29 June, 2022


Shift In Priority From Ethno-Nationalism To Good Governance

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The decision of the EU Court of Justice to remove the ban on the LTTE on technical grounds has come as the government and political parties are mobilizing for snap presidential elections likely to take place in January.  The immediate response of the government to the EU decision has been to describe opposition politicians and civil society activists who travelled to the West in recent times as traitors who contributed to the decision to lift the ban on the LTTE.  This message is being repeatedly taken to the people by the state media. While the decision is a legal one taken by the Court, and not a political decision by European governments, this is unlikely to impress most Sri Lankans who will tend to see the relationship between law and politics through their own local experience which is not at all positive.

The timing of the European Court’s verdict comes even as the government continues to be investigated for war crimes at the behest of the UN Human Rights Council.  The EU legal decision in favour of the LTTE is likely to further strengthen the government’s case to the people in Sri Lanka that the war crimes investigation into it is biased and a threat to national security.  The UN investigation into war crimes is described by the government as an international conspiracy to punish the country’s leaders who defeated the LTTE and is to eventually seek the division of the country.  This has evoked sympathy and outrage amongst the majority of Sri Lankans. The timing of the EU verdict is fortuitous for the government.  It will enable the government to mobilize the nationalism of the people to its advantage.

Rathana SobithaWith it the main government theme of the forthcoming presidential election is becoming clear.  It is to highlight the need to preserve the unity of the country by continuing to vest the leadership of the country in proven and trusted hands.  The government’s decision to prohibit foreigners from travelling to the North without permission of the Ministry of Defence is being justified by the government as a measure to prevent foreign parties from stirring up communal discord. The ban on free movement of foreigners applies to tourists as well as to those who wish to travel there to engage in economic projects.  It creates the impression that there is a major crisis brewing in the North which requires a strong government to deal with it.

Shifting Emphasis

If it was hoped that five years after the end of the war the focus of national politics would shift away from past war-related issues to matters of peacetime governance, the EU decision will work to shift the political debate back to the issue of national security and to the LTTE. The question once again, as it has been in all of the post-war elections, is whether nationalism will take priority over those other issues, such as over-centralisation, Rule of Law and corruption, at which the government is at a disadvantage. Although the masses of people are finding the cost of living unbearable and have little hope of its reduction, the government’s calculation is that when the people go the polls they will be tend to give priority to national security rather than to economic well being.

The voting electorate outside the North is being given the message that there is a renewed threat of a slide back to war due to the international support for the revival of the LTTE and the non-cooperation of the TNA in the North.  This has been the government’s winning formula for several elections. But this time around there seems to be cracks appearing in the government coalition.  Ironically, the first blow against the government strategy of making the ethnic conflict and national sovereignty the main issue has been struck by one of the key leaders of the government coalition’s nationalist parties.  This occurred last week when Venerable Athuraliye Rathana Thera, a government parliamentarian and the convener of the Pivithuru Hetak (Pure Tomorrow) National Movement, said that he would do everything to defeat incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa if he tried to hold Presidential election without amending the constitution.

Ven Rathana Thera, a member of the government coalition party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) said that it was a mistake of his party to vote for the 18th Amendment to the Constitution which paved way for third term election of a President and also abolished the independent commissions introduced by the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and which were meant to guarantee non-politicisation of key state institutions, such as the police, judiciary and public service.  In its place Ven Rathana proposed a 19th amendment to the constitution which calls for fundamental reforms to the presidency and other key institutions of governance, and which he insisted should be implemented prior to holding an election.

The meeting at which this announcement was made was attended by several hundred Buddhist monks and also by senior government and opposition members, including the Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe and Economics Minister Basil Rajapaksa. What was most significant about the meeting, and the speeches made, was that the focus was entirely on issues of governance and not on the ethnic conflict or nationalism. At the national convention of the JHU that followed a few days later the party leadership reiterated the Ven Rathana’s stand.

