By Ameer Ali –
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), the Scottish polymath, rendered in English what Louis XIV of France reported to have said, “L’ Etat, c’est moi”, as “The State? I am the State”. In the current political situation in Sri Lanka, one may rephrase Carlyle’s rendering into, “What rule of Law? I am the Law”, and attribute it to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR). His pardoning and release from prison the convicted murderer, Duminda Silva, has created an uproar within the Bar Council and wider community at home, and set to worsen an already deteriorating relationship with democratic regimes abroad. GR must have expected this reaction and to soften criticism he also pardoned and released at the same time sixteen Tamil prisoners among others, many of whom were convicted under the draconian PTA.
This was not the first time that GR has overridden decisions and powers of the judiciary. In March 2020, he pardoned Sergeant Sunil Rathnayake, who was sentenced to death in 2015 for murdering eight Tamil Internally Displaced Persons in Mirusuvil, Jaffna in 2000. While he pardons murderers and allow them go free, he throws into prison, under PTA, human rights lawyers like Hejaaz Hisbullah and poets like Ahnaf Jazeem, and expects his security forces to look for evidence to justify his action. So was the case of Muslim parliamentarian, Rishard Bathiudeen. On top of these is the shocking incarceration and release on court orders, Shani Abeyasekera, a dedicated and honest CID officer, who was prepared to go all out to investigate and uncover the whole gamut of atrocities committed when GR was Defence Secretary during MR’s Presidency. All this clearly demonstrate the extent to which President GR is prepared to go to rule out Rule of law. Under the current political regime, the President has virtually become the Law. It was also this arrogation of judicial power that prompted him a few months back to warn administrators that his circulars should be taken as orders, and asked those unwilling to do so to leave. Given this state of affairs, isn’t it a joke to talk of Rule of Law in Sri Lanka?
One should not forget in this context that it was J. R. Jayewardene, the architect of the current executive presidency, who said that under his constitution he could do anything except to turn a man into woman and vice versa. Such a dangerous and dictatorial position was whittled away somewhat by the 19A Amendment introduced during yahapalana regime, perhaps the only good thing happened during that period. However, those powers and more were restored by the 20A amendment passed in October 2020, thanks to the eight Muslim turncoats, who apparently sold their votes for money. As a result, parliament has lost its powers and turned into a “post office”, as former speaker Karu Jayasuriya described. Parliamentarians who exposed hidden agendas of rulers were thrown into prison. Journalists dared to dig into scams, frauds and abuse of power were dubbed as “third rate journalists”, attacked by hired thugs, thrown into jail and have even disappeared without trace. Social media is under strict surveillance. There are no checks and balances to what the President and his cabal can do. All state institutions have been turned into compliant agencies rubber stamping decisions by the President. In short, there is an environment of fear that rules the country at the moment and GR is virtually behaving like a dictator.
Yet, there is one sector that stubbornly refuses to obey his commands and defies all measures of direction and diktats, and that sector is the national economy. It continues to remain enemy number one to his regime. The failure of erratic decisions emanating from thought bubbles and absence of a comprehensive plan to tackle not only the economy but also other sectors like public health, education, environment and so on including foreign policy have resulted in widespread hunger and misery, and to blame the pandemic for this calamity, as he did in his latest pre-recorded public address, is pointless. True, the pandemic has caused worldwide disaster. However, while several countries and their governments have followed the advice of health experts and managed to minimize the damage caused, President GR has ignored such advice, militarized its management and failed miserably at the end. Economic misery and the pandemic are jointly adding to the death toll, and the double failure has driven the masses to the brink of revolt. In passing, one feels pity on the Governor of the Central Bank, who is trying his best to calm down the escalating panic within the business community and general public, with his statements of confidence on the resilience of the economy.
It is in the context of the twin disaster of an emerging political dictatorship and a crumbling economy that one should assess the weight of pressures arising from the failure of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy. This failure has pushed the country towards a triple disaster.
