23 May, 2022


Saffron-Robed Enforcers And Premier Stakes

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“While the piety of presidents and monarchs remains their own business, it is clear that any religiosity they express or resources they spend on religious projects are above all strategies to achieve political ends…” – Madawi Al-Rasheed (Al Monitor – 17.12.201)[i]

The Geneva Season has become an annual event in the Lankan political calendar. .Every March/April a new resolution on Sri Lanka is presented at the UNHRC session. Tensions rise, tempers fray, promises and threats are made, and then it is all over. The resolution is voted on, and Lankan political-life returns to its violent, arbitrary and abusive grooves. For the next several months, the Rajapaksas rule, more or less as they like it, until it is Geneva Season again.

buddhist_monks_protestEvery Geneva Season, the Rajapaksas become unusually sensitive about the sensibilities of the handful of dependable allies they have in the UNHRC. Since quite a few of these allies are Islamic-majority countries, orchestrating/permitting anti-Muslim violence during the Geneva Season can boomerang on the Rajapaksas. Plus anti-minority violence will weaken the Rajapaksa case in Geneva and give an added fillip to the voices demanding that international community move beyond verbal condemnations into deeds.

For all their bravado, the Rajapaksas would not want the West to really act against them. Forget The Hague; their real concern would be the imposition of a version of the Magnitsky Act against them. A travel-cum-asset ban will really hurt the Rajapaksas. The Siblings’ anti-imperialism will not move beyond Sinhala-sloganeering. How can it, when two are reportedly American/Lankan dual-citizens?

Consequently it makes political and personal sense for the Rajapaksa to rein-in their saffron pawns when Geneva looms. And that is what the President seemed to have done before he left on his Palestine-Jordan-Israel jaunt: “At the rescheduled weekly ministerial meeting on Friday he warned the ministers to be extremely cautious over attempts to rouse ethnic tensions. Whichever community was responsible for such actions, he said, the ministers must respond cautiously bearing in mind the religious sensitivities involved. They could be reported as attacks on churches, mosques, temples or other places of worship. The incidents were being blown out of proportion by interested parties to embarrass the Government, he warned.”[ii]

In other words, hands-off Tamils/Muslims/Christians – until Geneva is done.

In his infamous interview with Al Jazeera, President Rajapaksa, instead of condemning anti-minority violence, sought to justify it by labelling it, mendaciously, as just retribution for heinous crimes, especially child rape: “There were attacks; some incidents. What was in the background? Why were they attacked? Now see a girl was raped. Seven years old girl was raped. Then naturally they will go and attack them whether they belong to any community or any religion. The people when they heard about it they were so upset, relations everybody. There were incidents like that. All incidents have some background to that[iii].

Juxtapose this implicit justification of anti-minority/anti-Muslim violence with the recent Presidential warning against targeting minorities during the Geneva Season – the inescapable conclusion is that the Saffron-mob onslaughts against minorities are orchestrated events and the Ruling Siblings can contain them, whenever the need arises.

So until Geneva is over, the minorities can probably feel safe.

And the Rajapaksas have bigger fish to fry.

The PM, the Drug-Smuggler and the Sinhala Ravaya

Under the 1978 Constitution the Prime Minister, generally an impotent figure, becomes all important if the Presidency falls vacant through death/incapacity/removal. When the President departs, it is the prime minister who takes over, for a month. Death is the great unknown and if the grim-reaper visits President Rajapaksa before the premiership is secured, that one month will suffice for the SLFP old-guard to disempower the Ruling Family and re-take the government.

To secure familial rule and dynastic succession, the Rajapaksas need to make one of their own the prime minister.

The SLFP is not yet a fully Rajapasaised party, and that lacuna is a critical weakness in the Rajapaksa project. If the party seniors are bypassed and the much junior Basil Rajapaksa (or the total outsider Gotabhaya Rajapaksa) is appointed as the PM, it might ignite the anti-Rajapaksa sentiments dormant in the party. After all, such a blatantly unjust appointment will signify the end of hope for many SLFP seniors, pushing them into an inner-party rebellion. Desperate people sometimes do the right thing, even for wrong reasons.

Then came the drug-scandal involving Prime Minister DM Jayaratne; and the Rajapaksas found themselves with a way to square that all important circle.

