ministers’ numbers, but many other usual criminal deeds will be carried out by Evil Ranil to make Royals happy, so at some point Royal too will agree for Ranil Evil to prop up UNP.

  • 1
    0

    SLPP Monkeys And Donkeys Are Twisting The Arm Of RANIL WICKERAMA WEERYA In Order To Get Many More State And Cabinet Minister Positions Will Soon Make RANIL TO LOOSE HIS TEMPER AND WILL FORCE HIM TO DISSOLVE PARLIAMENT ON DUE DATE ON 24TH MARCH 2023.MR.BEEN SURE TO BECOME REAL MR.FOX.

  • 2
    0

    People will keep writing hogwash as articles, predicting what might go on in that cesspit of a parliament. however, the struggle for independence from oppression must continue relentlessly and inexorably move towards a fundamental change in the system that has ruined the island nation. The time for action is now, when the chips are down..!

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