22 May, 2022


The Opposition And The People

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“…the truth won’t set us free until we develop the skills and the habit and the talent and the moral courage to use it.” – Margaret Heffernan (Dare to Disagree)[i]

First they came for pavement traders and unauthorised vendors. Hundreds of thousands lost their livelihoods.

Then they came for legally constituted small businesses. The first step was taken last year, when the UDA demolished shops on one side of Bastian Mawatha, Pettah. The owners were given scant notice (just 24 hours) and no alternate premises.

The star-studded assemblage at the inaugural meeting

At least this gross abuse of power did not go unnoticed. The media was present; voices of concern were raised[ii].

Currently shops on the other side of Bastian Mawatha are being demolished. They too are legal structures, built by a previous administration and rented out to small-entrepreneurs. Familiar landmarks in Pettah, they sell a variety of goods, from telephones and handbags to apples and oranges.

The UDA seems to have developed a new procedure to get rid of inconvenient structures/people. No pre-warnings are given, probably to prevent organised resistance and legal action. Instead the UDA launches lightening operations, as if the victims are not rate-paying citizens but enemy-combatants.

The Rajapaksas are in a hurry. Much needs to be done, to turn parts of Pettah and Fort into the new gambling hub. Bastian Mawatha is located at the end of the designated gambling-zone. It must be spruced up, for the viewing pleasure of international gamblers who are expected to flock to this resplendent isle.

So the ordinary shops must go, even though it means destroying legitimate Lankan businesses and depriving tens of thousands of Lankan citizens of a livelihood.

Many of the victimised shop owners would have come from rural areas, most would have voted for the Rajapaksas at previous elections; all would have cooked milk-rice, lighted crackers and danced in the streets when the Eelam War ended, without sparing a thought for the civilian victims.

Now it is their turn to vanish from the public eye, to become non-victims.

The art of rendering human victims invisible was perfected in North-Eastern battle zones and ‘Welfare Villages’. Today that tried and tested method is being implemented in the heart of Colombo, with devastating success.

Unlike last year, the current demolitions are barely making news. When they do, the shops are dismissively – and apocryphally – described as unauthorised structures[iii].

That Rajapaksa construct, ‘Humanitarian Operation with zero-civilian-casualties’ turned all dead Tamils, including old people and babies, into Tigers, by definition. Similarly, the development drive of the Rajapaksas is turning all its victims to illegals and undesirables, who deserve neither consideration nor sympathy.

The unethical and illegal demolitions in Bastian Mawatha should have made the headlines and brought the opposition out in force.

Instead, there is near total silence and inaction, indicating how far the country has regressed, morally and ethically, under Rajapaksa tutelage. We have become more racist, more fanatical and more inhumane. Our country ends on our doorstep; what happens beyond that, even to those of the same ethnic/religious community, has become a matter of indifference.

When a policeman shot dead an unarmed teenager in the US city of Ferguson, mass protests erupted. Confronted by policemen armed as if for war, some demonstrators drew comparisons between themselves and the Gazans. Many Palestinians responded by tweeting practical advice to the Ferguson demonstrators[iv]. When an American social-media user objected to the Ferguson-Gaza comparison, another responded, “I don’t think anyone is trying to compare Ferguson to Gaza; the point is solidarity and justice”[v].

Indeed; or the absence of it, as in Sri Lanka.

Anyone going past Pettah can witness the demolitions, can see the former owners searching for pieces of their lost lives amongst the debris, can sense their pain and their despair.

But there is no anger at the injustice, no solidarity with the victims.

We gave the regime a free hand in the North/East in the name of patriotism. We are giving the regime a free hand in the South in the name of development.

Illegality and injustice are at the very heart of the Rajapaksa project. We must show solidarity with its victims not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it is the wise thing to do.

What is happening to them today can happen to anyone of us tomorrow.

