23 May, 2022


On The Concept Of The ‘Criminal State’

By Surendra Ajit Rupasinghe

Ajit Rupasinghe

Ajit Rupasinghe

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 SirisenaRanilChandrika 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 Gota Shiranthi AyomaMahinda 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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)

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Latest comments

  • 4

    Disgorging of garbage with contradictions to galore, by a terminally demented (to use his words) riff raff of an archaic missionary mindset. Birds of a feather flock together. Get a life!

  • 2

    Surendra Ajit Rupasinghe

    RE: On The Concept Of The ‘Criminal State’

    “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.”

    Criminal State comprises criminals. Who are these criminals?

    Mahinda Rajapaksa and Family, Extended Family and the cronies. They controlled the state and committed state crimes. The crime list is very long.

    MaRa Mara Chatu MaRa
    MaRa MaRa HoRa MaRa
    MaRa Mara Dhushana MaRa
    MaRa MaRa MiNi MaRu MaRa

    State crime


    In criminology, state crime is activity or failures to act that break the state’s own criminal law or public international law. For these purposes, Ross (2000b) defines a “state” as the elected and appointed officials, the bureaucracy, and the institutions, bodies and organisations comprising the apparatus of the government. Initially, the state was the agency of deterrence, using the threat of punishment as a utilitarian tool to shape the behaviour of its citizens. Then, it became the mediator, interpreting society’s wishes for conflict resolution. Theorists then identified the state as the “victim” in victimless crimes. Now, theorists are examining the role of the state as one of the possible perpetrators of crime (Ross, 2000b) whether directly or in the context of state-corporate crime.

  • 3

    What is criminal is the shenanigans being conducted by a President and a government who were both elected to change the way we govern ourselves. There was no mandate to bring in those who were complicit in the rejected regime of the last six pestilential years. A curse on the lot, I say!

  • 1

    What is this writer talk about ?

    Having set of words and by manipulated English language, which is that well poor on certain knowledge of advances social theories by using certain words, to support the No meaning of ‘Criminal’ State.

    All in all capitalist state are one or other form of Criminals by criminal state rule by Junta regime of few persons! This how 2015 January 9th ‘rainbow revolution’ was established by MS,CBK & UNP-RW.

    How is that “criminal state” come into being ongoing globalism ?

    That is most important point here ,which is not an isolated phenomena ,is global activities big power of US and Indian, that Asian New geopolitics.
    Not all people are able to make use of the possibilities of globalism in the terms of democracy.

    Still far to many billions of people on this Globe are poor, uneducated and repressed, but they know that for others democracy of globalization is a reality.
    That’s why so many of the poor, uneducated and repressed are trying to move to place where they can access to the possibilities of Globalization in many parts of world.

    Sri lanka state is reaching an ugly dimension in the current political context of UNP-RW,CBK and MS where this lethal combination of feudal decadence and bourgeois degeneration is distort the our democratic content of nation polity. The vast majority people are denied opportunity of information democratic choice making by last Parliamentary elections.

    Last parliamentary election 2015 August 17th under the UNP -RW and MS junta regime, brazen criminalization of democracy engendered by this lethal combination is finding the ugly expression of foreign back money and US-CIA & Indian -RAW muscle power increasing domination the electoral process and election.

    There is no doubt last election of so-called democratic content of our polity as envisaged in our democratic constitution is extremely seriously a matter. It undermined robbing the people of all potency to contribution to creation of Justice democracy society in
    Sri lanka.

  • 1

    very intellecual article. However I don’t see how this evolution of the rajapaksa regime is so very crucial now. The people in Guatamala not only overthrew there corrupt murdering president by taking to the streets in vast number day in and day out but they won this battle but not the war. If we want the rajapakes brought to justice we have to follow this example from Gutamala which some leaders coming up from the people.

  • 0

    Dear Maya,

    Thanks for your comment and I hope you will read mine. This is not Guatamala. The Rajapakse Mafia has not been overthrown, only defeated electorally.More fundamentally, I do not believe that the present ‘national government’ of Sirisena-Ranil combination is about to dismantle the ‘criminal state’. Imperialist exploitation and plunder and neo-fascist, chauvinism and supremacy has been built into the system rigged up by the Colonial Master, and every successive government has played the game and reinforced this bloody system.

    You have commented on my articles before. Thanks.
    Surendra Ajit Rupasinghe

    • 0

      I know SL is not Guatamala. The point I was trying to make was that the people of G overthrew their president and even put him in jail. Where is the mass movement in SL. Where is the leadership that can guide the people to bring murderes and corrupt politicians to justice instead of always talking within the framework of the people in power. If we always play by their rules we will never bring radical change anywhere in the world.

      • 1

        You had a chance but you did not sufficiently support the JVP and other pressure group parties at the last elections.

  • 2

    The article is spot on. The latest Rajapakse trick of surveying of all lands in urban areas and not reforming the Land Registry is nothing more than a repetition of the waste lands act of the British to acquire property which is then given to there henchman at nominal rates. These B…….. must be made to account

    • 0

      Sadly this will not happen.

  • 0

    I think this should translate on to Tamil language and Sinhala too.

  • 0

    We can’t compare our corrupt system with that of the colonials because the one time colonials have the best system in their county,where everyone wants to go there to live.

  • 0

    “Imperialist exploitation and plunder” etc

    Dear Mr. Ajit Rupasinghe

    At an earlier, more innocent age, your words sounded like communist propaganda, however seeing the world at large, it is a fact that the rich of this world command the most power.

    The news that a few control most of the wealth in the world was not accompanied by the expected increase in heart attacks and depression among the rich, of course there must have been private confessions to clergy but these are kept confidential. Perhaps that was old news.

    If you want to appeal to the neo-fascist-colonizing-imperialists you may have to use their watered down euphemisms, but you will have your audience.

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