5 October, 2023


The Hermitic Crisis

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Of course he won’t give up power…. What were we thinking? The old man isn’t going anywhere, he’ll die in office”. Peter Godwin (The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe)

Another milestone in the Rajapaksa plan to control every aspect of Lankan life has been reached. 4,000 school principals have been ordered to undergo 45 days of military training and receive military titles. “The letters sent out by the Sri Lanka Cadet Corps…state that officials of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service who hold the post of principal and those in Grades I and II of the principal’s service have been asked to attend the interviews on March 4, 5 and 6.” (Daily Mirror – 27.2.2013).

Does the Cadet Corp have a right to send orders to school principals? Obviously not;Sri Lankahas a volunteer army and ordering civilians to undergo military training or accept military titles does not accord with the term ‘voluntary’. But, given the climate of fear permeating the country, no principal is likely to refuse.

Seeking redress from this judiciary will be an exercise in insanity.

Once all school principals have been turned into uniformed sheep, it will be the turn of other SLAAS officers. Once the entire civil service has been militarised, the Rajapaksas will turn their attention towards the private sector.

In a democracy, the military or the defence ministry cannot order school principals. In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa can order anyone. And few will dare disobey a regime which treated its own chief justice with such rank injustice.

Juxtapose this latest measure of militarization with the appointment of Presidential Sibling Basil Rajapaksa as the National Organiser of the SLFP and the composite it stark: the Rajapaksas are out to control everyone and dominate everything. Their appetites are becoming more voracious, their reach longer, their sweep wider and their grip tighter.

Where is the Opposition?

The Rampaging Rajapaksas and the Slumbering Opposition

At the BASL election, the pro-Rajapaksa candidate went down to a stunning defeat. Thanks to the 18th Amendment, the Rajapaksas do not have to fear a similar fate at any national election.

The 18th Amendment was the single most anti-democratic piece of legislation implemented by the Rajapaksas. It removed presidential term-limits, enhanced presidential powers and turned the Elections Commissioner and the IGP into Presidential minions. The 17th Amendment had given the Elections Commissioner some teeth and the police a little elbow room to uphold the law. The 18th Amendment disempowered the Elections Commissioner and subjugated the police, thereby rendering stage-managed elections with pre-conceived outcomes not only possible but also partially legal.

The 18th Amendment was introduced soon after the Rajapaksas won two national elections and their popularity was near the zenith. But the Siblings were clearly able to envisage a time when economic hardships would cause their Southern base to erode, making it impossible to win elections by fair means (real hunger will defeat ‘patriotism’). They also realised that the SLFP will begin to assert itself, as Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second term wore out. The 18th Amendment enabled the Siblings to crush the SLFP and dig their claws deeper into the Lankan state. Less than three years later, the transformation of the Lankan state into the fiefdom of a single family is almost complete.

Sans the 18th Amendment, the impeachment and the militarization of civil spaces would not have happened; and a post-Rajapaksa future would have been just a few years away.

The UNP’s mass base is still huge; it has the potential to challenge Rajapaksa-power eletorally, assuming the party has a new leader who is more dynamic than Ranil Wickremesinghe and more dependable than Sajith Premadasa. Sadly, the UNP is more likely to consume itself in an endless leadership struggle, with Ranil Wickremesinghe clinging to party leadership and Sajith Premadasa making ineffectual efforts to dislodge him. The Rajapaksas would want to keep the UNP marooned in this politico-electoral wasteland for as long as possible. So long as the UNP remains fractious, it will be incapable of focusing on the main enemy: the Rajapaksa Siblings and their quasi-totalitarian power-project.

Plus the Siblings will be able to play one side of the UNP against the other, whenever necessary.

The JVP has been severely weakened by the Rajapaksa-orchestrated schism (the Siblings are excellent at dividing parties, organisations, and communities; the continuing antics of the BBS being the best case in point). The JVP is also caught in a time-wrap. It seems to believe that sooner or later Mahinda Rajapaksa will reach his JR Jayewardene moment; thatIndiaand the West will pressurise the regime to devolve power to the Tamils and the Siblings will succumb. The JVP is waiting for that happy hour, to wrest back the ‘patriotic’ banner from the Rajapaksas and to resume the familiar anti-Indian/Imperialist/devolution struggle. What the party does not realise is that 1987 cannot be replicated because the national, regional and international conditions which made it possible have changed. The war is over, the Tiger is dead andIndiawill not – cannot – use the ‘invasion’ threat again. The world of 1987 had two super powers (though one was ailing) and both backed Indian policy onSri Lankaunconditionally.Chinawas not even a major regional player then. Not only did the Jayewardene administration lack a powerful international patron; it was also being challenged internally by a reunited and rejuvenated opposition. Just a couple of months before the Accord, the squabbling opposition came together to demand national elections, with arch-enemies Sirima Bandaranaike and Vijaya Kumaratunga sharing a stage.

