30 September, 2023


Dismantling Dictatorship Is Sri Lanka’s National Question

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

Even after years of persistent inability on the part of the United Nations agencies to assess the exact nature and extent of the ‘national crisis’, it is profoundly encouraging to see United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay articulating her concerns at the concluding press conference last week to the effect that Sri Lanka is ‘showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction.’

Eminently understandable reaction by government 

This is perhaps one of the most powerful statements made by a visiting United Nations official in recent times. The Government’s immediate knee-jerk response that the High Commissioner has exceeded her mandate was unsurprising. Astute observers would recall that this is precisely the same reaction by some government propagandists when the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission issued its report dwelling on the alarming deterioration of the Rule of Law in the country. There too, the LLRC was accused of exceeding its mandate despite the basic fact that nothing could have been more fundamental to its inquiry.


Indeed, the language used by Government Ministers in reference to the High Commissioner’s statement is regrettable but in the same breath, eminently understandable. Subjecting the authoritarian nature of this regime to meticulous scrutiny against the overarching standard of the Rule of Law is precisely what this Government fears the most.

On the other hand, it may also be safely said that wading into the murky waters of possible war crimes during the close of conflict in 2009, replete as this is with videos of killings that immediately provoke hotly combative debates, is exactly what this Government loves the most. Its resulting fervor as it wraps the patriotic mantle of national sovereignty around itself, invoking the murderous character of the Tamil Tigers to its benefit is predictable, as breathtakingly hypocritical as this may be.

Not even the farce of a democracy

This is not to say that killings in conflict should not be brought to a measure of accountability as this column has persistently stated. As much as Tamil civilians were caught in the absurdly named No-Fire Zones during 2009, thousands of Sinhalese were killed by a Sinhalese government with similar brutality during the eighties. Muslims too have suffered enormous travails. The demand for accountability during extraordinary times of conflict is therefore a decades-long cry. We deserve to have this demand satisfied.

However the ‘national question’ faced currently by us is the nascent emergence of a dictatorship which does not even bother to clothe itself in the deceptive garments of a democracy. President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s assertion that Sri Lanka cannot be a dictatorship as it holds regular elections only indicates the unbearably flippant nature of that debate from the Government’s point of view.

Dispensing with this dangerously erroneous perception is a collective struggle faced by the majority and minorities alike which needs to be prioritised. Hence, the High Commissioner’s straightforward and no-nonsense assessment of what she perceived to be the ‘curtailment or denial of personal freedoms and human rights…(as) linked to persistent impunity and the failure of rule of law’ is a seminal marker. And insofar as the direction towards which future international scrutiny will be directed is concerned, the warnings for this Government cannot be clearer.

The hammer of corrosive politicization 

Certainly the defining of this national struggle is compulsorily linked to the integrity of our national institutions, recalling standards that once, even with conflict, Sri Lankans upheld with grace and dignity.

Last Saturday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa was reported to have observed, during an interview with The Australian, that ‘If you tell anybody, even my ambassador, that you’ll give him citizenship, and for his sons too, he’ll be there in an instant” (see Sunday Times, online edition, 31st August 2013). This remark was apparently made in the context of the excellent educational standards maintained by Australian institutions. Regardless, these statements sit oddly with the public persona of a President who touts national pride along with his customary satakaya as characteristic hallmarks.

At one point of time not so long ago, those of us proud to have studied in Sri Lankan educational institutions had a distinct sense of claiming our citizenship in a particular way. Now, a vastly different rationale is in play. The President’s remarks, even in jest, would undoubtedly strike a highly discordant note to academics slaving away at Sri Lankan universities and withstanding the hammer of political pressure wielded by his own regime.

What is national pride?

Reportedly, the UN Commissioner opened her remarks during her closing press conference by saying that ‘I am a South African and proud of it.’ South Africa itself was at one time, one of the most despised nations in the world. Yet, it was able to restore its national dignity not only because of the undeniably precious gift of a Nelson Mandela but also because ordinary South Africans realized the importance of reconciliation, nation building and true national pride.

In contrast and given the corrosive politicization of our systems, are we able to say anymore that we are proud to be a Sri Lankan lawyer, doctor, journalist or judge? Perhaps this is a question that each of us must direct towards our own consciences.

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  • 0


    1. “Dismantling Dictatorship Is Sri Lanka’s National Question?”

    Why? This is a benevolent dictatorship to many. They do not want it dismantled.
    All talk. Only Tomahawks matter. Just Do it, as Nike Says in its ads.

    2. “This is perhaps one of the most powerful statements made by a visiting United Nations official in recent times. “

    3. “In contrast and given the corrosive politicization of our systems, are we able to say anymore that we are proud to be a Sri Lankan lawyer, doctor, journalist or judge? Perhaps this is a question that each of us must direct towards our own consciences.”

    It depends. Are you taking or giving?