The Absence of Solidarity

Last week, in Oakland, USA, a broad and varied coalition of activists, ranging from American labour unions to Palestinian solidarity organisations, prevented the unloading of an Israeli ship. That first successful boycott of Israeli shipping was made possible by two critical factors – solidarity and unity[vi].

Precisely what Lankan Opposition needs; precisely what Lankan Opposition lacks.

The Opposition should have been out there in Bastian Mawatha, obstructing the illegal and unethical deeds of the UDA. Even if the demolitions could not be prevented, such resistance may have helped the opposition to win new supporters and make vitally necessary inroads into the Rajapaksa politico-electoral base.

The UNP of pre-1977 would have done precisely that. Every leading UNPer would have been there, identifying and fraternising with the victims. In stark contrast, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sajith Premadasa and Karu Jayasuriya failed to pay the slightest heed to the Pettah demolitions.

This indifference is nothing new. For the last several years the UNP barely reacted as the Rajapaksas dismantled a vital component of the party’s electoral base in Colombo, through the mass-eviction of low-income dwellers. Colombo’s poor have been far more resistant to the Rajapaksa magic than any other population group outside of the North. The Rajapaksas failed repeatedly to make a clean sweep of Colombo because of the political astuteness of the city’s low-income earners. Incidentally, the Rajapaksas are evicting not just illegal-dwellers but also people who have been rate-paying and voting Colombians for decades, who live not in crumbling shanties but in lower-middle class houses[vii].

The Opposition’s failure to defend this critically important anti-Rajapaksa group is indicative of its real malaise – not insufficient patriotism but indifference to the victims of Rajapaksa rule. From the North to Colombo, many poor and powerless victims of Rajapaksa rule are being ignored by the opposition. The Opposition’s failure to react to Pettah-demolitions, with a national election just months away, is but one more manifestation of this strategic political failure.

The former shop-owners victimised by the Rajapaksas will go back to their home-villages bearing a message of not just a rapacious and repressive government but also a weak and inept opposition. Such messages will encourage electoral abstentions. And abstentions will help the Rajapaksas to win.

According to media reports, North-Eastern people are seeking escape from despair in alcoholism and addiction[viii]. The South too may head in a similar anti-social direction. The regime would encourage such tendencies. After all, resistance sprouts only where there is hope. Despair causes not political activism but crime.

Only a majority-minority coalition, which encompasses all Rajapaksa victims can defeat familial rule. Only an opposition willing and able to resist injustice in all its forms and manifestations can create such a winning-coalition.

Months away from a critical national election, such an opposition seems to be conspicuous by its absence.

[iv] For instance, Mariam Barghouti, a woman from West Bank, tweeted, “Always make sure to run against the wind/to keep calm when you are tear gassed, the pain will pass, don’t rub your eyes”.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 14

    The Minister for Opposition affairs likes a relaxed life. He will not be seen leading protesters or courting arrest. Rather than be more powerful in prison he would rather be more comfortable at home. Another Rajapakse victory is certain, but which Rajapakse will it be?

    • 2

      Thisaranee dear, good piece. Here are some questions that need your response:

      1. Where is the JVP in all this? The voice of the voice-less?
      We all know that no one will vote for the shameless loser and UNP dictator Ranil Wickramasinghe who cannot even unite his own party!

      2. Has Sobitha Thero’s joint opposition – with no leader further weakened any chance of pushing out the Jarapassa regime? Is it that the opposition effectively has no leadership as Sobitha wants to take over at the appropriate time?

      3. Should not CBK who is the only candidtate capable of winning against Jarapassa break out of the pack of Terrified wanna be Presidents in Sobitha’s useless opposition coalttion and take the lead because right now the battle is lost?
      Over to you madam!

      • 3

        Mahinda Rajapaksa is clearly desperate for Photo ops. and to claim the Sri Lankan Cricket team and Mahelas’ victory!

