21 April, 2024


The Way We Are: An Essay In Despondency With An Appeal

By Jayadeva Uyangoda

Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda

Another week of political chaos and uncertainty has just passed. There was something new in it – Government paralysis for a few days. When two Ministers publicly admitted that the police had been inactive in controlling rioters in the Kandy District that was no ordinary news. There were also media reports, not just rumours, that even the army and the STF that were deployed after the declaration of emergency, were just onlookers of mob violence against Muslim citizens.

Another July 1983 was in the making. With unprecedented public condemnation of racial violence, and amidst belated assertion of its authority by the government, Sri Lanka seems to have managed to escape another countrywide bloodbath. Let us hope that the beast has been beaten back.

Amidst this generalized state of chaos, there was also a widely shared feeling of despondency, and a sense of betrayal. With a deep sense of sadness, we citizens also watched the President and the Prime Minister of our Republic performing their public duties in discordance and disunity. We passed a couple of days last week with a strange feeling in the air that the country was bereft of leadership.

Sense of Betrayal

What is this sense of betrayal? How did it come about?

It is a sense of betrayal rooted in the collective failure of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to abide by, and to be faithful to, the mandate they were given by the people in January and August 2015. The Government’s continuing disregard, throughout the past three years, of its duty to protect the Muslim citizens from the well-organized attacks by Sinhalese racist groups, is only one side of this sad story of betrayal.

The events in Ampara and Kandy are not accidents, or isolated incidents. They are part of a new political chain of organized ethnic majoritarian violence, evolved in the aftermath of the defeat of Tamil insurgency. When the leaders of the present government were seeking a public mandate at the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015, they promised the country’s ethnic minorities that their life, property and freedom would be secured. It was not an accident that President Sirisena’s electoral victory in January 2015 was largely made possible by the ethnic and cultural minority voters.

Power Struggle

Look at what has happened to our leaders when they began to wield state power?

They gradually began to isolate themselves from all the constituencies who elected them to power. Our President began to surround himself by the very forces and individuals who did everything to defeat him at the Presidential election. Within just a few months in office, he allowed himself to be alienated from his own natural allies. With future political agendas in mind, he became inexplicably cautious in dealing with the Sinhalese majoritarian groups that unleashed repeated violence against the Muslim citizens. That gave the wrong signals to saffron-clad activists that they were guaranteed immunity from legal consequences for their terrorist behaviour.

Similarly, President Sirisena’s extra cautious approach to criminal cases involving members of the armed forces sent out wrong signals to the judiciary as well. It not only belied all his rhetoric about restoring human rights, providing relief to victims of state violence and initiating a process of transitional justice. It has even paralyzed, as we have been regularly hearing, the judicial process in some of the major cases of grave political crime. Now, a new pattern of justice appears to have been set in Sri Lanka – it is in the realm of Presidential discretion to derail the course of justice in order to please his occasional constituencies. It is quite understandable that the President has to balance the conflicting demands for national security and human rights protection. But, he does not have to do it by ignoring his own human rights commitments.

Then, let us look at the record of our Prime Minister.

If we believe in the report of the Presidential Commission on the Central Bank bond scam, it is the Prime Minister who became the first Government leader to defy with utter contempt the good governance mandate of January 2015. The bond scam began in March 2015, within three months of a regime that sought a popular mandate to inaugurate a new culture of governance free of corruption and mass stealing of public wealth. Voters trusted Wickremesinghe’s promise of restoring ethical governance on the belief that he was different from those who treated political power licence to indulge in organized robbery of public wealth. But in power he set out to prove that he is yet another ordinary politician who treated the public clamour for clean government only as an effective electoral slogan.


This brief background commentary enables us to place in context the present state of Government paralysis in the country. Deviating from their electoral mandate of January 2015, President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe are now locked in a power struggle which has personal and political roots. They are inextricably intertwined too. The personal dimension of the power struggle highlights the total breakdown of trust between these co-leaders of the government.

It has heightened the political dimension of it, with two key themes dominating their thinking and action at present.

The first is about taking the upper hand in the balance of power within the ruling coalition. The second is who should run for, and win, the next presidential election towards the end of 2019. The intensity of this war of attrition became so public and even bizarre during the appointment of the Cabinet Minister of Law and Order that the new Minister is on record saying the most unthinkable in a parliamentary democracy: the MP was unaware until he reached the President’s office that he was to be sworn in as the Minister.

The betrayal felt by Sri Lankan citizens is particularly intense because the irresponsible actions by the two leaders have brought to a premature end that promising and rare historical moment for Sri Lanka’s democratization, peace-building, ethnic reconciliation and peace, and overall progress in an atmosphere of political openness, justice and fair play. There is no way now to retrieve the political agenda that brought these two leaders to power. There is no possibility of reviving that political coalition either.