    • 0

      Kishali, you are spot on. The TOP national priority is:

      1. Dismantling the MILITARY Dictatorship – for which DOWN SIZING the MILITARY and military businesses and Sacking and bringing to TRIAL Gotabaya Rajapassa the moron who thinks he is an expert on all things for INCITING RELIGIOUS AND RACIAL HATRED AND INTOLERANCE AND HATE SPEECH is a must. Gota the Goon is LANKA PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER 1 with his project to DIVIDE, DISTRACT and RULE. He is the real threat and NOT the diaspora or the international conspiracies that he has invented to militarize Lanka and distract the people.
      2. Recovering the looted public wealth of the country which has been stolen by Rajapassa, brothers, sons, extended family and cronies is priority two.
      3. Returning Lands stolen by the Rajapassa brothers and their military proxies.
      4. Stop throwing good money after bad and SHUT DOWN the loss making white elephants – port, airport, stadium, convention center in Hambantota which is a sleepy fisihing village of 300,000 people which can NOT sustain these white elephant DEVELOPMENT DISASTER projects that has indebted the country and is sinking the economy.

      • 0

        Kishali thanks a million – the flippant claim that Lanka is holds elections and hence is not a Dictatorship shows the cognitive and intellectual level of the Rajapassa brothers

        These uneducated morons, particularly MR, really tends to believe his own SPIN, is money mad and have no grasp of finer principles, ethics, morals or values – never mind the principle of democracy and the separation of powers..

        Their’s is a combination of IGNORANCE and arrogance that is unmatched in recent history.. as the rest of the world moves away from dictatorship and the dictators collapse the miracle of Asia is moving backwards to install dictatorship – also because the opposition is headed by another DICTATOR more shameless than Rajapassa. Last night defeated Aussi PM Kevin Rudd said he would give up leadership of the party , but shameless and loathsome Ranil hangs on.. and is decimating the opposition in collaboration with Rajapassa.

      • 0

        True, DM and Kishali!
        For the military dictatorship to be challenged civil society organizations and leaders MUST engage and STOP{ the international financial institutions and bi-lateral development agencies particularly the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, who have been funding Gota the Goon’s militarization project via the Urban Development Authority, from funding the Ministry of Defense and subsidizing and aiding the consolidation of Military dictatorship in Sri Lanka.
        AID IS FUNGIBLE – i.e. transferable across sectors.
        These agencies (WB, ADB) are covertly funding the bloated military that should be DOWN SIZED and Right sized and paying soldiers’ wages. They preach good governance but practice the opposite funding the Ministry of Defense which has NO TRANSPARENCY. Transparency international must take up this issue too. WB and ADB in Lanka should STOP pretending that they are deaf and dumb and be FORCED by civil society to STOP funding the Ministry of Defense and the military dictatorship..

    • 0

      The history of European colonialism during the last five hundred years is well written when compared to days of Jesus and Judas. For that reason, neocolonialists and their cohorts like this writer cannot cover up the facade of their ulterior motives.

      Westerners call the days of their colonialist adventure an era of renaissance. But that so called exuberant era is really a period of plunder. When they sailed across the world for almost five hundred years in search of loot, the Iberians carried their complex burden of prejudices that was central to their identity across the world. All other Westerners followed suit afterward. And Christian missionaries not only blessed those pirates but also cruised with them to plunder whole nations of their heritage.

      But utter greed turned these nations to be bitter rivals. As a result of their avarice, an inevitable duel developed between the two most piratical nations Spain and Portugal for the supremacy. God willing, Pope, the Holy See at the time soothed their enmity with a simple Amen: His holiness drew a simple line in the world map and divided the entire worldly heritage bequeathing the west to Spain and the east to Portugal. With the blessings of the Holy Sea, a Franciscan missionary washed up to Sinhale in 1505 A.D with a Portuguese click of pirates. These are the same ‘Franciscans’ priestly lot that were put in charge of killings called the inquisitions in 1237 by the Council of Lérida.

      From the day that that Franciscan washed to our shores, for almost two centuries, Catholic Padres assisted the murderous Portuguese to raid and rob the wealth our nation. Not that only, these padres destroyed the very culture that firmly endured over two-millennium in this land. Portuguese stole the ivory crown of our king. They, knocked down the beautiful ‘Kelaniya Temple’ that stood for more than a millennium. In the midst of such horrific plunder, they started their own tactics to enhance ways to divide the population of this country. As a result, some blacks have become whitish blacks. Today, descendants of those whitish blacks would genuflect whites and revere everything they consider good. And RanilW, a foremost whitish black had gone so far as to invite the Portuguese to celebrate 500 years of their ancestors washing up to our shores and 150 years of their plundering. And I am sure, the likes of this writer endorses all such action by RanilW.