New Discourse

The JHU of which Ven Rathana is a leading member is a political party that has espoused the cause of Sinhalese nationalism and the special place of Buddhism in the country’s history and ethos. As such it has been a strong supporter of the government in the past, and to date, in opposing demands by the ethnic minorities, which it sees as injurious to the country’s sovereignty and unity. At the party convention, the JHU called on the government to pass a constitutional amendment that made the Presidency accountable to Parliament and to the Judiciary, to limit the number of Cabinet Ministers to a maximum of 30 (as against nearly 60 as at present) and to depoliticize state institutions. Significantly, it did not call for the abolition of the provincial council system of devolved government, but limited the demand for repeal of land and police powers to them.

Post war reality in Sri Lanka is still connected deeply to the war period, with the large scale presence of the security forces in the North and East and surveillance machinery continuing to have a negative impact on life in all parts of the country.  Governance and respect for human rights are arguably the weakest areas of the government.  Its main strength in the minds of the general public continue to be the war victory that ended the terror of the LTTE and highly visible economic infrastructure projects in the form of excellent roads, rebuilt railway and the construction of ports and airports, even though these latter are yet to show economic viability.

The question whether the issues of governance can override those of nationalism will depend on the extent to which the Ven Rathana’s views are taken to the masses of the people.   The government continues to have an advantage in this regard as it has control over the powerful state media that reaches every part of the country, and can put forward only the government view, unlike the private media which is weaker in this regard due to commercial considerations.  The government’s effort continues to be one of bringing up issues of post-war national security and possible revival of the LTTE, which remains a significant fear amongst the Sinhalese population.  But the issues of governance that the Ven Rathana articulated are those that are now an increasing part of the private discourse within the country’s intelligentsia, although still not so widely debated in the media or in public due to fear of the consequences.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 5

    Interesting analysis, Jehan.

    What is the official position of the UNP and Ramil Wickremasinghe on the de-banning of the LTTE?

    • 6

      It is good that JHU is talking of good governance and need to fight corruption of the President, his family, cronies and politicians.

      Seem that the BBS has trumped JHU in playing the Sinhala Buddhist nationalism card. This is why we see JHU switch to talk about corruption and good governance and no longer racist against minorities!

      Minorities have been so attacked by the BBS and even JHU and Rathana Thero are disgusted. Buddhism has been warped and its precepts distorted in today’s Lanka by the Rajapaksa brothers who are backing BBS to hide their corruption and DISTRACT the people.

      WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT is no longer practice in Lanka and Sinhala Buddhism has got bad international reputation because of the actions of BBS. BBS is Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s creation for divide and rule Lanka.

    • 4

      Dude Jehan, BOOMERANG is the name of the game played by the Rajapaksa regime today. Things are not going well for the corrupt family.

      By preventing foreigners from traveling to the northeast Gota is trying to whip up a fear psychosis to justify brother Mahinda’s power grab and illegal run for a third term as Executive President.

      But people are tired of the fake fear psychosis mentality and Goon Gota’s paranoia. They struggle to make ends meet because of the economic mess that the corrupt clowns PBJ and Nivard Cabraal have made.

      All this will BOOMERANG in the face of Mahinda Rajapaksa soon.

    • 2

      Jehan Perera –

      “This message is being repeatedly taken to the people by the state media. While the decision is a legal one taken by the Court, and not a political decision by European governments, this is unlikely to impress most Sri Lankans who will tend to see the relationship between law and politics through their own local experience which is not at all positive.”

      Good analysis. Thanks.

      May be the EU Legal action had it’s own timing, but certainly it has worked in favor of the government. While there is a sedire on the part of LTTE to get the Terrorist organization removed, the net effect is that it has given new ammunition for the government to go to the people,

      So, the Govt, strategy of showing the LTTE Bogey man again,m will work in its favor.

      So, the decision for the people is a choice between bad Governance and no LTTE and Good Governance with LTTE Bogey man hanging over their heads again.

      How many voters can distinguish between the two in a realistic manner? This is another monkey wrench thrown into the opposition. Can the opposition handle this properly?

