19 September, 2020

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Governance, Legitimacy And The Ethics Of Violence

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

The ancient Chinese, most notably Confucius, used to call it The Mandate of Heaven. Rulers may rule successfully only so long as they respect and enjoy the Mandate of Heaven.

The last war started when the terrorist Tigers deprived Sinhala farmers of water by shutting off the supply at Maavilaru. The war came home to the South when the same army that was deployed to liberate Maavilaaru was brutally and stupidly deployed against unarmed Sinhala protestors demanding potable water for their daily consumption.

In doing so, the regime has irreparably gashed the social contract. Credibility and legitimacy are leaking through that gash.

More distressingly, by the brutish behaviour of its units deployed in Weliweriya and Balummahara, the Sri Lankan army has damaged its social prestige. The army’s real protection is not its Buffel armoured cars and body armour but the love, respect and support of the citizenry. Without that social support it will be vulnerable to those external forces who wish to haul it up on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The support of society does not rest on eternal gratitude for winning the war against terrorism. It has to be earned daily. In Weliweriya, the army lost the hearts and minds of quite a few Sinhala people and sowed the seeds of doubt in the minds of a great many more.

One cannot resist posing the question in passing: what has done greater damage to the prestige of the Army—the movie ‘Flying Fish’ and its screening at the French Film festival or by the Army’s flying bullets and guns pointed at nuns?

By behaving in a lethally predatory fashion and maintaining a heavy troop presence in a Sinhala township with Buffel armoured cars on street corners, the authorities have lost the most vital of all real estate: moral-ethical high ground.  If that ‘moral capital’ is not recovered by a sincere public apology by the highest decision makers, a transparently fair, independent and impartial inquiry and a just outcome, it could be socially and in the last analysis, politically, fatal to the regime.

Furthermore, if there is a cover up about Weliweriya, who in the whole world would believe anything the Sri Lankan State says about the army’s conduct of the war in the North, even if it were totally true? And if this is how things went in Gampaha in 2013, what might have happened in Matale in 1989-90?

In Sri Lanka, the regime is dying by the hypertrophy of repressive force and the atrophy of ethical, moral and mental power. However, the new, that is to say an Opposition with a credible project and profile that can save Sri Lanka from the abyss, has not yet been born.

While the regime will keep winning Presidential elections so long as it is a choice between Mahinda Rajapaksa (who enjoys the Teflon factor that Ronald Reagan did) and Ranil Wickremesinghe, the regime itself has passed its zenith and is on the downswing. That downswing may be parabolic rather than dramatic, an arc rather than a downward spiral but that could change into a corkscrewing downturn due to its own behaviour. The turning point was Weliweriya. The regime’s hegemony has been eroded because it has been shown to be callously insensitive and lethally brutal towards the very people it is supposed to represent and protect.

The problem in Sri Lanka is not Mahinda Rajapaksa or his Presidency. It is his extended family, his clan, his tribe and the power and authority they wield. It was the same with the Bandaranaike administration of 1970-1977. The problem was not so much Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike but the Ratwatte-Bandaranaike family tree; the ‘family bandyism’ of the Ratwatte Bandaranaike clans. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s popularity is threatened not by Ranil Wickremesinghe but by excessive concentration of political and economic power in the hands of his kith and kin and their resultant public behaviour.

The Army’s conduct proved the validity of the poser by the classical Romans: who will guard the guardians, by which they meant who will guard us from the guardians? In our case it can be re-framed as who will defend us from the defence authorities?

Winston Churchill famously said at the turning point of the Second World War, that it was neither the beginning of the beginning nor the end of the end; rather, it was the beginning of the end. Future political history may note that Weliweriya signalled the beginning of the end.

This must not be taken to mean that the end game is predictable in its form or time frame. Nor does it mean that the Opposition as it stands will benefit automatically. While the regime is descending in a parabola, the Opposition under Ranil Wickremesinghe is plummeting vertically.

History knows not only zero-sum, win-lose outcomes but also and as many lose-lose outcomes. After all, who – which side– has won in Egypt today?  Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto of an exceptional outcome of the ‘mutual ruin of the contending classes’. Antonio Gramsci wrote of a situation in which ‘the old is dying and the new cannot yet be born’; warning that ‘it is precisely in this interregnum that a great variety of morbid symptoms’—even ‘monsters’ (in Zizek’s translation)—appear. They appeared in the streets of Weliweriya and outside St Anthony’s Church, Gampaha.

