Recently, there has been some discussion, and even agitation, over the introduction of this concept of ‘the Criminal State’, by Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe. The author’s intention, by expressed design, is to bring out the particular features that distinguished the Lankan State under the previous Rajapaksa regime as being ‘criminal’. That is, a State where the primary means of sustenance of its dominant ruling regime is through the criminalization of politics and the illegal and extra-legal appropriation of public wealth, along with the concentration, centralization and monopolization of state power, greased by astronomical graft, bribery and corruption, as the means of its regeneration and perpetuation.
It is my feeling that this concept would have scientific merit to the extent that it would describe the particular structures, features and functions of the Lankan State, in its most degenerative form yet, under the rule of the Rajapaksa regime. However, the challenge is to demonstrate how this criminal state came into being. What are the historical origins and organic political trajectory that made such a State necessary and possible? What is the political economy that would sustain and regenerate such a State? The criminal State is not some macabre aberration of some terminally demented political forces, whether by Putin in Russia or in Mexico or under Marcos in the Philippines. This ‘criminal’ form of the Capitalist State is NOT some pathological deviation from the path that must now be corrected. Some organic cancer that has to be surgically extracted, so the natural order of things shall survive and thrive. That, now that Mahinda Rajapaksa has been unseated from the emperor’s throne, the Sirisena–Ranil–Chandrika combo would somehow make all things right; It would restore the State into a ‘five-star’ pluralist democracy! That the spirit and essence of good governance – Yahapalanaya– would surely triumph. That would be a most fatal delusion. Already, the promise of Yahapalanaya is ripped apart by the nomination and conferring of ministries to known criminals and street thugs rejected by the people and by swearing in a train of ministers and deputy ministers and district committee chairmen just to keep the new hybrid Comprador Capitalist State and Regime in power. The offering of the post of Opposition Leader to Hon. Sambanthan is merely a sop to appease Geneva and to keep the TNA/ITAK dispensation in line, as a loyal servant of the hegemonic, supremacist, unitary State. The JVP has already been roped in quite willingly as the Chief Opposition Whip to legitimize the game, grease neo-liberal penetration and delude the masses! Loyal servants of Imperialism and neo-colonial subjugation and trusted red-shirted junior partners of the Capitalist State.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is a product of the colonial State and its parasitic and corrupt political order. He represents a particular concentration and crystallisation of all the neo-colonial chauvinist, supremacist, hegemonic rot that went into constructing the modern Comprador Capitalist Lankan State. Here, I would refer to Lenin’s most profound and insightful observation that ‘whatever the form may be, however much the Capitalist State may be dressed up in the illusory fabric of democracy, it represents the naked, terrorist dictatorship of the bourgeoisie’. So, the theoretical problem remains to distinguish the ‘essence’ from the ‘appearance’. It is my contention that the Criminal State is born of the womb of the modern Sri Lankan State, in its most fundamental and naked essence. The notion of a criminal state must not diffuse the central issue that it is the very structure, nature and essence of the Lankan State, in its very origin and evolution, that delivered the ‘criminal state’ as does a mother from her belaboured and agonized colonial womb. It is the logical culmination and crystallization of the evolution of the modern, neo-colonial Sri Lankan State. Nor even to suggest that this critique and exposure would serve to bring about a regeneration of some democratic essence of the Lankan State.
Now, let us examine if the concept of a ‘criminal state’ embodies any particular distinguishing features that would qualify it as an identifiable scientific category. In the field of comparative politics, states are distinguished and categorized according to diverse criteria in terms of respective theoretical-ideological paradigms. States are described and categorized as being Totalitarian,
Authoritarian, Populist-Demagogic, Nationalist, Democratic, Pluralist, Majoritarian, Hegemonic, Theocratic, Fascist and so on. Depends on one’s theoretical assumptions and ideological orientation. Does the concept of the criminal state rest anywhere in this diverse theoretical-ideological spectrum? Or does it occupy a distinctive conceptual space?
There are certain features that combine to give definition to the concept of the ‘Criminal State’. These elements are to be found in other categories of States. Yet, the ‘Criminal State’ under the Rajapaksa triumvirate combines various elements that taken together constitute its distinguishing features and essence.
