26 September, 2022


Suffering The Follies Of Petty Tyranny

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

Petty tyranny is not unique to political rulers afflicted with severe inferiority complexes. When rules of collective functioning are abandoned within a country, system or an institution, foolhardy and arrogant leadership becomes a dangerous and ultimately fatal combustion.

This can happen at the highest levels of political leadership in the government, in the opposition, in the judiciary or down the ranks to a village council leader and for that matter, a head of an institution. A once coherent and reasonably functional entity can implode or wither away quietly without much ado.

A caricature of a May Day

As May Day went by this year, marked with the ultimate insult of a devastating electricity hike aimed to hit the poorer segments of our society, a singular amusing sight was when leaders of leftist parties were caught literally napping on camera at the precise point of the celebrations. Undoubtedly this was a most appropriate reflection of the ridiculous antiquities that they and their parties have reduced themselves to.

The May Day rallies of two formerly major political parties, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) were themselves mere caricatures of once stirring marches. Both suffering from equally authoritarian and dysfunctional leadership, these two political parties have been reduced to nonentities. In a year where the May Day has become a mockery, the people have no respite for their misery either from the government or from the opposition who remain supremely unconcerned, joined as they appear to be at the hip, to further their own self interest.

We can look back yearningly to the time when public dissatisfaction with the performance of a government could be satisfyingly reflected in the periodic electoral process leading to change in political leadership. Now, those notions seem quaint and antiquated, as if they belonged to a different era.

Self-destruction through extreme self-interest

Political parties have not been the only victims of these twin self-destructive forces of arrogance and insecurity. On the contrary, we see this constantly in a variety of scenarios, systemic and institutional. So when we point one finger at the government for its vicious pursuing of dissenters such as a former Army Commander or a Chief Justice, two fingers must be pointed back at ourselves. Dictatorial rule coupled with non-governance which we see so clearly today in government is only a reflection of what is wrong in ourselves, in our society and in our systems.

Indeed, this rationale is specifically applicable to Sri Lanka’s justice system which, one can safely say, has not withered away quietly but on the contrary, imploded with astonishing violence. And as much as the political party process in this country has self-destructed through the greed of a few and the lack of courage of the many, our justice system has been subjected to similar travails.

As reiterated many times in these column spaces, a courageous reaction by the Bar, by judges (retired and sitting) by legal intellects of the day and by the citizenry at large including the media, who should have understood that the judicial system of Sri Lanka was being disemboweled before their very eyes during 1999-2009 may have prevented the worst of the excesses during that time. However, what prevailed was a deafening silence by and large. The result was a crippled judicial system which had deprived itself of its integrity and independence.

The years thereafter was a suspenseful waiting period with judicial mediocrity being predominant and civil society sleeping much in the style of our erstwhile leftist leaders when the 18th Amendment was passed. Not long thereafter, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court was dealt its final devastating blow when in late 2012, a sitting Chief Justice was taken before Parliament, insulted, humiliated and then run out of office.

Profound unequal treatment meted out

If that farcical impeachment of the 43rd Chief Justice did not teach us that Sri Lanka’s justice system is well and truly buried, last week’s granting of bail to the Rajapaksa administration’s favourite politician Duminda Silva, should surely hammer home this salutary lesson. Implicated in the death of a senior politician of his own party and three others, Silva was let out on bail, (with no objection incidentally being lodged by the Attorney General’s Department), on the basis that he had suffered serious injuries. Yet he was seen soon after, cavorting in public prior to being effusively welcomed at the Presidential Palace. Not content with that, we were then treated to the nauseating sight of police officers saluting Silva.

Just days later and with the Government significantly refraining using provisions prohibiting communal hatred in the anti terrorism laws against the militantly anti-Muslim Bodu Bala Sena despite its usage of inflammatory rhetoric, these same provisions were used to arrest a well known Muslim politician when he made public statements critical of the arousal of anti-Muslim hatred. Where is the equality here?

Why is the law operative?

This begs certain fundamental questions. Why are the Constitution, statutes and courts of law still in force? Why not have the Executive President clothe himself in the garb of the most supreme and omnipotent Justice and hear all cases before pronouncing judgment? After all, is this not what is happening already? Why not dispense with the farce and do away with this mockery? It will certainly be more honest.

In advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting being held in Sri Lanka this year, such honesty would be only be exquisitely appropriate. Such a transformation by us would, in all probability, invite no more than bland injunctions by the Commonwealth to behave ourselves. That most estimable gathering which solemnly pledges to uphold shared democratic values and ideals while at the same time, ignoring its most blatant violators, would be pleased to host yet another ‘talk-shop’ this time on the virtues of equality of the law, no doubt.

The contrast is clear. The Commonwealth only acts against overt dictatorships such as Fiji. On the other hand, it is quite happy to tolerate and preach to covert dictatorships such as Sri Lanka in its own political interests, as hypocritical as this may be.

The people of Sri Lanka can expect no help from the monumental hypocrisy of the Commonwealth. We can only suffer through these insanities.

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Latest comments

  • 0


    When it is going to dawn on you that things like the removal of the Chief Justice and the holding of CHOGM in Sri Lanka are shocking to you maybe because your reading of these developments are woefully banal and stodgy just like that of your fellow monotonous town crier Tisaranee? Both of you have no theoretical understanding why these things are happening except to indulge in “old wives tales” like the regime is “arrogant,” “foolhardy,” and afflicted with “inferiority complex.” The CT readers are intelligent. We want analysis, not a litany of woes.

    • 0

      Intellectual analysis truly befitting someone adopting a pseudonym closely associated with white vans!
      If you stop parading your “intellect” and respond to the legitimate questions that the Kishalis and Tisaranees raise, it might be of some use. However, sycophants are paid not to engage in discourse but to obfuscate and your only doing your job, I suppose. The only problem is that you are such a monumental bore with your endless banalities parading as God-knows-what!

  • 0

    What is she on about?.

    Even domestics in Moderate vigilate’s household demand the equivalent of at least USD 60 per month.

    Per Capita is nudging towards three thousand Greenbacks.

    Is it a surprise that our Red Shirt Sahodarays are snoozing.

    Souldn’t we be spared the boredom of reading the same stale story of our ex CJ and laeve us till the next episode whic is coming soon?.

    What help this Commonweath can offer the great majority of our inhabitants who are living in peace and harmony and even wouldn,t join the May Day rallies now a days.

    Canada , the only member with a bit of money to spare is boycotting us anyway, because they have to please the marginal voters more than their relatives who are still inhabitants.

    A Billion Bucks worth of Jet engines of course is too much for the other member to lose out on.

    Still what can he offer when they don’t have much to give their own loyal subjects.

    • 0

      Tsunamisekera is at it again!

      “Souldn’t we be spared the boredom of reading the same stale story of our ex CJ and laeve us till the next episode whic is coming soon?(sic)” Is your paymaster about to fire Mohan Pieris as well, that you suggest we anticipate the “next episode?”

      “What help this Commonweath can offer the great majority of our inhabitants who are living in peace and harmony and even wouldn,t join the May Day rallies now a days.” Hey, free transport using the entire SLTB Fleet and a buth packet and booze succeeded in getting a captive audience to your Rajjuruwanay’s Campbell Park rally, didn’t it?

      Why don’t you join your soul-mate OutRider in the shafts of a double-bullock cart because all of us who don’t get free rides in the SLTB will soon have to use something like that to get around and we could use your help. If that doesn’t suit you guys, why don’t you get an old-fashioned paddy-field plow and provide the “gon-power” to pull it?

  • 0

    The Government of Sri Lanka continues in the tradition of Mahadanmutta and his Golayas and Ali Baba and the forty thieves. People would rather hand over their destinies to a Megalomaniac than work hard and bring up the nation the hard way.

    After executing and winning the thirty year war using superior firepower, the people think that the nation can be developed in the same magical way by Alladin and his magical lamp. Unfortunately the hard truth is dawning that you cannot live on loans andd borrowed money. Nor can people survive on a diet of Etho Religous Facism. So continue to attack the minorities and stir the pot of communalism but finally you will have to face retribution.

  • 0

    Kishali, under mentioned quote according to Raj Sunderalingam.
    BTW other that your stipend from Basil fernando’s AHRC better visit America or else Basil short circuit you & JG.


  • 0

    Outrider and Jolly Muththa are like the recently
    imported 1000 cc motorcycles. They can say somethin
    stupid, silly and even seemingly sanctimonious and
    rev off to collect their pay. There is ABSOLUTELY
    nothing wrong in what Kishali says about inferiority
    complex among some of the rulers. Outrider evididently
    is not a fan of Sigmund Freud. The two are Mahadenamuththas.

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