16 May, 2022

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National Community And International Community

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“A crisis of this magnitude can lead to renewal or destruction…” ~ Ariel Dorfman (The last September 11)

Perhaps England’s Henry II did not quite say, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Perhaps he was less explicit, as the sole contemporary chronicler maintains. His meaning nevertheless was clear to the hearers. Four loyal knights, eager to gain favour of their royal master, murdered the offending cleric, Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury.

Just five days after his landside electoral victory, Sri Lanka’s newly minted executive president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fired a broadside at the country’s most celebrated sleuth. “Shani Abeysekara investigates according to his thinking,” complained the president during a temple visit. “. Non-governmental organisations don’t ask questions about that. To jail those who waged the war, officials and navy commander, to jail intelligence agents, to jail me. Not only that. There are officials who were forced to mention my name. Non-governmental organisations don’t question that”

In lands where the law of the ruler prevails, incurring a ruler’s wrath is dangerous business. SSP Abeysekara was subjected to a humiliating transfer, interdicted and eventually arrested. He would spend eleven months in jail, until granted bail by the Appeals Court. In its decision, the court shredded the CCD case, characterising the charges against Mr. Abeysekara as “a result of falsification and embellishment and a creature of afterthought.”

This week, Shani Abeysekara filed a fundamental rights case in the Supreme Court seeking protection against am alleged plan to re-arrest him, under the PTA, for failing to prevent the Easter Sunday attack. An investigation has been commenced against him, he claimed, on the basis of an anonymous petition.

This week the Colombo High Court Trial-at-Bar bench delivered a stinging rebuke to the police and the AG’s Department by dismissing a similar case against the former defence secretary and the former IGP. Delivering the unanimous verdict, Judge Aditya Patabendige stated that former head of the State Intelligence Service Nilantha Jayawardana “had neglected his responsibilities…and had tried to place the blame for the attack on someone else.” He also said, “It was unacceptable to file cases against government servants alone when politicians were above them” (The Island – 19.2.2022).

Will the police now launch an investigation on the former SIS chief and on his political and systemic protectors? Or will they scurry in whatever the direction their current political masters point them, and to hell with facts? Not the most sensible course of action, given our judiciary’s manifest determination to uphold the rule of law, given that Sri Lanka is under the UN Human Rights Commission’s microscope, given that the GSP+ hangs in balance. But do the police have a choice but to emulate the example of Henry II’s knights and wield metaphorical swords against ‘traitors to (uncrowned) king and country?’

Who Needs Human Rights?

“Human rights were found recently. If we can live in a correct manner there’s no need for human rights. Those who do not practice religion are the ones who hang on human rights.” This statement, worthy of Vendaruwe Upali thero of be-like-Hitler fame, was made by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjih at St Mathews church in Ekala in September 2018.

While the rest of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration remained mum, Minister Mangala Samaraweera responded to the Cardinal. “The need for Human Rights was an outcome of the marauding religious zealots of the Inquisition and the Crusades where non-believers were massacred en-bloc,” he tweeted. “Pity the Cardinal always seems to get things wrong in trying to be a populist.”

Soon, the pro-Rajapaksa Joint Opposition leaped into the fray in defence of the Cardinal. Mahinda Rajapaksa lamented ‘the attacks on religions.’ In his weekly Lankadeepa column, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa railed against modernity’s disregard for religious traditions. The Cardinal’s remarks were in synch with the Rajapaksa project and the global populist wave which preached the mutual exclusivity between freedom and security, between basic rights and economic prosperity.

As Pope Francis pointed out during his recent visit to Greece, “Democracy demands hard work and patience. It is complex whereas authoritarianism is peremptory and populism’s easy answers appear attractive.” Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, like many a Sinhala-Buddhist monk, succumbed to the lure of populism’s easy answers. What he forgot was that Lankan populism is of the blood and faith variety. Its most basic precept is the Mahawamsa myth of Lanka being the only home of pure and pristine Buddhism and Sinhalese being its sole protectors. In that nexus, Sinhala-Catholics are as alien as Tamils, Muslims or Burghers. They, like all other minorities, can live here so long as they accept their secondary status and stay within those confines, without making demands or waves.

In his struggle to obtain justice and closure for the victims of the Easter Sunday massacre, the Cardinal exceeded those confines. He crossed the Rajapaksa redline when he questioned the regime’s handling of the issue. Now he and the community he represents are in the enemy territory. Two Catholics have been fingered as being the mastermind of three aborted bomb attacks, including on the famous Bellanwila temple. The Cardinal is being accused of conspiring with international enemies. According to media reports, Lankan Catholics have been banned from attending the Kachchativu religious feast on the orders of the president. Pandemic is the reason given. That would have seemed reasonable if the Siripada season has not been in full swing – with official patronage, and the ruling SLPP did not recently hold a mass meeting in Anuradhapura.