        Shameless Jarapassa and his security entourage rushed in to the SSC stadium today when the match ended with victory for Mahela and the team. But MR has a rude shock! He had to wait and on the sidelines – ignored by the crowd and cameras – which were focused on Mahela Jayawardene and his family, until Mahela finished his farewell speech at the SSC today…

        What a pug for desperate MR. and his thug-sons who fancy themselves great sportsmen!

  • 10

    Now these days people are glued to the TV watching cricket.

    As long as Rajapakse’s won’t touch the TV, people including opposition stays inside.


  • 8

    It looks like Poor Sinhalese Villagers won the War for Rich Sinhalese! It is also like Diaspora dream that Poor Tamil Boys will fight their war!

    • 6

      Poor Muslim boys die almost everyday for the rich Saudi Muslim men!

  • 1


    Under both the UNP and the SLFP regimes mass killing of Sinhala youth merely on suspicion of being JVP members took place.

    Mass killing of Tamil civilians during the 30 year war of liberation took place under the rule of the UNP and the SLFP; Rajapakse brought it to a climax – genocide of Tamils.

    Both parties and the people in general are immune, indifferent or apathetic to these mass state injustices.

    What is happening in Pettah may look like chicken feed to people conditioned to take state or government atrocities as normal!

    Have we forgotten that the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom was engineered by the UNP?

  • 4

    Election campaign hasn’t even started,

    But the President has taken the Cannon to Cameron. He has reminded the UVA inhabitants , how their brave great , great grandfathers were put in caves and the entrances were blocked off by the British invaders.

    And rounded up others and massacred in wholesale lots.

    This rings a bell about what the Cameron ancestors did to the poor Aboriginals in one of the current major Diaspora lands.

    Young Aboriginal girls were violated with spears after raping them . Young Aboriginal men were herded , locked in wooden sheds and locked up to be shot from outside by spraying the walls with bullets.

    Old men were forced to flee and killed with their own spears which were thrown at them..

    Can’t we see the similarities of the brave deeds of our ex Colonials?.

    Ms T is more interested about the UNP voting Pavement Hawkers who were relocated to proper premises, to do proper business.

    Perhaps Ms T is looking for anything which can lead to chaos and social unrest before Ms Pillai , Cameron , Harper investigation starts in earnest.

    • 2

      “””Can’t we see the similarities of the brave deeds of our ex Colonials?”””

      YES, yes, we saw the similarities with our ex-colonials at BINDUNUWEWA on that shitty day in October 2000.

      • 3

        An innocent and saintly Tamil is crying…..

    • 3

      Mr Sumanasekara

      You seem to always comment something irrelevant. ” koheda yanne? Malle pol”

      What has Australians and Australian aborigines got to do with forceful eviction of petah shop owners?

      TG is talking about legitimate owners being evicted by UDA and the opposition not lifting a finger about the whole incident.

      I suppose because you are down under in Australia you want to talk about it

  • 3

    TG has hit the nail on the head. There is ONLY ONE
    difference in the UNP these days. If they were quiet
    earlier, Mangala Samaraweera has been putting out
    crude, irrelevant statements every day. How much does
    it help?

    Ranil Wickremasinghe is heavily obliged to Mahinda
    Rajapaksa. Karu Jayasuriya doe not have a mind of his
    own and is easily manipulated. Sajith Premadasa is
    trying to be a prototype of MR. So other leaders in
    the party will not tell Ranil the truth – that he is the
    born loser. The public will pay a heavy price for it.

  • 4

    Ranil and Sajith both should be kicked out of UNP. Other younger politicians should take over the leadership of the party, otherwise UNP is ruined. Ranil will not give up his leadership and Sajith Premadasa is a Rajapakse supporter in UNP for his own personal benefit. Both are traitors to the party.