1987 cannot come again because the objective conditions which enabled it cannot be recreated. The JVP is wasting its time, daydreaming and waiting for imperialist threats when it should be focusing on the anti-Rajapaksa struggle.

The Tamils are cowed. The Muslims are being terrorised with attacks on their very existence. Perhaps the only viable challenger to Rajapaksa-power within the SLFP, Maithripala Sirisena, has negated himself thanks to the moronic conduct of his son. By seeking Rajapaksa help to save his son, Minister Sirisena has placed himself under the Rajapaksa thumb. Internationally, the Siblings are in some trouble; unfortunately, despots cannot be dislodged by global resolutions/sanctions, in the absence of a combative national opposition.

The trade union movement still retains some capacity to resist the Rajapaksas, as the victorious struggle against the private sector pension scam demonstrated. This capacity must be strengthened, and alliances formed with other sectors (fishermen, farmers, students) and across ethno-religious and party lines. Since opposition unity is impossible at the top, the only alterative is to form united fronts at the middle and grassroots levels. This unity can initially be issue-based and then, hopefully, permeate upwards, creating a more general and national coming-together of anti-Rajapaksa elements.

As the economic conditions in the Sinhala-South worsen, and the opposition vacillates, a section of the military can step into the breach. Since generals are co-opted, this intervention can take the form of a Colonels’ or even a Sergeants’ Coup, ushering a new rule which is more anti-democratic, anti-minority, anti-Western and Sinhala populist than even the Rajapaksas.

Rampaging Rajapaksas and a slumbering opposition have turned the Lankan crisis into a hermitic one, with no discernible way out.

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    • 0

      Many thanks Thisaranee! The opposition under Ranil Wickramasinghe tacitly supports the Rajapakse dictatorship. It is up to civil society, professionals, business community etc. to take up the struggle to unseat Rajapassa at the next election, by finding a common candidate that can sweep the Rajapakse military dictatorship from power.

      That common opposition member should not be from the military or a politician from the defunct UNP..

  • 0

    Dear Ayman,

    You are asking questions from a group of people who do not have anything to do with justice, fairness and equity principles! They will do anything to be in power for ‘ever’as it will only be the continuous existence of themselves. The grand plan of their scheme is so very pronounced having appointed about 100 or more ministers and deputy ministers who will intern are expected to perpetuate the system at whatever cost to the country including you, me and over friends and for that matter even our enemies! In deed it is an unprecedented misery for all. Yes as article said the opposition is boneless and has become lifeless too as it has its own divisional fights within itself rather than developing and implementing a strategic plan to defeat this diabolical regime! Sorry for Sri Lanka but be happy with carpeted roads, harbors without ships, airports without flights, cricket stadiums without matches, rules and law without justice, and the list goes on! ,

  • 0

    Looks like the SOD is about to take over the educational system. Of course it would be an ideal situation to have principals, teachers, children all marching in step with the govt. No need to study or think, just follow the orders from the top. Already undergrads have leadership training. Maybe in future VC’s can be Major Generals? What fun, no more FUTU or students parading on the roads etc.

    What next, maybe the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religous Affairs? Major Gen Ven Galboda Aththoge Thero COC of BBS.

  • 0

    May be the opposition should also start wearing army uniforms!
    I have been commenting in Colombo Telegraph, that Sri Lankan government is being guided by the Chinese government. This is another step to follow the Chinese model. Although the new Chinese leaders have shown some flexibility its too early to say how they will finally change. But the Sri Lankan government which is guided by the Chinese is making Sri Lanka a military state similar to China. Very soon we will have a military government, even the President as the Chief of Armed forces will start wearing the military uniform and have to be addressed with the military rank. The opposition today is only another division of UPFA. It is time for Ranil to move out of his position and allow a dynamic leader to take over the UNP>

  • 0

    The Militarised State which is being bolstered in sri lanka by conferring army designations on school principals,appears to be modelled on the Hiler Youth which was the forerunner of the Nazi warmachine.
    Only after the deaths of school children during this so called “leadership training” due to unaccustomed physical exertion, the president has ordered examination of ‘physical fitness’ beforehand.
    The deaths were probably due to congenital heart,lung & other anomalies which should have been detected during School Medical Examinations.
    Rajapakse power cannot be challenged electorally,without a powerful & independent Election Commission which will not be appointed,during the foeseeable future.
    Strangely,there is no demand for this,among all political parties.
    “Hermitic”appears to be correct.
    If there is no way to oppose the Rajapakse juggernaut,all future generations are doomed.

