18 January, 2022


Ensure Governmental Unity To Strengthen Governmental System 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Any apprehension that the government would take to a more authoritarian path through the extension of the State of Emergency was dispelled by its revocation by President Maithripala Sirisena. When the president declared a State of Emergency to cover the entire country there was criticism that this was an overreaction to the problem of anti-Muslim violence as the violence was largely confined to the Kandy district and did not cross over to the other 24 districts. However, to the targeted Muslim population who live as minorities throughout the country, and to the great majority of peace loving citizens of all communities, the declaration of a countrywide emergency was primarily a reassuring signal that government wanted to make sure it would not spread.

When assessing any action it is important to make a contextual analysis of the background within which it happens. In previous periods of crisis, governments have resorted to rule by emergency regulations which they continuously extended so that it finally became a case of concentrating power and using it against the democratic opposition parties. The insurrections of the past, both JVP and LTTE, gave successive governments ample opportunity to justify the extension and abuse of emergency laws. Indeed, the use of emergency laws became so prolonged that law enforcement officers forgot the regular laws and began to see the emergency laws as the norm. In those instances a justified need at one point of time gave rise to a longer term abuse of power that continued.

However, in the case of the state of emergency declared a fortnight ago this abuse did not happen. The government announced that it would be a temporary measure and would not last beyond the period of anti Muslim violence that it was invoked to put an end to. The declaration of emergency was coupled with a restriction on social media. This was because social media was being used to spread false messages and inflame hatred against one or other sections of the people. The social media, especially Facebook and WhatsApp had become free spaces in which false information and messages of hate and mistrust were being transmitted to the country at large. These restrictive measures needed to be seen in the context that they were meant to protect a vulnerable minority and only for a temporary period, which the government has delivered on.

Temporary Measures 

The temporary declaration of emergency and the restrictions placed on social media highlight strong and weak points of the government. The strong points are that the government continues to abide by the fundamental principles of democracy, which is the rule by regular law that gives full space for the exercise of democratic freedoms, while being non-racist and protective of minority rights. The lifting of the state of emergency and restrictions on social media may have been expedited by the cautions from the United States, European Union and United Kingdom which in unison expressed their concerns about the state of emergency and restrictions placed on social media. These are the norms in the established democracies. Unfortunately, however, these are not the norms in Sri Lanka which in fact has norms of political conduct that go in the opposition direction.

The weak point of the government has been its inability to make use of the democratic space it has opened up to carry its message sufficiently powerfully to the people. On the contrary it has abdicated the larger part of the space to racist and nationalist groups and to opposition parties that have utilized the democratic space made available to spread negative messages amongst the general population. An example would be former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s appeal for calm at the time that anti Muslim violence was taking an upward climb. This was welcome. But while the former president appealed for calm, he simultaneously used the opportunity to blame the government for seeking to divide the country through constitutional reform. This was a case of appealing for calm on the one hand while rousing nationalist fears on the other hand.

There is no denying that the opposition led by the former president has been showing political skill and resilience since their unexpected defeat at the last presidential and general elections in 2015. They have been utilizing the democratic space opened up by the government to campaign against it on the basis of painting worst case scenarios. This has been done both openly at political rallies and also indirectly by putting ideas of nationalism and fear for the future of the country at the forefront of their political activities. The strength and resilience of the former president and his cohort of party members is admired by many. On the other hand, by widening the rift between the ethnic and religious communities they are leading the country back to abyss of inter communal conflict that would be disastrous to the country.

Second Strength 

The underutilized strength of the government is the fact that it is essentially a coalition government between the two main parties. The strength of being a coalition of the two traditionally largest political parties is that it brings in a bipartisan character to controversial political decisions. This is extremely important in dealing with issues such as constitutional reform and transitional justice that are aimed at addressing the root causes of conflict. But overshadowing this positive potential is the negative aspect that the two parties appear unable to agree on basic issues of governance and therefore the government is failing to make the decisions that need to be made to ensure good governance. Instead the opposition is looking more successful in driving a wedge between the two coalition partners.