“Hatred of one group can lead to hatred of others,” Amartya Sen points out in The Argumentative Indian. Ceylon’s first anti-minority outbreak was a Sinhala on Sinhala clash, between Buddhists and Catholics of Kotahena in March 1883. Anti-Christianity was present in the Sinhala-Only project. Gangodawila Soma thero ignited an anti-Christian wave in the first years of the new millennium. When he fell victim to Russian winter, the JHU, led by Champika Ranawaka and Udaya Gammanpila used the anti-Christian wave to vault into parliament. True Russia’s Orthodox Church is as distinct from Catholicism as the Calvary Church, but in the eyes of Sinhala-Buddhist extremists, they are all Christians. As Jorges Luis Borges said, populism “promote(d) idiocy,” and peddled fictions “which can’t be believed and were believed” (quoted in Federico Finchelstein’s From Fascism to Populism in History).

So who needs human rights? The answer is humans, all humans, not just atheists and secularists. Especially those humans unfortunate enough to live in lands where democracy and the rule of law are in total or partial abeyance. When our own government persecutes us, it is not unpatriotic to turn to the world for help, any more than it is anti-family for a battered spouse or abused child to seek help from neighbours or police. National sovereignty does not mean the sovereign’s right to jail, torture, murder and otherwise illegally punish citizens, a truth Tamil Catholics had known for decades and Sinhala Catholics are discovering now.

In Thomas More’s Utopia, different religions coexist in peace and even atheists are tolerated. In his private life, More was a man of outstanding decency and goodness, a friend to whom the celebrated humanist Erasmus dedicated, In Praise of Folly. Yet as Henry VIII’s chancellor, More was notoriously intolerant and excelled at and exulted in burning religious dissenters. Politicians cannot be trusted to create utopias, including the ones they themselves imagined. That is why we need constitutions, laws, and courts, and, when all internal remedies fail, an international community willing to mitigate the worst of national excesses.

Politics Of Salvation Is Their Only Salvation

According to the recent CPA survey, Confidence in Democratic Governance Index, the economy is the main concern of a majority of Sinhalese (29% prioritise controlling cost of living while 27% economic growth).

How do a Sinhala majority regard government’s past performance and future potential in matters economic? 71.6% of Sinhalese said that their income levels got worse in the last two years (little worse – 32.8%; lots worse – 38.8%). When it comes to government’s promises to ensure the country’s recovers, 64.9% of Sinhalese felt they had no confidence (21/2% somewhat unconfident; 43.7% very unconfident).

Pressed to the wall of bankruptcy by a crisis predominantly of their own making (from axing the tax-base to the fertiliser fiasco) the Rajapaksa are becoming increasingly dependent on India for day-to-day survival. A provincial council election this year might be part of the price India extracts for their emergency handouts. And to win such an election – or at least to emerge from the fray as the single largest political formation – the Rajapaksas need to build a bridge to their disaffected Sinhala-Buddhist base, with bricks of minority-phobia and cement of targeted repression.

Foreign Ministry’s recent rant against former Lankan human rights commissioner, Ambika Satkunanathan is not an aberration, but the new norm. At the recent SLPP rally in Anuradhapura, Minister Johnston Fernando, called TNA parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran a Tiger agent, repeatedly, in the presence of both the president and the prime minister. Much of his ire was directed at Mr. Sumanthiran’s timely effort to encourage the opposition forge a consensus on urgently needed economic remedial measures. As he explained in an article, the purpose of these gatherings was to form a set of economic proposals and present them to the government. A sane and sensible government would have welcomed the initiative. The Rajapaksa regime regards these efforts as Tiger conspiracies. To a hungry base they have nothing to offer but the ecstasy of ethno-religious racism.

But that alone is not enough to win elections. The Rajapaksas also need repression. People must be taught to fear again, as they did under Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency.

Why did the police arrest social activist Shehan Malaka Gamage less than a fortnight before Geneva, and in a manner reminiscent of white van terror? The police could have arrested him at home or at work, or ordered him to come to some police station. Instead, men in civilian attire riding a white van made a grab at him in broad daylight on a busy road with plenty of witnesses. Previously, whistleblower Thushan Gunawardane said that a white van had haunted the vicinity of his residence. This week, parliamentarian Shanikyan Rasamanikkam alleged that a white van tried to abduct a Tamil political activist. Are these stink bomb of terror aimed at silencing critics? Or are we witnessing the rebirth of white van phenomenon? Or a bit of both, some terror amplified hundredfold by induced fear?