Nowhere did the foreign policy disaster demonstrate more unequivocally than in the amateurish handling of developments in Geneva in September last year. Since the passing of the UNHCR Resolution, the regime has reluctantly come to terms with one unpalatable truth, and that is, the regime’s departure from the country’s historic non-alignment and India First policy, and moving too close to China, especially at a time of an emerging cold war between the West and its new challenger from the Pacific, has jeopardized the chances of a quick economic recovery even if the pandemic disappears soon. The threat from the European Community to withdraw its GSP+ is a reflection of this foreign policy failure. Although the reasons for this threat is couched in terms of Sri Lanka’s continuous violations of human rights, reluctance to reform the draconian PTA, oppressive policies towards minorities and suppression of democracy and rule of law, the real reason seems to be the country’s pro-Chinese foreign policy. Because, frankly speaking the Western bloc is more interested in its own geo-politics than over human rights and sympathy for minorities. The bloody history of Western imperialism and colonization has ample evidence to prove this point.
In this widening chasm between the Western powers and Rajapaksa Regime however, diaspora Sri Lankans have also found an opportunity to get their anti-regime voice heard along the corridors of world powers. UNHCR resolution on human rights and US Congress resolution to recognize the North and East of Sri Lanka as Traditional Tamil Homeland bear testimony to diaspora’s input. Diaspora influence is certainly not a decisive factor but a contributory element in moving the West to bring pressure upon the local regime.
The threat from EU is a serious one when Sri Lanka’s economy is virtually facing bankruptcy. State Minister Cabraal as usual is shouting empty bravado claiming that there is a plan to confront that eventuality, and the Governor of Central Bank may also go along with him. But many small and medium size industries whose exports have preferential treatment in the EU market would be driven to the wall if they are forced to compete on a level playing field. Given the fact that EU is the second largest destination to Sri Lankan exports, where in the world could the country find an equivalent substitute to recompence the loss?
Behind the scene however, the regime seems to take Western reaction more seriously. In actual fact, it was that factor which prompted GR to call TNA for talks. Although it was cancelled indefinitely, there are signs that it may eventuate sooner than later. There is no alternative. One should hope that the talks succeed and other remedial measures follow. But what would happen if it fails? The regime would obviously blame the other party, and the government-controlled media would go all out with scandalous anti-minority propaganda to whip up communalism. Historically, such propaganda had been the lifeblood for power hungry governments and oppositions in the past. This is the danger that is lurking in the background and should be tackled effectively by civil society movements.
Of the two minorities, Muslims in particular are in a vulnerable position after the 2019 Easter massacre. It is up to its community leaders, both secular and religious, and intelligentsia to join hands with civilian groups from other communities and form a united front to prevent the situation escalating into another communal convulsion in which Muslims are bound to lose heavily. In the final analysis what the country needs is not simply a regime change, which is a must, but a radical shift towards a secular and pluralist democracy with a new and comprehensive agenda for domestic development and foreign friendship.
*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia
Jaffna Man / June 29, 2021
Those who voted for him must take the blame.
I did not vote for him. Those who did are stupid and full of hate
Easton Scott / June 30, 2021
“Those who did are stupid and full of hate” – Jeevan, that’s a bit harsh, don’t you think?
They were sold a beautiful con job by the vastly sophisticated and resourceful SLPP behemoth, ably supported by a greedy oligarchy.
Mahinda rose by stealing, his sons rose to be part of the “educated” elite by stealing degrees and diplomas, and his malli Nandasena burnished his reputation by making Colombo “beautiful”, after of course his ruthless brutality in disposing of his enemies, both in the battlefield and in civilian situations.
Behind this enterprise is the arch rogue Basil, who is destined for bigger things soon, if the tea leaves are correct. Interestingly, Namal is posing a threat to this.
Those who voted, believing their hero will actually deliver, in reality deserve our sympathy. And apart from the rabid communalists from among the “69”, I do not believe they were full of hate, as you put it.
Short of a major fracture in the Brothers Inc., a change in regime looks unrealistic in the short term; unless of course higher powers intervene, or the military sides with the people. But then, who will lead a new team? Shavendra? Don’t make me puke….. Sajith? Ditto. AKD? Not in my lifetime, sadly. Who then?
So we are stuck, my man.
Ashan / June 30, 2021
They just have bad judgement, and were too ignorant to see all the warning signs, that people who did not vote for this madman did see. All they had to do was look at his previous record, the corruption, the murders, white vans, and the nepotism, to realize that voting for him, was voting for more of the same. Now the entire country must suffer the consequences.
leelagemalli / June 30, 2021
those who voted for him dont care much today.