*Dr Dayan Jayatilleka is the author of Fidel’s Ethics of Violence (London 2007)

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Latest comments

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    Without that social support it will be vulnerable to those external forces who wish to haul it up on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    If Dayan wishes that the events of Army firing on unarmed civilians should not be hidden & probed, what is wrong with World asking for the same action against unarmed civilians but this they happened to be in North.

    Why he cant he get his head out of Sinhala chauvinism & for once accept that the probe for South will also be good for North as well ???

    Is it too much to expect from a former Srilankan UN Ambassador but then he has to act like one instead of just a Sinhala UN Ambassador.

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      The JVP, having completely lost political support of the public, has began a series of uprisings”, using university students (J’pura and Sabaragamuwa), where they block roads, traffic, and create incidents of utter public disruption in the hope of reaping from anarchy.

      There is a pollution problem, and you see it all over our streets, with motor
      vehicle exhaust, diesel exhaust etc in an utterly over-densely populated urban environment where residential zones and commercial zones have been intermingled
      since the days of Premadasa and before. But most pollution problems develop slowly and with the connivance of the public itself.

      The way these “protests” have got staged in Gampaha and Weliweriya, at university campuses, and how roads and trains are blocked, with petrol bombs deployed, etc suggest that all his has nothing to do with environmental pollution. Were the wells acidified by political agitators in gampaha to create the incident? How was the US embassy so bast and ready to condemn the incident, while when people protested against oil leaks from pipelines, the state troopers cracked down with no uncertain force.

      The JVP has NO public support. From where does it get its money for its agit-prop?

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      Good that you exposed his Sinhala majoritarian logic: Weliweriya incident must must be investigated, but the huge Mullivaaikkaal massacre must be hushed!

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    Without that social support it will be vulnerable to those external forces who wish to haul it up on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    If Dayan wishes that the events of Army firing on unarmed civilians should not be hidden & probed, what is wrong with World asking for the same action against unarmed civilians in 2009 but this time they happened to be in North.

    Why he cant he get his head out of Sinhala chauvinism & for once accept that the Impartial probe he demands for South will also be good for North as well ???

    Is it too much to expect from a former Srilankan UN Ambassador but then he has to act like one instead of just a Sinhala UN Ambassador.

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      His fairplay is showing like the emperor’s new clothes. Good that you exposed his Sinhala majoritarian logic: Weliweriya incident must must be investigated, but the huge Mullivaaikkaal massacre must be hushed!

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    Mahinda’s teflon days are long gone,the days when masses saw a UNP member crossover as great mahinda strategy are far gone too.They are all seen for what it really is,the village and city both see it as same.
    Every teflon don will see this.

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    I agree with dowotjrdid.

    The killings in Weliweriya and the somersault of Dayasiri to the government are two watershed moments in the downfall of the Rajapaksa dictatorship. The anger and the outrage that was generated by these two incidents has never been seen before in the deaf, dumb and blind majority when similar incidents occurred in the recent past. This could effectively be the beginning of the end for this regime. In the future there will be many more instances where the armed forces will be called upon by the Goat brother of MR to open fire on people who protest the rule of this family dictatorship. The 64 million dollar question would be as to which side the armed forces will take then.

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      Wait and see….the armed forces will continue to open fire on people on GOAT’s instructions and once a REVOLUTION takes place, the armed forces will offer flowers to the people! The overthrow of the Shah of Iran (King of all Kings), Gaddafi, Mubarak, Saddam etc. are cases in point. Maybe our King and all his thieves will have to prepare themselves to hide in the sewer until ???

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      Presidunce Bean:
      As much as I admire what you have to say from time to time, I think you are being too optimistic. This set of murderous thugs won’t go quietly into the night when democratically rejected. Weliveriya is going to look like a Sunday school picnic compared to what is in store for this country. Just watch the Rajapassas in (further) action!

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        A quite possible scenario.

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    ethics of violence, my ass.” problem is not rajapakse or his presidency?” from which mouth are you talking about dear Dr??

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    hmm interesting , rioting burning should have been tolerated . the same tamils and commies who say the sinhala mobs should have been shot and killed say it is a bad idea to control the thugs . And the constant theme is its Gotas fault .. what really you this he sent the army asking them to shoot a few people . dont be a bunch of idiots . these things happen in every country in the world . dont make a mountain out of a mole hill.