      I bet RanilW and the leaders of his elk never knew Sinhalas have their own values and culture. They never knew how to draw aspiration from our long held values and culture to solve problems that were bestowed on us by neocolonialists. They and the likes of this writer have been fooling majority of us with western sweets. It’s a sheer luck, we have realized that western sweets were wrapped with poison and elected MR as the president of Sri Lanka in 2005. Within four years, MR had eradicated the war that dragged on and on for over thirty years. The war that killed thousands is no more. And all Sri Lankan enjoy the prevailing peace. Only hypocrites and frauds that said ‘any fool can fight a war’ deny it.

      Neocolonialists and their apologists didn’t like the end of the war for they knew peace in Sri Lanka means they would lose their grip on Sri Lanka. So, they tried their best to overthrow MR. They accused MR for war crimes. They got Fonseka to contest for Presidency against his commander. They got LTTE proxy and rump LTTE to back Fonseka against MR. They didn’t realize such stupid ploys would only strengthen peoples resolve to elect MR as their President. And now their cohorts tag MR with a ‘Dictator’ label. Which dictator hold frequent elections? We the majority know the neocolonials’ game: By hook or by crook they want their puppet at the helm.

      Neocolonialists drones kill even babies and old men in Afghanistan. In Iraq its worse; there Muslims kill Muslims as a routine. In Libya tribal fighting is at peak; one tribe fight the other to grab oil wealth. In Egypt military throws out the elected government. There are images that show US choppers deliberately attacked and killed civilians. It is obvious that they hire terrorists to throw mustard gas to kill civilian to lay blame on the Syrian government. That is the status of peace where westerners have poked their fingers. Is that what we want?

      As for Sri Lanka, we have had no bombs since the end of the war. Peace, tranquility and a better life prevail after the war as never before. In spite of never ending vile writings about dictatorship and etc vision and imagine of whitish blacks like this writers have paled in to insignificance. And the majority have turned to nationalistic aspirations under MR as the way forward. There is no chance for RanilW and his whitened blacks to elect themselves to power.

  • 0

    This is not to dismantling the dictatorship , there in more than that
    Entire family tree has to cut down from the power and check their assets how did they made it

  • 0

    A good solid piece of writing, telling it like it is. Thank you, Kishali.

  • 0

    The masses do not really care about this dictatorship as long as Mahinda mama is up and about opening temples and kissing babies. Their children have the opportunity to visit the abode at Araliya gah mandiriya and meet his excellency. What more can they dream of.

    Even if a handful get shot on the streets like dogs or a few thousand tamils are ejected from their lands, every thing else is good. Good roads, jogging tracks, cricket stadiums, bird parks, yamang bando colomtota balanna etc. Better than electing that wimp RW or that traitor SF? Amma-palla, this is the taste of paradise?

  • 0

    Like the Priest Sobitha said Ina country full of Buffaloos what do you expect?

  • 0

    Dismantling Dictatorship Is not only Sri Lanka’s National Question, but also should be the Top Priority of the Peace Loving masses. If not addressed soon, the whole Country will be under the Jack Boot not only Weliweriya.

    • 0

      MR deserves bullets rather than ballots. If all other predecessors sacrificed it in that way – why not a leader who has reached to the levels of -NO GO – should have to live further ?

      • 0

        So, sama, you have come to accept that most writers and commentators here are the minority. So, its not the ballet but the bullet you want to change the government. Desperadoes’ democracy I suppose.

  • 0

    Sri Lanka population id divided among Cate, Creede, Race, religion, up country/low country, politically, NGO factions, Rich/Poor how could we talk about dismantaling Dictatorship in Sri Lanka.
    Further, how could a dictatorship survive or exists in such a divided society?
    We Sri Lankans can not be as proud as Pillay as we are such a divided society IN Sri Lanka………….

    Who is our precious gift? It can not be Rajapakshe or is it Ranil.W or Kishali’s alleged [Edited out]

    Or her [Edited out]

  • 0

    Absurd. Most people in SL have no problem with any dictatorship as said by that Tamil woman. SL people don’t tolerate dictatorship (if present).

    Winning elections is not dictatorship for the losers, it is called D-E-F-E-A-T.

  • 0

    As much as the current Dictatorship is a National Question and Priority, addressing Religion is also a top Priority for the people to live as civilized Human Beings.

    According to Buddhist Philosophy Life is a woe and is brought on by Human Craving. Therefore the Philosophy advises to shun craving to end Life’s misery, by attaining Nirvana. Now this state of Nirvana is like the belief of God, as no one can perceive and can firmly state that Nirvana is an end in itself or whether how one can confirm who has attained and who has not. One thing is for sure that if all Humans shun craving, certainly Man Kind will come to an end, because Life on this planet continues due solely to this Human craving, which is part of Human Nature. Therefore as long as this Human Diversity is there, Life of Humans will continue on the Planet where sections will believe in their respective Faiths, just to appease the Human Mind. This is the Naked Truth of all Religion, that includes the Philosophy Buddhism.

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