      The Govt will try to twist and lie, to their advantage and throw the issue of Family Hegemony and Dynasty into the back burner.

  • 3

    Two points Jehan Perera, what you need to say amidst all the waffling is:

    1. The TNA has categorically stated that it does not want a separate state and the TNA is the Main representative of the overwhelming majority of the Tamil people. So it is quite clear that the Mahinda Jarapassa regime is lying and inventing reasons to continue the Corrupt and Criminal Executive Presidency, and the Rajapaksa family dictatorship with its enormous cabinet of corrupt and uneducated clowns and cronies.

    2. Ordinary citizens are fed up of the PARANOID and psychotic Rajapaksa brother’s brand of Militarized Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. The MILITARIZATION OF BUDDHISM in the absence of a clear and present danger is now back firing because Sinhala people know that their religion which is peaceful one is being used and ABUSED for political gain and to hide CORRUPTION and Greed of the Jarapassa family and cronies.

    3. The JHU is playing a game to ensure that it is Sobitha Thero or CBK and definitely NOT Ranil Wickramasinghe who is the joint opposition candidate. This is an OK game because Ranil will NOT win. The joint opposition should in the next 2 weeks run a campaign to educate the people on why a Presidential Election with Mahinda Running is illegal and should also prevent the passing the budget before its normal due date. Joint opposition should play for time, because people are more and more fed up of the stinking Rajapaksa brothers, sons and cronies governance in the Miracle of Modayas.

  • 2

    Read today’s Ceylon Today headlines where Sambanthan says TNA has given up Eelam!

    The Tamil Diaspora like the Sinhala Diaspora has always been hardline and counter productive. But people in Sri Lanka do not take them seriously since they are comfortably far away in distant lands…

  • 3

    Good points Jehan, the priority is indeed fighting corruption (please use simple language and translate into Sinhala so that Sinhala Modayas can understand), and not Sinhala RACISM against the minorities who are minding their business and making a good contribution to Sri Lanka today.

    BBS Balu Sena has trumped JHU when it comes to racism and attacks on minorities. This is why we are seeing the switch to talk about corruption and good governance by the usually racist JHU! Also, Minorities have been repeatedly attacked by the Balu Sena and I think even the Sinhala nationalists like Pathala Champika and Rathana are rather disgusted and alarmed at the disregard for WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT and disrepute that Sinhala Buddhism has got because of the actions of Balu Sena which is Gota the Goon’s brainchild to DIVIDE, DISTRACT and RULE Sinhalayas.

  • 4

    After Ranil’s rendezvous with the Tiger proxy GFT and its Leader the Reverend ,and the subsequent lifting of the proscription of the LTTE,by the EU , even Christian NGO leaders like Dr Jehan have written off the UNP.

    Otherwise how on earth can the inhabitants fathom these Bible Bashing NOGs rallying around a Buddhist monk , who they used to call a Saffron Clad Racist Spuremacit only a few months ago. to help them roll Rajapaksa….

    • 2


      Is Ranil so powerful to get the Ban on the LTTE lifted? I thought you buggers believed Ranil is powerless? What happened to your bravado boasting of the world’s best Army to have defeated the LTTE? Looks like you all are already shitting in your pants.

  • 0

    There will be new attempts to ‘resurrect’ the dead LTTE to enable arrests of tamils and thus disrupt opposition to MR in the pending presidential election.
    Already an attempt has sacrificed three civilian employees of the army in the north and enabled arrest and incarceration of Jeyakumari Balendran and daughter under the obnoxious PTA by Gota.
    Banning foreigners from the north is part of this.

    MR knows that he has irretrievably lost votes of majority of tamils and muslims.