The most recent initiative of the opposition is the motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. By getting this motion passed, the opposition is hopeful that they can scuttle all the plans of the government to resolve the long standing ethnic conflict through political reform and ensure accountability for crimes of human rights violations and corruption. The priority given to this can be seen by the absurd claims made by leading members of the opposition that the results of the local government election have shown that the masses of people absolve those in the opposition of having committed any wrongs in the past. The opposition is holding out the bait that a member of the junior partner in the present government coalition can be rewarded with the post of prime minister. Through this strategy they are seeking to break the unity of the government.

This is a very crucial time for the country. The memory of the anti Muslim actions and the prospects of the country careening out of control to disaster loom large. It is essential that the leaders of the government coalition remember the ideals that brought them together in 2015. Their chief slogans were good governance, anti corruption, a political solution to the ethnic conflict and human rights for all. In particular President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe need to overcome their differences. Neither can survive in the longer term without the other. The need is for the two parties to unite in parliament to pass laws that will strengthen the institutions of the state, such as the judiciary, so that the system of government becomes more powerful than the individuals. This can be seen today in the United States where the excesses of President Donald Trump are moderated by the system and the ship of state is steady.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    New King responded to the IC’s call for to retrieve the Emergency Regulations. But the usual internal mechanism was still rolling on action. The acolytes of New King referred with the name of Defense Department called for extension. IC is well aware unless they had talked on that, declaration of Emergency would have been for life time. They know what Jehan means by “Context”.

    Jehan PhD should drop out his hope of fooling them with the words “Everything has to be considered within the context”. The comedian is trying to whitewash that there was a very, very serious context to press Satyagraha in 1961 with Emergency regulation. Even the 1972 constitution was drafted under Emergency Context. There was context to deport upcountry Tamils, Impose Sinhala Only, Cripple Tamils Education with Standardization…….. There was a context to Jehan PhD to discipline, over and above the university Administration, the UOJ students when they played Nathasuram in Vavuniya campus. What Jehan PhD’s context is exactly same when Brother Prince sent to army bootcamps and rehabilitation centers the UOJ’ students’ leaders for having staged a protest in Old Royal times.

    Yahapalanaya is so tight in falsie prisoning political dissidents in North and East. A man is imprisoned falsely by Yahapalanaya for life time, while those who murdered 150,000 Tamils are preparing to the power for the second round. His nursery and below level children were under the mother who was mentally handicapped by the war and the abusive government. Even that debilitated, unsound protection was removed for those children when she died last week because of her mental condition.

    • 0

      Father was given three hours windows to attend the wife’s funeral. The small boy took the holy thread and finished off last rituals to place his mother on fire. When that drama was over and the father was escorted back to prison bus his even tinier girl child went and got in the prison bus with him(to go with him where he go). Even the policemen watched scene cried on that spot.

      Genuine Muslims has openly said Old King set up the riots, went outside, came back and pretended like he control the riots. Jehan PhD is not writing honestly, that Yahapalanaya was part on that so it will not investigate to find that who was the original source of the Kandy riots and put the Old Royals in for 20 years under Emergency. Of cause then it has to put in the collaborator of Old Royals, the Yahapalanaya also for 20 years under Emergency. It is well known that Mahajan Palahaya is and outfit of Lanakwe Secret Agents.

      Jehan PhD is hired to paint a rosy picture that now Opposition is doing free politics better than Yahapalanaya, because the democracy and freedom has dawn in Lankawe under Yahapalanaya. While he is writing that he is subtly welcoming his Old Master, Bother Prince into politics too. The IC knows in North there are areas army occupying 1;2 ratio. Yahapalanaya is very rigid in relaxing that.
      Heartless, brutal spin doctor Jehan PhD won’t be able to write fooling essay to thaw UNHRC.