  • 3

    Tissaranee I think your assessment of the opposition needs review. What is this ‘Opposition’? It is comprised of (a) The UNP that represents around 30 per cent of country-wide opposition votes (b) TNA that has 5 % country-wide opposition votes and (c)other small groups all accounting for the balance 5 per cent of the country-wide electoral opposition votes. (I refer to the last Presidential elections statistics.) Of the non-UNP and non -TNA part of the opposition the JVP has some grassroots backing that is under-reflected in the stats while other little groups (eg Bahu) have no electoral support at all. What is realistically required in my opinion is for the TNA and others to form an electoral coalition under whoever leader the UNP selects. Asking everybody in the opposition to unite seems to me to make no sense. Am I right?

    • 3


      If JVP is left out it will ruin UNP’s chances.

      If TNA is joined in, the government will go to town with LTTE stories even a couple of arrests. Chandrika (and Shirani) voters are not going to vote for a UNP candidate.

      Either way UNP is doomed.

      The best way is get a common candidate from outside.

      Otherwise UNP is doomed!

    • 0

      Shyamon Jayasinghe:
      Have you too considered throwing your hat into the Uwa Provincial election ring as a common candidate? You sure will get over 80% of the CT readers vote (provided they have votes). Assuming 30% of CT readers have voting rights and 75% of these will decide to exercise their right to vote and CT readership consists of 5% of Sri lankan voter-base, this works out to full 9/10th of 1% “Yes” votes for Shyamon. Assuming there are 150,000 registered voters in Uwa privincial election this is a valuable addition of 1,350 votes. I reckon Ranil would be eternally gtateful to you for this -not-a-bad-outcome eh..

    • 4

      Shyamon Jayasinghe

      Uniting position parties may be an important and necessary action towards unseating, ousting, over throwing clan out of office and out of the country.

      However there is one more area electioneering in this country tends to ignore, that is the the difference between Registered voters and totalled polled.

      2010 Parliamentary election

      Registered Electors 14,088,500

      Total Polled 8,630,689

      Turnout 61.26%

      People who failed to carry out their democratic (civil) responsibilities 38.74%

      2010 Presidential election

      Registered Electors 14,088,500

      Total Polled 10,495,451

      Turnout 74.50%

      People who failed to carry out their democratic (civil) responsibilities 25.50%

      Addressing these habitual non voting eligible voters is important than uniting opposition parties.

      Though voter registration and turnouts are equally important what the opposition offers as honest inclusive alternative is very very important.

      There is a false impression about the JVP. I doubt JVP under Anura Kumara is any better than under Somawansa/Wijeyweera. JVP needs to deal with its own demons, including its idea of a imaginary socialist country and how to attain it. There are other critical issues that JVP has never been comfortable discussing in the public.

      They have to review their own racist positions that is camouflaged in finest socialist Chinese silk, that neither the leaders nor the supporters understand.

      Their recent publication “Our Vision Policy Framework” is another publication not worth the paper its printed on, the usual gibberish, mumbo jumbo, unrealistic, trash.

      Anura has to unlearn what he learned under Wijeyweera and Somapala, the two Sinhala/Buddhist socialist racists, before becoming a leader for all communities.

      Recently our Veddah chief had this to say to Somawansa:

      Veddahs say JVP’s ‘Our Vision’ is not their vision


      • 3


        2010 Parliamentary election-
        “People who failed to carry out their democratic (civil) responsibilities 38.74%”

        2010 Presidential election-
        “People who failed to carry out their democratic (civil) responsibilities 25.50%”

        Significant percentage of this category is working abroad. According to a Government document 1.7 million Srilankans are working abroad. This 1.7mn represents 12% of the registered Voters. I’m sure these people are in voters list and unable to vote for obvious logistical reasons.


        • 3


          Even if 12% of the voting population is out of the country there is still a short fall of 12 to 29% of non voting registered voters.

          The other issue is what is the percentage of eligible voters who have not registered themselves to be part of the democratic process.

          As the democratic process becomes down graded for variety of reasons, disillusion sets in among the population. The people resign to the fact that participation in the democratic process has no meaning, after all they get more of the same.