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      If the mountain was in your own family backyard will you make a mole hill of it? The mountain has indeed come to everyone’s back yard today, I differ with Dayan in only believing that the UNP is likely to be the undeserving beneficiary of the accelarating melt down of what he calls the Teflon presidency. In the current heat of uprage being generated among the people the Teflon has started to melt to reveal once again this country’s continuing curse- rotten governance by the scum among men and women.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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        Oh Rajasingham,

        A month ago you wrote of MR “his undefined vision envisaged that economic development will bring about sufficient prosperity in the Tamil areas.”

        Now you write “this country’s continuing curse- rotten governance by the scum among men and women”

        A 4-year illicit love affair turned grothequely sour in just a month?!

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          What I have said before does not negate what I have said now. I said ” MR’s vision envisaged–“. Yes, they have provided the infrastructural development required as the foundation for economic development. However , rotten governance has severely hampered investment and the required climate to seed and spur economic development.

          Further, what you term as a ‘ four year illicit love affair’, was quite legitimate and more an appreciation for the many positives, while the likes of you were harping on only the negatives, most times imagined and exaggerated. I yet appreciate the positives very much, while being dissappointed and even disgusted that this government, as many before it, has also missed the bus.

          Nothing is clearly black and white in this world. Somethings are white, others are black and most are grey. You have much to yet learn about life.

          Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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            Oh, oh Rajasingham,

            The only right thing in your response is “nothing is clearly black and white in this world!”

            Almost everyone knew it was “black”, while just you, along with a handful of idiots believed it was “white” for four years, and that was until just a month ago. If not, why did you say last month that “even the worst of idiots have NOW recognized MR is deceptive and cannot be trusted?”

            It is you who took so long to recognize the truth that “MR cannot be trusted”, or that “the governance is by the scum of the earth.” The others saw through the deviousness at least half a decade ago. Isn’t that the truth?

            Didn’t the Diaspora try to enlighten you to this truth over the last four years? Isn’t that why they not merely refused to support you in your “loot” gathering efforts, but also began to shun you – for your idiocy? You were so utterly inebriated with the Royal treatment that you even thought fit to slander and berate the Diaspora while singing hosannas for MR? That was until you saw yourself thrown out of the MR bandwagon unceremoniously, as everyone else had “told-you-so”?

            Yes, no doubt the Tamils are relieved that you have woken up to reality now. But, redemption requires earnest apology for all your past slandering and berating. Just distant and devious efforts at backtracking won’t cut it.

            Now, sit back and, as suited to your comfort zone, ruminate on “who needs to yet learn about life?!”

            If that still fails to bring dawn, ask some well meaning friends, and this time, please listen.

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              Why the multiplying Oh Ohs? The Diaspora trying to educate me! That is the best joke I have heard in my life.
              I will praise when praise is due and criticise when it is due. I am not struck in mud like sections of the Tamil Diaspora you seem to adore.

              I yet consider sections of the Tamil Diaspora a curse, similar to sections of the Sinhala polity.

              Dr.RN

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              How exactly did you finally (just a month ago) get educated about MR’s deviousness – Dawn is still a distant future for you, it seems!

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            Dr Rajasingham:
            “Nothing is clearly black and white in this world. Somethings are white, others are black and most are grey. You have much to yet learn about life.”
            You are dead right, one never stops learning about absolute hypocrites like you who will continue to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
            Make up your mind about which side of this fence you are on because your balancing act, having it both ways, can’t go on forever!

            • 0
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              You mean if he is not with you, he is against you, Malpochchi? Yes, we’ve heard that one before.

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        Dr RN

        The mountain (JVP) has always been in my back garden , I know the deception and the vileness they are capable of . It would have made no difference if it was the 58th division or the police who was there . The way the stone throwing thugs were behaving this would have happenned . This is no rise of a sinhala spring too many people know of the vileness of the JVP .

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          I am glad you recognise the mountain and are not trying to make it a mole hill. However, the present crisis in Sri Lanka as a whole is a mountain of Himalayan proportions.

          Dr. RN

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    The protestors clashed with the wrong people.

    Why do these areas don’t have good drinking water? Because all good drinking water is wasted in Colombo City which is now occupied by aliens!!

    This is the real reason. Fix this problem first.

    They robbed your good water. Go after them!

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      Thank you for taking charge. Lead the way now.