Why were two social media critics summoned to the CID in this month alone? Has the CID being downgraded to (Social Media) Criticism Investigation Department, because if social media is silenced, media freedom will die by default?

On January 30th a JVP meeting was attacked with eggs. The two attackers captured by the participants turned out to be employees of Avant Garde, the security related business empire owned by rags-to-riches billionaire Nissanka Senadhipathi. This week, journalist Chamuditha Samarawickrama’s house was subjected to a rock and faeces attack. From eggs to rocks and faeces in a fortnight; would live bullets be the next step?

As the gap between Rajapaksa wellbeing and the wellbeing of not just Lankans or Sinhalese, but the Rajapaksa’s own base widens, the family will intensify its efforts to divide and terrify. The violence of their words and deeds will increase in inverse proportion to their popularity. Sinhala anger and desperation will be weaponised against some minority community, leading to an outbreak of violence after a real or purported inciting incident.

If the opposition can come together not around this or that aspiring president but a basic programme of national renewal (national defined as Lankan not Sinhala, let alone Sinhala-Buddhist) then the Rajapaksa attempts will fail, and the crisis will open a new path to a marginally better future.

As historian John Lewis Gaddis said, in his Pulitzer winning book On Grand Strategy, a winning grand strategy must ensure that potentially unlimited aspirations are aligned with necessarily limited capabilities. The Rajapaksas are in trouble because they believed their capacities to be as unlimited as their aspirations. Hopefully, the opposition will not make the same mistake. They must stop competing with each other for a presidential election that is two and a half years away, and prepare for a provincial election which may be round the corner.

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Latest comments

  • 23
    1

    Dear Tisaranee+Gunasekara
    An excellent capture of facts and an articulateed piece. Thank you

    Yes the regime is shameless and its dwindling support base could not care for anything except their own survival at any cost

    They were threatening an election on their speech on 9th instant.Since the n no more mention of same. Yes they have lost their plot big time

    What can the opposition and the civil society do?. What’s happening to “One country one law”

    • 21
      0

      “there’s no need for human rights. Those who do not practice religion are the ones who hang on human rights.” This statement, worthy of Vendaruwe Upali thero of be-like-Hitler fame, was made by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith”
      Sadly, from personal experience, the Cardinal has found out who needs human rights. He, once a standard- bearer of Rajapaksa-ism, abandoned his own Northern flock in the name of spurious patriotism. Uniquely, the Catholic Church is the only religion that has adherents among both ethnic groups. But the Cardinal squandered the opportunity to bring leverage. Now, the Rajapaksas, drunk on the power he helped them achieve, have forced him to appeal to the UNHRC. What an about- face!
      EVERYBODY needs human rights! All the time. Not only when it is convenient.

      • 14
        0

        OC
        A timely reminder of the man’s political games.
        But people choose to ignore it in the context of the ‘bigger enemy’.

      • 0
        3

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      • 7
        0

        old codger

        Once the same cross dresser condemned Tamils for seeking international intervention on the issue of missing persons.

        • 1
          0

          While not condoning the politica opportunism of the Cardinal and the fact that he sadly mistook Roman religious power for the message of love that Christ brought, for whatever reason he sees now sees a violation needing redress. May he redeem himself.
          Now we have men of learned Doctorates in law in the waiting to discover the true meaning of undiluted human rights irrespective political power. All humanity cries out for redemption from todays poverty to tommorrows conscience…and it is a far cry !

      • 6
        1

        Agree with you entirely. Kept quiet or gave support when Tamils many of whom were also Catholic was badly affected by the actions of the state and abandoned them. Now appealing to the same UNHRC and the Vatican that the Tamils in desperation appealed to.

      • 3
        1

        “there’s no need for human rights. Those who do not practice religion are the ones who hang on human rights.”

        KARMA is a B!tch.

        • 2
          1

          Burt,
          “KARMA is a B!tch.”
          A good lesson for opportunist clerics.

    • 14
      0

      Pictures worth thousand words.
      .
      GLP looks very uncomfortable. The kind of higher acdemics to fall to the levels – says it all.
      :
      Sensitive CT commenters over to you. please think about – do we have anything left to discuss further ?
      Medamulanism ruined srilanken nation. Basta.