Going by media reports, the PM – and his son – is indubitably guilty, either of criminal complicity or criminal irresponsibility[iv]. Knowingly or unknowingly, Mr. Jayaratne got involved in a heinous crime and he does not deserve to remain as the PM.

Had he done the honourable thing and resigned immediately from the premiership, the scandal would have died down and the Rajapaksas would not have been able to manipulate it to their advantage. Such a decent response would have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the old SLFP and the new – Rajapaksa – SLFP, to the former’s advantage. But the PM continues to cling-on, looking more ludicrous and blameworthy with each passing day. His egregious conduct demonstrates that the difference between the Rajapaksas and the old SLFP is mostly one of degrees. For instance, dynastic-politics is a SLFP disease; most SLFPers would agree that power/political status should pass from parent to offspring or sibling to sibling[v].

The PM is a member of the SLFP old-guard, identified with the non/anti-Rajapaksa wing of the SLFP. His differences (not policy but personal-political) with the Rajapaksas surfaced last year, when the President, violating a previous undertaking, refused to make the highest preference vote-getter (the PM’s son) the CM of the Central Province. The President justified this departure by saying that sons of cabinet ministers cannot be chief ministers. The PM reportedly retorted that Chamal Rajapaksa’s son became the CM when his father was a cabinet minister[vi]. And when the former CM of the Central Province was reappointed to the post, there was a demonstration by Jayaratne-supporters against it, in Kandy[vii].

The drug-scandal and Mr. Jayaratne’s odious conduct might enable the Rajapaksas to discard an unreliable PM, haemorrhage and diminish the non-Rajapaksa wing of the SLFP and appoint one of their own as premier without making too many adverse-waves.

So the issue is allowed to drag on and simmer. The latest episode in this soap-opera was Sinhala Ravaya’s siege of the PM’s office. An unruly demonstration blocking a major road in a high-security-zone cannot happen with impunity without Rajapaksa blessing. Plus the Sinhala Ravaya is an active player in the Rajapaksa demographic-engineering project in the North. The organisation has reportedly ‘resettled’ several Sinhala-Buddhist families in Navakkuli, Jaffna[viii] and got the army to build a temple, appropriately named Sihalaramaya, for these settlers[ix]. Such deeds need Rajapaksa-patronage.

When the UNP formed the Leadership Council, the Rajapaksas used the BBS to mount an invasion of Sirikotha. Now the Sinhala Ravaya is being used to besiege the old SLFP. Saffron-mobs are an important weapon in the Rajapaksa arsenal; and the Siblings will unleash them not only against minorities and the Opposition but also against fellow SLFPers.

[ii] The Sunday Times – 5.1.2014

[v] JR Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa cured the UNP of the archaic disease of familial politics. So when Sajith Premadasa says ‘I was born prepared to take over the responsibility of the United National Party’ (http://newsfirst.lk/english/2013/12/born-take-responsibility-unp-sajith-premadasa/8277) he places himself against the modernist, anti-feudal variety of politics championed by his father and in liege with the Rajapaksas and other believers of ‘inherited-leadership’

[viii] ‘Inane Piety which Creates Religious Wars – Dinasena Rathugamage – Irida Divaina – 18.8.2013

[ix] Sihalaramaya is said to be a brainchild of Rev. Magalkande Sudantha Thero, the Convenor of the Sinhala Ravaya.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    [Edited out] maweeran [Edited out] , ?

    You being a tiger goes without saying , but from which entrance did you come tigerrrrr man?

    • 0

      What the fck are you saying? Please say it in English. I didn’t vome out of an [Edited out] like you did man.

      • 0

        Worm out*

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 1

    [Edited out]

    Never Tiger and Lion can never work ,kick karuna out , then everything will be okay..

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 1

    Saudi and Sri Lanka to sign labor pact today
    MONDAY, 13 JANUARY 2014 09:51 E-mail Print
    Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka will sign a landmark labor pact on Monday in a renewed bid to regulate hiring of domestic workers from the island nation and to ensure protection to all domestic help already employed in the Kingdom.

    The labor agreement will be signed by Dr. Ahmed F. Al-Fahaid, deputy labor minister for international affairs on behalf of the Kingdom and the Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Employment, Promotion and Welfare Dilan Perera.

    Giving details of the pact, Al-Fahaid, told Arab News: “The agreement will have the same provisions including protection mechanism for domestic help like the one we signed with India earlier this month.”