I have noticed if anyone would criticise the Rajapakshes, are still being attacked publicly. ….. people ….. in other words…. slaves… brain washed people…. dont seem to change their mind set….. why they stay that attached is connected with …. Rajapakshes as high criminals let bred … all kind of criminals….
srikrish / July 1, 2021
Why always blame the 6.9million?. Did they have any alternative other than to vote for JVP.
The previous Yahapanaya government had made such a mess that the voters were forced to belief in the rosy nationalist agenda of Rajapakse brothers .
The cream of intellectuals mobilized around Viyath maga and spearheaded the campaign.
If at all anybody have to be blamed it must be Viyath Maga guys, not others
Sinhala_Man / July 6, 2021
Well, why didn’t the vote for the JVP? – alias NPP (Janatha Jana Balavegaya – JJB)
They should decide how they are to be called.
Native Vedda / June 29, 2021
Dr. Ameer Ali
“Muslims in particular are in a vulnerable position after the 2019 Easter”
Muslim position has been untenable for considerable period of time.
Just like LTTE among Tamils, the militant Caliphate building Khalifa supporters had done much to worsen the relation among various communities. Just like LTTE some of the militant Islamic factions were ready to work for the state apparatuses.
Now its time for Tamils, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sinhalese, …………………… to review the history of this island for the past 75 years and have open conversation among themselves. Its not too late.
Do the Sinhalese want to defend their Sinhala/Buddhist country and state at any costs?
Do the Tamils really want to establish their failed Tamil Eelam?
Do the Muslims still believe they could build a Caliphate?
Well the Christians, .do they still believe in whatever they believe in?
The entire island needs a reality check.
What is the position of Chinese grabbing land in Kandyan, Thesawalamai, ………………….. laws?
Champa / June 30, 2021
Hey, how about President releasing 16 hardcore LTTE terrorists arbitrarily? How much did LTTE diaspora pay? And/or, is it to get Tamil votes for unpopular characters in future? This is the same thing that Ranil and Mangala did.
In order to cover up the release of hardcore LTTE terrorists for bribes, the Rajapaksas are staging various dramas, from caricature dancing and Duminda dancing to the cricket discipline. (I bet the three cricketers were paid handsomely to stage the drama. To see who has scored, please check the news). If the Rajapaksas have to settapochchi even one of their own to stay in power through people’s sympathy, they won’t be hesitant to do that. But the truth is, people have no sympathy left for them.
We have a government which gladly puts stress on poor people to reduce government expenses while salaries & perks of politicians are paid in full and all other unnecessary expenses are continuing.
Now that the President himself has admitted that deaths due to Covid-19 were grossly exaggerated by his own government, he should immediately release all the money accumulated in the Covid Fund to Provincial Secretariats to do the ITUKAMA to the poor.
Native Vedda / June 30, 2021
“Hey, how about President releasing 16 hardcore LTTE terrorists arbitrarily? “
Have gone seriously deranged?
Did the state charged the 16 persons?
What were the charges?
When were they charged?
Were they sentenced?
When were they arrested?
Where were they arrested?
Are you really able to rationally think?
leelagemalli / June 30, 2021
Those LTTErs are also srilankens even if you would hardly consider them to be SRILANKENS. If our bitch s sons treat their sinhala men and women, why not those LTTE rebells be released ? If you have brains, it is easy to get, nobody would come to this world as criminals. Becoming a criminal/ a terrorist is a process bywhich they are made.
I think you are not suffering from any kind of health problems not allowing u to go for fact-checks.
Ajith / July 1, 2021
Ask your boss Mahinda Rajapaksa how much bribe he got or paid?
Is it you who investigated those 16 LTTE hardcore terrorists and charged them in courts? Did you expect more from LTTE diaspora?
leelagemalli / July 5, 2021
elephant is in the room, nobody makes any remarks. Likewise, this would remain however, it cant be forever.