      • 11
        0

        Yes Pictures worth thousand words. Why GLP in this picture? Is it because they are all criminals? or all of them are experts in lies and cheating? all of them robbed this country? or all of them thinking that they have no escape route?

    • 15
      0

      Madam as always, you tell us the facts and the reality. Unfortunately the SB are in eternal denial and blacked out. Rajapaksas are metastasizing spread of a 75year cancer called racism, hatred, jealousy and immorality.

    • 7
      0

      RN
      “One country one law” is yet another political catch phrase. It will go at the end of its sell by date.
      But t can be reactivated in another form, even by its opponents.

      • 4
        0

        SJ
        I like your optimism .This way you
        have nothing to loose and every thing to hope and gain for!

        But the reality on the ground is that the hyped up set up was nothing but a chirad to take way the attention of the serious situation facing the country.
        Sadly nothing has changed, except perhaps the committee members are having a jolly good time. Achieving nothing.
        How about the new constitution any progress on this long awaited reform?
        These nilistic acts are a waste of public purse and time in my view

        • 3
          0

          RN
          I do not know how optimism leaves one with nothing to lose.
          It is a pessimist that has nothing to lose: If he proves right he is happy that he is right, and if he proves wrong he is happy since his fears did not materialize.
          *
          I am not pinning my hopes on any but the people. If they do not act nothing will work.

      • 3
        0

        As no time in the past/ crime rate in the country has risen up today.
        .
        GOTAis said be suffering from a serious psychological disease. Perhaps a lethal injection could do a lot dawning a new episode 🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂

  • 2
    0

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  • 16
    0

    Dear Tisaranee
    .
    As I always say, it is indeed a blessing that we have a person with your intellect to provide us with a rational view on Sri Lankas issues.
    Imagine a Sri Lanka with 20% of the population who can comprehend your writing, let alone being able to understand things on their own.
    .
    Let us face it, Sri Lankas biggest issue is general Idiocy.
    In spite of so called 2,500 years of civilization, our average citizen has not progressed a single day since.
    .
    Our antiquated education system coupled with Sinhala Buddhist racism / Fascism is setting us back millennia, obviously in relative terms.
    Anyway I must express my complete gratitude to people such as yourself and many others who are working tirelessly to unveil the truth about our situation.
    Before I express my ideas, I must express my delight to see, yet another of your valuable articles.
    .
    Thank you as always, Tisaranee (Godess of Rational Thinking).

  • 8
    2

    “In Thomas More’s Utopia, different religions coexist in peace and even atheists are tolerated.”
    Interesting.
    If “even atheists are tolerated” is an acceptable attitude towards atheists, would not a stand like “even religions other than that of the majority are tolerated” be equally acceptable.
    *
    I feel that atheists are more tolerant towards other belief systems than any group of believers, who are at best patronizing towards others. I would rather not say what it will be at worst.

  • 4
    0

    SJ
    I like your optimism .This way you
    have nothing to loose and every thing to hope and gain for!

    But the reality on the ground is that the hyped up set up was nothing but a chirad to take way the attention of the serious situation facing the country.
    Sadly nothing has changed, except perhaps the committee members are having a jolly good time. Achieving nothing.
    How about the new constitution any progress on this long awaited reform?
    These nilistic acts are a waste of public purse and time in my view

  • 4
    0

    Dwell on this sentence in this fine essay:
    “If the opposition can come together not around this or that aspiring president but a basic programme of national renewal (national defined as Lankan not Sinhala, let alone Sinhala-Buddhist) then the Rajapaksa attempts will fail, and the crisis will open a new path to a marginally better future”.

    Now spread the message to AKD, SajithP, ChampikaR, Sumanthiran and RW (yes, even that scoundrel) that this is their LAST CHANCE to forge a cohesive partnership and engineer a project to shatter the Rajapaksa project.

    Then tell them to pull their fingers out and get on with it without senselessly trying to create dangerous and separate pathways to a presidency that is doomed to fail.

    • 3
      0

      ES
      Do not trust anyone who is not truly committed to the elimination of the execuitive presidency.

      • 0
        0

        SJ, You said only the elimination of the executive presidency is trustworthy. Absolutely true. Then only can a unity be forged to uplift this nation from power hunger and money greed.