- The extreme concentration, centralization and monopolization of State power in the hands of the Rajapakse triumvirate; The exercise of total hegemony over the entire apparatus of the State, including the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, Financial Institutions, Attorney General’s office, Police, Armed Forces and the Bureaucracy, under the supreme command of the Executive President. The staffing of all ministries, government agencies and top bureaucratic positions by chosen extended members or cronies of the triumvirate.
- The militarization of the political and social order and the raising of the armed forces as a powerful and semi-autonomous agency of the State, and as legitimate business entrepreneurs, where top officers are placed in civil administration and diplomatic postings.
- The politicization of the political and social order. ‘Either you are with us, or you are against us’. Unthinking, blind loyalty to the Regime as the criterion of patriotism; the line of demarcation between friends and enemies of the State.
- Institutionalization of a generalized culture and practice of impunity, where drug barons, rapists and murderers being prosecuted are set free by the Office of the Attorney General, as commanded by the President.
- Institutionalization of a culture and practice of generalised bribery and corruption. A system of crony capitalism with each of the Mafia lords equipped with its own network of graft and corruption, and with access to exercising terror upon victims. The State transformed as the primary means of private capital accumulation and expanded reproduction, and access to private fortunes. State Bureaucratic Capitalism becomes the dominant mode of accumulation.
- The economic and development priorities to serve the insatiable needs of the Rajapaksa triumvirate and other members of the Mafia to accumulate vast fortunes through massive commissions and pay-offs, and money-laundering, amounting to billions.
- The narcotics trade functions as one of the main greasing agents of the crony-mafia political economy and as chief means of money laundering. The State transformed as the chief mode of narcotics trade, including the office of the Prime Minister!
- The enthronement of chauvinism and Sinhala-Buddhist supremacy as the official ideology and institutional practice of the State. The enthronement of a cult of homage and worship to the supreme leader and saviour of the Land, the Dharma and the Nation. Inciting hatred and violence against national minorities and ethnic-religious communities.
- Manipulation of all constitutional provisions to subvert the rule of law and accepted democratic procedure, as in bribing members of the Opposition to join the government, passing of the 18th Amendment and impeaching the former judge of the Supreme Court through a kangaroo parliamentary committee.
- The application of selective terror tactics to terrorize the masses into mute submission, such as with the ‘Grease Yakkas’ the killings of unarmed protestors at Katunayake, Chilaw and Rathupaswela, the series of ‘white van’ abductions and extra-legal killings, the repression of the Media, including daylight attacks on media institutions and abductions and killing of selected media personnel.
The above may not constitute an exhaustive enumeration of the essential and defining features of the Criminal State under the Rajapakse troika. However, it may provide an analytical framework for distinguishing the Criminal State as an empirically verifiable theoretical object, at its extreme state of organic degeneration.
In conclusion, I state that the ‘criminal state’ is a natural, organic projection and trajectory of the basic foundations of the defunct, neo-colonial state foisted upon us by the former British colonial masters. This colonial state cannot be reformed, except to be repeatedly oxygenized by cosmetic tinkering to patch up some gaping, bleeding wounds,. This is while the malignant cancer spreads throughout the body and we are all defiled and degraded beyond our own recognition. The reactionary, fascist nature and essence of the colonial state shall assert its universal domain. The structural fault-lines of this archaic colonial state will continue to spew out its volcanic lava. Dark, evil forces of neo-fascist terror and domination shall continue to be bred and fed by this colonial State, until it implodes with the foul stench of accumulated violence and violation. The modern Lankan State has been constructed as a colonial outpost of British Colonialism. It has now evolved to become a neo-colony of world imperialism. All the imperialist powers cut up, slice and share the spoils of corporate plunder and profit. These rival imperialist powers advance their geo-political strategic agendas through manipulating the internal game of politics being played by the ruling class, and its rival fractions. The modern Lankan State carries within it the germs of over five centuries of colonial domination. These germs are reproduced and multiplied by the functions of the system itself. Colonial divisions and feudal hierarchies enforced by a State that is designed to serve the interests of foreign imperial masters provides the structural basis and historical foundations for the rise of the Criminal State in Lanka. The organism itself is invaded by insidious cancerous forms of parasitism, abuse and corruption fuelled by the politics of chauvinist supremacy. Nothing short of the most radical and profound democratic revolution aimed at the overthrow of the defunct neo-colonial state by the revolutionary mass struggle of the masses to establish a People’s Democratic State can provide an alternative, as opposed to seeking remedies to oxygenize a moribund corpse.
*The writer is; Secretary: Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)