      • 0

        MallaluiYuran: You look like an Indian Agent.

      • 0

        Mallaiyuran: YOU have acknowledged here that yiu are an Indian Agent. What is it RAW ?

  • 0

    We, the silent majority desperately want a “Government”. Disagreement inside is a good sign but open warfare to oust someone is not – particularly when vultures hover within eyesight.

  • 0

    Why do Sri Lankans keep expecting the Govt to everything. Politicians and the clergy of every nation are known to be unethical and useless. The root cause of strife and Misery to the rest of the Population.
    Why can’t can’t the followers of Buddha, Shiva, Vishnu and Murugan, become vegetarians, do yoga and Meditation as espoused in the Holy books. Sri Lanka needs a healthy population before it can do anything. After the first World war Germans promoted yoga, Vegan diets, and Meditation and within a generation the Nation became the productive in Eurpoe. Lanka needs to follow its eastern heritage not blindly Ape Western institutions ” in a monkey see monkey do” frenzy. (With Predictably disastrous results.)
    Sri Lanka was vegetarian until Aliens from the desert and Europe brought with them the slaughter of Animals.
    Sri Lanka and you: a traveller’s guide
Maureen Seneviratne, Eileen Candappa, Harry Haas – 1988 –
To call a man a “beef eater” in Sri Lanka even a century ago was a prime insult
    Ceylon: An Account of the Island, Volume 1 ( 1859 )
Sir James Emerson Tennent (bart.)
The mass of the population were nevertheless vegetarians, and so little value did they place on animal food, that according to the accounts furnished to EDRISI by the Arabian seamen returning from Ceylon “ a sheep sufficient to regale an assembly was to be bought there for half a drachm.
    The Living Age – Volume 65 –
We gather from these pages that, with due attention to diet, dress, and exercise, Ceylon is healthier than India.

  • 0

    Read every artile in this blog. Read the comments. They all want something out of the country and they are confident of these recycled thieves that they will provide it. They themselves acknowledge for 70 years they did nothing. Politicias know every one is talking for themselves. Voter is tranded. See how the Greed works. Real crabs in boiling water for ever. Who will profit ?

  • 0

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  • 0

    Canard 1: Previous governments wanted to continue with emergency rule but this govt is not. ……..There was a war for 30 years causing the emergency rule to be kept going for longer. It was the previous govt that removed emergency rule.

    Canard 2: It was the intention of this govt to keep state of emergency temporarily…………If not for the pressure from the Western sponsors and the masses, govt would have extended further. There were reports from govt allied media that govt may extend emergency rule and the security establishment has requested an extension.

    Canard 3: Social media was a key catalyst of violence……………It was the utter failure of the govt that caused the spread of violence.

    Canard 4: Govt abide by the normal rule of law…………….Govt created instruments like FCID to specifically target political opponents. Govt violated constitution (basic law) in in firing the chief justice.

    Canard 5: MR calling for calm and opposing a divisive constitution are incompatible…………Wrong. MR called for calm before the appointed leaders of the country. His opposition to the divisive constitution making is in line with maintaining ethnic amity. A divisive constitution will further polarise resulting in further tension and violence.

    Canard 6: The democratic space was created by this govt……………..It was the democratic space maintained by the previous govt that allowed expression of people’s will at regular elections and toppling of that govt in 2015 through an electoral coup.

    Canard 7: It is the cohorts of previous govt creating ethnic rift……………….Many govt insiders have publicly stated that the instigators of Mathugama riot and the latest disturbances reside inside the govt.

    Canard 8: Govt is run by the two largest parties……………….Not any more.

    Canard 9: The coalition came to power to solve complex national problems…………….It was created by geopolitical forces to perpetuate Western hegemony.

  • 0

    Iam surprised that there are some who read the weekly tripe written by this unabashed UNP apologist. Just use the delete key I recommend.

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