          The problem is deep rooted.

          • 3

            “The problem is deep rooted”

            Agreed – Voters education and encouragement to participate in the democratic process will help the country. And also as I argued on some other Topics, there should be more democratic process within political parties in the selection of candidates. This will encourage people to vote. We cant give people with some Rotten Eggs and ask them to select one!

    • 3

      Shyamon J,

      Is Tisaranee missing the point here? Ranil did not go to the aid of the
      Bastian Mwa (Norris Road) pavement shops, as much as he failed to show up in many other places he should have. This is simply because he wants the people concerned to feel the heat. He wants them to regret the tremendous mistake they made in voting for the Rajapakses, again and again. I think Ranil makes his point there. Remember, he was there to see JVPs Anura D in Hospital – in minutes.

      Ranil is no fool. He knows the actual state of the health of the economy. He knows Dr. PBJ and Kabara Lal cannot continue to bluff any longer. He knows the crash has already arrived. Look at the price of Mutton – around
      Rs.2,000/kg. It was around a high Rs.400 only a year or two ago. This was an essential item in the table of middle class, Upper Middle class Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslim families at least every week-end. Consider then the plight of the lower middle class and the poor. The Rajapakses are making even the rich unable to afford items that were basic only a few years ago. Mrs. B was similarly disconnected from the people and learnt a hard lesson in 1977 – after running in the crest of the popular wave in 1976 with the NAM Conference and all???


  • 4

    TG’s democracy is anarchy and indiscipline.

    Let the peoples wishes govern the city and let it become a shanty down.. Don’t touch Colombo that is not democratic.

    East is shared by the two truest two faiths which are antagonistic and hostile to each other. Others have no space. Church convert and the muslim increase their progeny. It will be like middle east in a few years time.

    • 0

      Already it’s another Israel,striving to create a Gaza.
      The only difference is,Israelis once matched the
      SRISRAELIS with the monkeys just off the tree,something
      you will be very proud of.

  • 2

    TNA, the Tamil National Alliance has only 5% according to Mr Shymon Jayasinghe.

    Never knew that the Srilankan Inhabitant Tamil population is only one Mil among a population of 20 plus million inhabitants.

    Mr Shymon Jayasinghe is not a Sinhala Buddhist extremist… Is he ???/

    • 4

      K.A Sumanasekera

      Unlike you, Shymon Jayasinghe write sensibly and honestly therefore he can’t be a Sinhala/Buddhist.

      • 0

        Native Veddah,says:

        “K.A Sumanasekera Unlike you, Shymon Jayasinghe write sensibly and honestly therefore he can’t be a Sinhala/Buddhist. “

        Interesting comment. Do Para-Sinhala “Buddhists” have 48 Chromosomes, the 2 additional ones from Lions as per Mahawansa courtesy of Monk Mahanama?

        Just curious. See Below.

        Ken Miller on Human Evolution


        Uploaded on Feb 14, 2007
        Dr. Ken Miller talks about the relationship between Homo sapiens and the other primates. He discusses a recent finding of the Human Genome Project which identifies the exact point of fusion of two primate chromosomes that resulted in human chromosome #2.

    • 2

      “TNA, the Tamil National Alliance has only 5% according to Mr Shymon Jayasinghe. Never knew that the Srilankan Inhabitant Tamil population is only one Mil among a population of 20 plus million inhabitants. Mr Shymon Jayasinghe is not a Sinhala Buddhist extremist… Is he ???/ “

      Stupid comment! It is 5% of the votes polled And NOT THE 5% OF THE TOTAL POPULATION AS PER MR JAYASINGHE!!