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      yea right, Aliens.
      UPFA ministers and their henchman building mansions with swimming pools and Spas in their back yards in Colombo and outskirts and wasting good water
      Good one, Muliya – take the lead- way to go Lorenzo

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      Yes, because there is no water on Mars, the aliens have come to Colombo to steal ours.

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    These ‘monsters’ did not fall from the sky. They were carefully bred and fed and fattened on the genocide of the minorities with the full support and widespread aquisance of the Sinhala Buddhist Majority. They were then not monsters but Sinhala Buddhist Superheros. So why have they now been branded ‘monsters’?

    Those who commit the genocide of minorities also wipe out the ‘commies’ and anyone who asks for the rule of law.

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      Absolutely! This Frankenstein monster is nurtured and fed by the majority in the society since 1956. Only when it’s let loose on them they jump up and shout foul-play. Dayan was part of this rotten State until he retired: Now he appears to bite the hand that fed him!

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    Is this our new Mangalal?.

    Egytian Military massacred over 100 Morosi supporters, who are the majority, after kicking him out with the tacic support of the US.

    Here the JVP and UNP combined operation or a Trial Run for a Arab like Spring lead to a major disturbance which resulted in a death.

    And Dayan warns us inhabitants that their Govt will now be black banned by the Diaspora IC.

    Hayleys Dipped Goods Operation is as old or older than Prabkaran’s liberation.

    It is the livelihood of thousands of inhabitants direct and indirect.

    And these range from process workers to rubber tappers and the fish mongers, vegetable sellers , tea boutuque owners in between.

    And of course the Brown Sahibs at the top of the food chain at the CSX.

    How fitting is that this pans out to be a combined project between the JVP and the Christian wing of the UNP..

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      Tsunamisekera:
      Have they increased your stipend to make it worthwhile to leave your idiocies on several articles? It is money poorly spent because they are still inarticulate idiocies and no amount of money – garnered through “housing deals” or otherwise – will compensate for stupidity.

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    Well if those think this is the beginning the end of Rajapakse family rule would be getting disappointed. Rajapakse rule is here to stay for next few decades. presidential powers, 18th ammendment, all news media under him, with jilmart in elections nobody could displace Rajapkase family.

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    “In doing so, the regime has irreparably gashed the social contract. Credibility and legitimacy are leaking through that gash.”

    I thought that “Credibility and legitimacy” were things of the past with this bunch of creeps.

  • 0
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    “In Weliweriya, the army lost the hearts and minds of quite a few Sinhala people and sowed the seeds of doubt in the minds of a great many more”
    I have no respect for the personnel of all three forces and police because their mentality is completely different to the ordinary people. I am well aware that everyone who is not able to pursue a decent education join these forces. They do not join these forces to save the country. In other words failures like Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who did only cadetting during his school days at Ananda College join the Army. His brother Basil Rajapaksa who did not do any good work at Ananada is a prominent minister. These idiots rule the country and have turned it into a military state. Look at what has happened at Weliveriya. The soldiels who killed thousands of Tamils to win a so called war have killed Sinhalese this time. An eye-witness to the incident at Weliveriya has alleged that “when the Sister in the church locked some of the protestors in a room, a soldier placed his rifle at her chest. She pleaded with them not to harm anyone. One of the soldiers shouted “kawda umbalawa deng balaganney. Api kotith paradduwa. Umbala vedak nehe. (Who is there to look after you now? We defeated the Tigers. You are of no use).”” This is the behaviour of the so called war heroes. Are they really war heroes? Big NO! They just did a job as an other employee because they did not join the army to save the country. They joined the army because they could not get any other job like Gotabhaya in 1970s. So in my opinion these guys are not war heroes. They are a bunch of uneducated criminals who have already killed and raped thousands of innocent Tamils during the so called war and are still occupying the Northern province to harass the innocent Tamils remaining. The Sinhalese should realize that the Sinhala leaders are not going to save them. They will have to find an alternative leader may be an educated, honest person probably from the minority community because all Sinhala leaders are Hypocrites.

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    Beginning of the end

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    Water is stolen from Sinhala areas like Weliweriya, Kelaniya, Labugama, Ambathalay and pumped to Tamil areas in Colombo city.

    This is the root cause of the problem.

    Stop this ROBBERY before people pollute the water for all.

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      We are waiting for you to sort it out.

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      You find new things like Einstein,
      How brainy you are???????????.

      It is in your Genes Or Jeans.