    He said the labor agreement for domestic workers recruitment was a joint effort by Riyadh and Colombo to create a unified and well-regulated system for recruitment with emphasis on monitoring the working conditions of workers. “The pact will cover 12 categories of domestic workers including housemaids, drivers, cleaners, and waiters employed by individuals,” Al-Fahaid explained.

    Sri Lankan Ambassador V. Krishnamoorthy welcomed the joint initiative stating that it ensures rights and safety to domestic workers who travel to Saudi Arabia for jobs. “In fact, the new agreement will ensure that all job contracts entered into by domestic maids or workers traveling to the Kingdom are with the consent of the three parties concerned,” he said.

    “All parties including the sponsor, the agent and the recruitment agency will have to be aware of the details of the contract,” a report explaining the clauses of the new pact said. Sri Lanka has been lobbying for the rights of the domestic worker since 2012, and the agreement would go a long way in preventing cases of abuse and in ensuring fair and humane treatment to domestic workers.

    The pact also offers a protection mechanism, including insurance for domestic workers. At present, around 350,000 Sri Lankan workers are in the Kingdom, with domestic workers accounting for 80 percent of the workforce. Colombo is providing training courses for domestic workers prior to their departure to Saudi Arabia. Sri Lankan workers receive language training, hospitality training, lessons on how to run washing machines and home appliances, cooking lessons, and training on how to care for the elderly and children.

    Saudi Arabia has plans to sign similar agreements with several other countries in the near future. Riyadh has already endorsed labor pacts with the Philippines and India, which greatly help to safeguard the interests of workers as well as employers. Major labor-exporting countries, such as Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam and Cambodia, are working closely with Saudi Arabia to sign similar labor agreements in the near future.(Arab News)

  • 0

    Hikkaduwa prayer centre protest: 24 suspects identified
    MONDAY, 13 JANUARY 2014 14:36
    The Police said today they had identified 24 suspects and would take legal action against them in relation to Sunday’s protest on two ‘ prayer centres’ in Hikkaduwa belonging to an evangelical denomination

  • 0

    ‘Malawaththa’, ‘Asgiriya’ Mahanayaka’s; ‘Siyamnikaya’, ‘Amarapura nIkaya’ Mahanayake lend me your ears and eyes. Are you all blind? These Buddhist monks are destroying the Buddhist beliefs. 10 years ago I was disgusted when monks in Yellow robes came to Impala Cinema to watch a movies seated with women, standing in queues. Then Priests throwing Rocks at a glass door at a UNP meeting, then rioting in front of PM’s official residence with blood all over, clashing with police. Any demonstration anywhere in the world end up in a riot and baton charged or tear gassed by police. Priest of NO OTHER RELIGIOUS DENOMINATION DO THINGS LIKE THIS. Do something. It is not the President or any other politician that should pass laws to stop these things. IT SHOULD BE DONE BY THE CHIEF MONKS, to protect the dignity of Saffron, Yellow or brown robes.( I am using my given name, but I am a good Buddhist). Who are these monks behaving like monkeys?
    Bad enough that they behave like hooligans, trying to remove the Pastor’s right to preach, they have got small children to join this parade. If their was tear gas, baton charge and then a stampede, these children’ s life would be in danger. Also what do these monks teach the children??

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    • 1

      I guess you are eagerly waiting for my attention. Listen to me girl, I don’t go for ugly looking ones like you.

  • 2


    This time the die is cast and King Mahintha cannot fool the international Community any more.
    Under the last two resolutions MR was on Trial and he has failed the test miserably and the driving force behind the resolve by the International Community is Britain.
    It is evident from the steps taken by the US administration and the determination shown. No doubt Mr.Cameron would have exchanged views with the US administration that MR is not sincere in addressing the Tamil Grievance and is only trying to buy time to compete Ethnic Cleansing.
    If proof is need as to what is heading MRs way consider the following.

    1) Mr.Raapp visited the North to take sounding
    2) Took a picture at the site of the mass killing and put the number killed at 40,000. But according to MR no Civilians were killed and in fact many saved.
    3) Has given assurances to TNA that there will be an International Probe in to the killings followed by Sanctions.
    4) But MR is oblivious to all this and has buried his head in the Sand as all Dictators do which is hang on until they are forced out.

  • 0

    Tactics of politics & the s.robes are the agents of rulers in Buddhist lands whom lead a very fine luxurious life without any labor. Lucky fellows.

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