  • 3

    To Tissaranee, again. Ref my post of 17th August. There was a typo. It should be read as “30 of the 40 per cent opposition vote and so on.
    Native Veddah has made a point. There is also the big junk of absentees to be reckoned with. It is hard to predict that unless one assumes most of them will vote for the opposition coalition candidate in a tide situation

  • 0

    MR could not record a clean sweep in Colombo NOT due to the astute of the inhabitants as Thisaranee says but because majority of them are either Tamils or Muslims who do not trust the regimn
    If they are astute men as Thisaranee beleive why did they cast their vote for people in the likes of Maharoof,Moragoda(When he was in UNP)and so many other corrupted politicians ?

  • 4

    We only vote for Ranil.

    No Ranil in the fray, no vote.

    Common candidates have NEVER won any election in SL and they never will.

  • 2

    See how this hard hitting speaker’s stirring speech has put the TNA boss to sleep

    Pity Ms T didn’t take the shot to show his face..

    May be the Rainbow is getting a bit too much for him.

    At least the TNA Boss is a real patriot of the Eelaam and he is committed to serve the Vellalas and the Diaspora.

    The others in the front row are purporting to be patriots for different reasons.

    Rainbow Leader is awake because he is thinking and planning his strategy to avoid putting his neck out.

    The cousin is hoping that she will get the call if Sobitha chickens out.

    All the rest are like the hired guns for mustering. in the old Westerns.

    Perhaps we should call Ranil, the Trail Boss.

  • 0

    UNP works hand in gloves with the UDA in Colombo,to
    keep its MC admin intact.Non cooperation will end up
    with a commissioner looking after the institution and
    that’s how Fouzi ended up in the lap of Sirimavo
    saving the job of a commissioner.Vast majority of
    Pavement traders had been Premadasa loyalists and
    Sajith had a duty to speak up for them.Ranil is the
    Mr clean,Mr democrat,Mr decent and how on earth one
    will even imagine of him being on the street, up in
    arms,even for justice or against injustice?Sajith,
    Karu,Ranil,SF,CBK and even the JVP,all are dead
    scared of Gota and they don’t want to confront him
    and this was exactly the plan behind MR appointing
    Gota as defense and adding UDA to it.Everybody knows
    this and nobody wants to break past the barrier and
    suffer the consequence for the public.They are all
    big mouth heroes on the platforms.MR’s “Traitor,”
    Patriot and Gota brands work well for him.Even
    people can not lead them with their votes.

  • 2

    Weren’t the Pettha fellows given housing and fields to plough, rather than work on the buying and selling goods to sustain the Colombo poor?

    I mean, did the colombo middle-class/rich ever patronage those stalls? never!

    But it would have been a good idea if the shops were kept as a tourist attraction- an Ethnic Bazzar for tourists to see something different from modern department stores (with stallholders give gratuity and pension funds etc……although that might spoil the cut-throat appeal).

  • 0

    A great analysis and thank you Tisaranee. Yes Ranil missed many great opportunities to be the world to show he is truly a Peoples leader and to be a shining star for Voiceless, powerless and helpless people. But he never bothered to help them or to win their hearts or to get their vote.

    He happily spends time in the air conditioned Parliament club talking bull shit while getting 77 Million Rupee annual Tax payer money.

    Leave alone Gota evicting dwellers in Colombo using force, but the ever “sleeping beauty” Ranil not even bothered to answer few questions on budget when the reporters questioned him in the parliament.

    The ever 77 million parliament “Pin Padi” moron was so adamant to answer even a simple question asked by the reporters about the Budget. What and whom is Ranil representing and serving. Who he think he is.

    Also we saw how Ranil treated CJ Shirani Bandaranayake during her impeachment trial. Ranil missed a lot of opportunities to score points to the party and to get more vote bank but prefers to go to USA and England to learn Politics.

    This is the true state of the Grand old UNP party today after 17 long years. People are been cheated by both the Ruling and the main opposition party and they are been left like sheep without a shepherd.

    It is hi time Ranil realize the ground reality and think seriously of either to lead the UNP party to win next Presidential elections or be prepared to “Guti Kemata Niyamithai” by the UNP voters after next Presidential elections.

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.