  • 0
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    This fellow lost his job, so shooting his mouth off. that’s the story in a nutshell — DJ is for DJ — and he will spin anything to his benefit. YAWN.

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    The regime hastens its own demise; “things fall apart the centre cannot hold”. Your days are numbered; beware the ides of 2013.

    Out of the coming anarchy a new dawn will rise; to chimes and call to pray of one love and unison. “Outta this rock shall come a greener rhythm”.

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    ‘Waliweriya incident clearly proves the case that the people in the area should have control over the land and police powers. This is what the Provincial Councils are asking for. If the people had land and police powers they would have made sure that no factory is built or maintained without proper environmental management and the police would have been more sympathetic towards the civilians who were not armed and were protesting peacefully. Let us all open our eyes and try to understand how repressive this government is. Let us all demand that Gotha resigns or is kicked out of his position.

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    I’m amazed at how even respected diplomats like Dayan have fallen for the Diaspora propaganda. There is no evidence to suggest that the videos of the alleged army abuses at Weliweriya are authentic. First of all there is nothing in the videos that prove that the events took place in Sri Lanka. It could easily have been filmed in Tamil Nadu by professional actors. Secondly, the so called members of the army in the video have dark skin. Clearly, they are not members of the Sinhalese army, but are Tamils dressed as Sinhalese. Also, the army is very disciplined and has received world class training. Therefore they would never harm civilians from their own community. The government will definitely investigate and punish any credible allegations of abuse by the military. However, this video has zero credibility and is a clear fabrication that should be ignored by everyone. This is a well orchestrated attempt to disgrace the heroic armed forces.

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      Good one patriot! If your tongue were any more in your cheek it would burst like an overblown balloon!

    • 0
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      This guy is not a true patriot. He is insane.

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        He is one another who would always brand any dissidents as – diasphora supporters/NGO supporters/working for Imperialits etc. If he or she owns a brain the size of mustard seed should know that various kind of views are common to any society/folks. The basics seem to be far from this kind of people.

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    “The problem in Sri Lanka is not Mahinda Rajapaksa or his Presidency. It is his extended family, his clan, his tribe and the power and authority they wield “

    Dayan Jayathilake:

    Have some guts.

    He is the president. Finally, it is his leadership and political experience in question.

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    JR tried to make this island – A Dhammadipa
    But he created a Adhammadipa by his racist thought & action

    Premadasa tried with “Sucharita” and even advocated for a Majoritarian rule by allowing the thugs to install Buddha Statues all over the country, named a playground after a convicted racist “Henry Pedris” glorified him by doing so. He even kept the criminal monk ELLE Gunawansa close to him. Aired the song “EPA EPA MAS KANNATA KIRI AMMAGEY” over Rupavahini & ITN….and then the fate struck…SUCHARITA became duscharita and murdered 60,000 people to crush the JVP rebellion.

    Now, MR & Bros., are trying the same game plan by attacking the religions, the customs and the economy of the Minorities. Again the war against Killing of cattle for food has begun and when they always try to stop the killing of cows the fate has another plan – KILLING OF PEOPLE starts.

    So, always when they stop the killing of cows the Killing of human beings is replaced as a compensation….WELL DONE!

  • 0
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    CT, please stop this hypocrite DJ articles, please pave way for more space to journalists like lakmali,darishta, TG and like mided. Thanks for your journalism, i get to learn many pivotal points of Asia in this Forum

  • 0
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    What a volte-face. As you very rightly say the problem lies with the President’s extended family and his clan who wield unbridled power but in the same breadth very surprisingly attempt at exonerating the President from family bandyism is a very contentious stand.

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    1. The situation didn’t appear to warrant calling the army.

    2. Ostensibly some group provoked the army.

    3. Now all vested interests try to realise their sinister motives using the deaths of innocents like the separatis terrorists did over ’83 deaths.

    4. Primary responsiblity rests with the govt whose responsibility is to protect the citizenry. They failed in that miserably.

    5. the fate of Dipped Products should be purely based on a scientific environmental impact study and not a political scapegoating. It provides livelihood to hundreds of families while being a world leader in it’s industry.

    6. If not for this incident we could have focussed on the opening of the Colombo South harbour and what it means to Sri Lanka.

    7. On that note I could see the amount of space provided by CT to discuss Weliveriya and no space to debate on current developmental topics such as Colombo harbour (it’s costs and benefits including surrounding corruption if you wish). People based journalism has much wider scope than current foot print of CT.

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