  • 0

    sometimes… we can overreact.

    to think that principals can be brainwashed so easily is a bit of a long jump

    • 0

      The principals need not be ‘brainwashed’. They have to obey orders without question. That was the Nazi way.
      The university students too have to obey and attend on pain of losing their entry to universities

  • 0

    What we turn out to be is just like in North Korea. Militarized, brain-washed and revering the ruling family. What democracy for people? There is a saying that “people get what they deserve.”

  • 0

    Forcing those once respected School Principals to the military culture
    is an engineered attack on our value system. Who is the “Enemy” the Rajapakse Family is readying the nation to attack? Gothabaya R forcing himself to that Civil Service high position of Defence Secretary;
    Casino King-Gangster Dhammika Perera, said to be a former Waiter, as Chairman of State bodies and Secretary to a Ministry – are calculated attacks to destroy our good governance system.

    From all accounts the country is building to foist in a Military Coup. As this Writer speculates “a Colonel’s or even a Seargents’ Coup” may be in the offing. That will be a shameful day – one that is quite possible under the Rajapakses where the trend has become a habit.
    Worse – “it will be more anti-democratic, anti-minority, anti-Western, Buddhist Sinhala populist than even under the Rajapakses” One that Corporal Miriam brought in Ethiopia to oust the Lion King of Judah – Haile Selassie. After years of turmoil Miriam was violently snuffed out – not before he rendered the country into a Basket Case.


  • 0

    From whom does Sri Lankas main foreign exchange come from??
    Tea pluckers, Garments, House maids
    So very soon MR will make it the Red Light Nation Of Asia run by the Sinhala Buddhist.
    Oh the Ceylon we knew taken over by foreigners.

  • 0

    The workings of a dictatorship. A country with almost no opposition to a leadership that smacks of nepotism, and a family that will keep playing one Sri Lankan against the other, interfere in the judiciary to make sure a puppet will be in place to enable their crimes, and a nation of fools who falls for it every time.
    Sad, sad, Sri Lanka.

  • 0

    The UPFA is a conglomerate of disparate marauders united by the single agenda of self-aggrandisement. It is evident that almost all of them have been compromised in one way or another, and perhaps the Family has incriminating ‘dossiers’on every one of them. The sword of Damocles, and all that!

    These sycophants, (who are all fed off the national trough) are all caged animals, whipped into place from time to time as examples/threat to those who want to break free!

    Tissaranee, while we admire your crusade against the family, one has to admit that unless and until the ‘cross-over’ rascals revert to the opposition and render the Family rudderless, we are in for the long haul.

    Vive la Rjapakses!!!!

  • 0

    Ranil Wickramasingha is the cause of our woes. I for one will never ever vote for this maniac. I am very disappointed in Sajitha nd all those UNpers who keep giving examples of , DUNF failures. At least to fail Gamini and Lalith had the spunk to do some thing. What are the UNPrs doing ? This dirty fellow Ranil is mentally retarded. Can he not see what he is doing to Sri Lanka? This man has the skin made of high carbon steel. He is the one who should be on the Guinness book of records . Fellow Sri Lankans what should we do to RW?

    • 0

      Ranil is an embarrassment and a dismal failure. If he cannot stand up to the Rajapaksa’s, and speak up for the Sri Lankan people, he should step aside with grace, and allow someone else to do that job.
      The problems is, there seems to be no qualified candidate to fill that position – anyone who shows strength and can confront the rogues at the top, might end up taken away in a white van, or killed.

  • 0

    Hitler’s MEIN KAMPH discursively and superficially read, Directives of Goebelles poorly understood and the exploits of Rommel ill digested appear to raise the hopes of pigmies to the heights of giants. Only the evil happenings in Germany 1933 – 1939 seem to be copied. The good performance is simply beyond. The present regime and its minions can only excel Pol Pot.

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