Ajay / June 30, 2021
“A radical shift towards a secular and pluralist democracy” will never come about unless and until the Sinhala-Buddhist community goes through the wringer of far-right fake nationalism thoroughly. Only then will they come out of it having realised what a self-imposed tyranny and a return to self-destructive primitive tribalism it is. Until then all Sri Lankans have to suffer at the hands of racist pseudo-patriotic bandits like the Rajapaksas.
Simon / June 30, 2021
“GR Rule Out The Rule Of Law”. Who must take the biggest responsibility of “Aiding and Abetting” for him to “Rule out the Rule of Law”. We had laid out in the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka to “Rule Out” any person who holds “Prime Duty” to honor, comply and, hold the Laws of any other country from being given the “Honor” and “Responsibility” to Govern our country.
This President Nandasena Gotabhaya Rajapakse “Ruled Out” that “Rule of Law”, Aided and Abetted by a “2/3” of his “Goons”. Did the PEOPLE know beforehand that this would be done? NO. The “20th A” was not known and not even an indication was given in his “Manifesto”. So do we have to blame the “6.9” million? YES, because they are “SILENT” and that “Silence” is “Supportive”; but “STUPID”.
We are about to receive the “Results” of that “20A” to the Constitution. Are we going to accept it just being “SILENT”? OR are we to bear it in “SILENCE” and give the “PUNISHMENT” as and when the opportunity arises? Over to you PEOPLE of all shades and colors.
Good Sense / June 30, 2021
The author hits the head of the nail when he says that “what the country needs is not simply a regime change…”. Unfortunately, that is what invariably happens. Systemically, the requirement is that there should be an elected head who is out of politics, akin to the Singaporean model, who would be in charge of the “machinery” that executes the policy of the politicians. Core policies should have the approval of the people through a referendum if people are sovereign as stated in the Constitution. The current model permits some persons to simply implement “ideas” without any check or analysis. 19A was only a check on appointments and that too could lead to chaos if there was deadlock between the President and the CC. Moreover, as was seen in implementation, if the PM and the opposition could be engaged in “trading” basically the PM has his way. Dr. Ambedkar, the author of the Indian Constitution, upon being congratulated for presenting a good constitution, stressed the need to have good people to implement a Constitution in whatever form. The key is to practice decency.
Sugandh / June 30, 2021
“The failure of erratic decisions emanating from thought bubbles and absence of a comprehensive plan to tackle not only the economy but also other sectors like public health, education, environment and so on including foreign policy have resulted in widespread hunger and misery, and to blame the pandemic for this calamity, as he did in his latest pre-recorded public address, is pointless.”
“Thought bubbles” = “Brain fart”
Gotabaya Rajapaksa suffers from the most severe form of Chronic brain fart syndrome.
Lack of comprehensive plans is the hallmark of the double-Paksa regime.
Take a listen;
Eratne / June 30, 2021
Dr A A says “In the final analysis what the country needs is not simply a regime change, which is a must, but a radical shift towards a secular and pluralist democracy with a new and comprehensive agenda for domestic development and foreign friendship.”
Need at the moment, is all anti-Rajapakse parties to join and contest all future elections as one entity by nominating the best from each party as candidates. We should know who the ‘Podu Sathura’ – ‘Common enemy’ is and come together to chase it out of politics and if possible, from the country.
Goraka / June 30, 2021
Rajapakshas destroyed Sri Lanka. Do we have to say more?
leelagemalli / June 30, 2021
Goraka – all these were not overlooked also prior to Nov 2019.
Media should be made accoutable for all the messe. Any blant lies were promoted by LOCAL MEDIA as – so called able men…
SJ / July 5, 2021
Give credit where it is due.
Don’t people have to thank JRJ first for getting the ball rolling, I mean downhill?
Plato / July 1, 2021
At this rate President Gota could also make a Man into a Woman and vice versa.
JRJ would not have dreamt even in his wildest dreams that an EX; Colonel in the Army would occupy the seat of the Executive President.
leelagemalli / July 5, 2021
JRJ was right having predicted, if the EP would be run by a criminal, outcome would be as we face it today.
Btw, did you guys hear as to why Gotabaya left ARMY for the exile in US? Medical report is believed to have mentioned that the guy has to struggle with his mental problems. Looking at the manner how his leadership brought so far… medical report can be not wrong.