    • 0
      3

      Easton Scott
      “(national defined as Lankan not Sinhala, let alone Sinhala-Buddhist) “
      Well, you and the author have defined what is meant by one country one law , but you failed to define “failing” in “presidency doomed to fail”. All Aanduwas from 1948 have claimed that they defeated Tamils with the help of Ma O and have brought freedom to Sinhala Buddhists. The Author refuse to accept even the last Yahapalanaya as failed, but she claimed Yahapalanaya introduced democracy to Langkang.
      In Langkang democracy is defined as Sinhala Buddhism. How is that going to change by “one country one law”. Last election, the opposition won 6.9 M to save the country. What is your theory of the current opposition supposed to ask for? A 6.9 for destroying the country and winning the election?

    • 1
      4

      It was this author, and few other Sinhala Intellectuals (Viyathmahas) led the “Ranil-White Flag Murderer’s” Yahapalanaya to save the country. Have you ever seen this author calling for UN-UNHRC-ICC investigating the Royals for War Crimes? She and Ranil are hell bent on saving the notorious Royal criminals from IC, so they believe, then, locally they can save Royals with impunity. She is here to distract UNHRC sitting. Ceylon was a multi-ethnic society, until Siri Ma O converted Ceylon into Sri Lanka, one national country, north to South. The author’s cunning is she is replaying the Siri Ma O record, to some fools who think that they are too smart. All the political and Viyathmaha rascals should be extricated to Siberia, for Sinhalese to survive and Tamils must go alone to escape from these barbaric, cunning Viyathmahas.

  • 0
    6

    Tisaranee Gunasekara is celebrating that the PCs elections are coming. (I have no idea is that is true). But she still showing her sour mouth because (if it is coming) it is because India is requesting on behalf of Tamils. (Sorry I know nothing about that, either). I don’t know one more thing, that is, why she is feeling sour about India forcing the election. Is a she friend of Anura to protest in Trinco because India getting the Oil Farm, or is she a friend of Lemon Puff Veeraya and Ganapthipillai to show black fag to PM Modi? Ms Gunasekara wasted her time and voters’ time to bring Yahapalanaya to throne in Jan 2015. Ranil was the one who blocked the ICC, to save the Rapist Army. Ranil, Mangala and New King who were the ones who saved the Royal at UNHRC by using the Resolution 30/1. Tisaranee gives her blood and flesh to wash and clean Ranil by throwing mud on Royals and bring back the Yahapalanaya. Come on Madame, Yahapalanaya is the one who established the world record of, the first “clean and pure impunity government” for criminals.

  • 0
    5

    We wrote here, in 2015, the story of Quarter Thief, Half Thief, three Quarter Thief and Full Thief’s story to predict how Ranil is going to fool the entire world, including West, India, UN, UNHRC, China…….. Further, Ranil, on his cheat of US Secretary John Kerry, we posted here the Saroja Devi’s song “It is me who robbed him, but just because it was my first burglary, I missed robbing him as whole”. It sounds like Tisaranee and Cardinal & Ranil are in a team, so in reality, Comedy Cardinal has already said that this government will not do justice, but the next government will bring justice. Probably that is what is Tisaranee too is marketing. Anyone who falls Tisaranee’s trap is no different from those who fall for Royals’ Art. Unless a massive revolution, bigger than French one come and scoop up all Viyathmaga and Sinhala Buddhist Politicians and deport them to Siberia to work for Putin, their game of fooling the Modaya with UNP-SLFP-UNP-SLFP cartwheel election selection cannot be got rid. That day, Ranil, Royals, like politicians, and their marketers like Tisaranee, Shaymon, Thero de Silva like their markets ……and other politicians and Sinhala Intellectuals will become useful citizens to Russia. UNP-SLFP Apitta Eppa Madame. Don’t sell them to us any more please.

  • 0
    3

    It turns out that Sinhala Buddhists have negotiated with Allah to get Wahabis commit suicide on their behalf.

    Soma

    • 1
      0

      soman

      I understand your leader Gota is preparing to sent armed forces to patrol streets.
      Is he expecting unrest in the South?

      This is a good time to start riots. Elle is ever ready.
      Are you ready?

      This is the right time you can let loose your bottled up colonial anger.

      • 0
        0

        You mean, start at Thun Mulla!!!!

  • 1
    0

    “Kaputas” in a row on the stage!

  • 1
    0

    Shany Abesekera investigates according to his thinking? Yes. He cannot borrow Gothabaya’s brain for investigations. Imagine the situation of the country if all investigators have to wait in the queue to borrow Gotabayas brain? Already the country has gone to the dogs by not using their own brains.
    Only those who are not religious need the human rights commission?. Of course, they cannot possibly rely on Godly retributions.

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