  • 1

    Lifting the ban on Ltte in Europe is a international court decision taken in Europe and not a political decision taken by the European parliament, as Jehan rightly said. It was a case between the lawyers &
    the court and Ltte won partially on technical grounds.
    We still have to wait and see what European countries are going to say about the Judicial decision as it concerns their citizens, which includes Tamil diaspora. Are the Sri Lankan people mad to believe that the European people including Tamil diaspora or UNP or any other political organizations can influence Judges in a court in Europe. A good example of court power was seen in India recently where Ms. Jaya,CM Tamil Nadu was put behind bars, despite she being the most popular Tamil Nadu politician, highly influential with backing of wealth. How did big names got behind bars in the Hauge. It is not right for the political parties to cast remarks on a court decision as Judiciary is the most respected govt.body in any country, who follows democratic principles and it can boomerang on those who criticise court decisions.

    Our people should not allow this matter to be used by the political
    parties as a political weapon to win elections. They should be alert
    & not gullible to charges and counter charges among political parties and decide for themselves as to who is suitable to run the country.

  • 2

    Dr Jehan who wants to give us good Governance obviously hasn’t seen or gathered any progress reports on the countries where his sponsors installed good governance to replace the bad.

    For the benefit of the our readers who are not up to speed with International affairs, I am referring to Iraq, Libya , Syria and Egypt..

    Ven Rathna and even Champika also seem not up speed if they want to change Rajapaksa to give the inhabitants good governance.

    Here I am referring to the great majority of the inhabitants who go about their lives nowadays, without much hassles and earn a living to put food on the table.

    Watching Parliamentary debates the last few days, only the Govt members talk about the welfare and welbeing of the people, while the Opposition heavy hitters like Mangala Samaraweera are firing mortars even more noisy than the LTTE’s at Rajapaksa, still making the same allegations like killing Lasantha .

    Outside Parliament, another UNP heavy hitter a Muslim MP challenges the Govt to prove that Ranil met the GTF.in London.. How smart is that.

    No wonder Dr Jehan is cheering the Ven Ratna all way, for trying to educate our rural poor Sinhala Buddhists that changing Rajapaksa and installing WIckremasinghe is good for them and their country..

    • 2

      K.A Sumanasekera

      “Dr Jehan who wants to give us good Governance”

      So you don’t want good governance now or in the future. You should be proud of yourself.

      “Mangala Samaraweera are firing mortars even more noisy than the LTTE’s at Rajapaksa, still making the same allegations like killing Lasantha.”

      Is Lasantha alive?

      “Outside Parliament, another UNP heavy hitter a Muslim MP challenges the Govt to prove that Ranil met the GTF.”

      Whats wrong with Ranil meeting GTF?

      In your mother country heavy hitters Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley formed a close friendship until the death of . Later they were known as ‘Chuckle brothers’.
      Who knows, you may be spending rest of your life chuckling at Father Emmnuael and he is at yours.

      You remind me of “Never, never, never, never…” Ian.

      • 1

        Dear Native,

        If Diaspora buddy Ranil met with the Reverend in the Confession Box, it would have been no sweat..

        But knowing Ranil, may be he was asking the Reverend whether he can help the UNP faction Govt with those Billions of Euros of the LTTE trust funds which .Ranil’s right hand man and the enforcer , Mangala Samaraweera said, are now accessible after the EU decision.,

        Ranil has to find some dosh to complete at least the Colombo Jaffna bit of the Northern Expressway.

        Because the Chinese, even if allowed in the South won’t be going past Vavyniya as long as LTTE proxies Prema and Siva are in the North.

        How can one be even a side supporter let alone a heavy hitting big time timer of the Opposition without reading and digesting LakaeNews . !!!!!

  • 0

    “Shift In Priority From Ethno-Nationalism To Good Governance”. Jehan, I wish this really is posible in Sri Lanka. But knowing my countrymen’s depressed IQ levels, ethno-nationalism – that wicked genie that was let loose by SWRD will continue to hold sway for a long time to come. LTTE and TNA will play all the way into the hands of the ethno-national politicians.

  • 0

    The LTTE, for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka is no longer relevant, but indeed is of political significance. The Rajapaksa regime finds it advantageous to carry with them the LTTE baggage for their own detriment. The right thinking Sinhala people cannot be deceived any longer. Bensen

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.