To build such an agenda and broad coalition afresh tragically requires another phase of grave defeats and setbacks in which our citizens and communities will have to again suffer, and suffer in violence. As the recent events show, Sri Lanka is on the path to such a phase of setbacks, thanks primarily to our two leaders.

Can Sri Lankan citizens expect from their President and the Prime Minister to do some joint thinking and then take collective action, even at this belated hour, to arrest a catastrophe – sorry for the big word –in the making? 

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Latest comments

  • 3

    IS your objective selling the Orumiththa govt and it’s two leaders, looking for ways to fix it. Very cheap thinking from a Accused of the CHe guvera Maha naduwa.
    As a communist what do you say, will the country be emotionally happy, if you destroy one’s culture in order to make happy other introduced cultures ?

    • 1

      Mr. Uyangoda,
      Finally you have opened your eyes to Bondscam Ranil’s criminality – a bit, but We need structural analysis, not your blues now!

      Who set up and ran the Mahasohon Balakaya? Who has cultivated the Culture of Impunity for Hate Crimes and Financial crimes, and destroyed police, law and order and Justice institutions so that they look on while Kandy burns?
      DIVIDE, DISTRACT and RUL:E is the motto of Lanaka’s corrupt politicians, but
      Who gains most from this violence?
      RW, UNP and Champika Ranawaka is the great protector of BBS, and now Mega Minister. We have been distract from Bondscam Ranil’s No Confidence motion and the need to IMPEACH Ranil. RW is the biggest criminal, worse than Gamrala Sira who is fighting Mahinda Jarapassa on the one hand and Ranil on the other. Bondscam
      RW who has been protecting the Rajapaksa brothers this past 3 years while looting the people like they did.
      MR and RW are partners in Financial and Hate Crimes who have cultivated a CULTURE of IMPUNITY for poilticians and Saffron thugs who commit financial and Hate Crimes in their greed for power.
      Bi-tri partisan corruption is evident., a UNP-SLFP_JHU nexus is evident here in attacks on Muslims . Financial and hate crimes are 2 sides of a coin- JVP ironically seems the solution!!!

  • 5

    Thank you Dr Uyangoda for this voice of melancholy reason. The president and the prime minister have made the fundamental error of giving up on presiding and prime ministering. Therein lies the problem. They are anticipating the next surprise move by Mahinda Rajapakse, the master politicians. They should put aside their childish local govt elections vote calculations and kindergarten bickering. They and we should all recognize that Mahinda Rajapakse is still the ghost president in Sri Lanka. Disunity, suspension of the rule of law, protection of the Rajapakse clan, hilariousness of the judiciary in authorizing Rajapakse travels to overseas, protecting gotabhaya Rajapakse, unprecedented looting via bond scam, wives if pohottu LG MP s wives beating up drivers with pistol in hand: looks like Mahinda Rajapakse is still president. There should be an international intervention by a leader reserved by both to bring these two leaders who are so disloyal to their people. They are like two spouses who have both cheated. They need a marriage counsellor of the highest calibre.

  • 3

    MS is the cause of all the ills. He should be impeached.

  • 0

    The writer is happen to be elites of ‘political scienctice ‘ by way of past political tragedy of unsound and unaddressed by democracy in our land? Therefor “Democracy” mean that its not only hear of accountability and responsibility, who had been violated laws of democracy governances needed to address by law of land . In fact law of land is possible to be apply without time limit.
    It is too apply for all political parties, leaders and followers as well as who had been betray to the system of democracy last several decades.

    What Aristotle said his POLITICS “…..may have a specious appearances of benevolence; men readily listen to it, and are easily induced that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody’s friend, especially when some one is heard denouncing the evils now existing in STATE suite about contracts ,convictions for perjury ,flatteries of rich men and the like which are said to arise out of the possession of private property ….. these evils, however are due to a very different cause —-the wickedness of human nature…”… Indeed we have seen that there is much more quarrelling among those who have all things in common, through there are not many of them when compared with vast numbers…….”
    The political wickedness considerable influence through history of governance of failed of democracy last 70 years since 1948?

    Since 1977 to ..2015 January 9th start new backwards era of that ‘good governances and rule of law’ has been upside down by UNP regime in politics of misrule governance an Island.
    The crux of issue of that matter of differences are by Misruling. I do not intend to discuss it further.
    Any one’s like it or not that catastrophes in our door step .It is impending .Only way to other avenues of altanativties solutions is go behind the People then asked for a New or Fresh of sovergerity of mandate from masses of citizens .
    People are motive force of Democracy.

  • 3

    The present set of politicians are more concerned about consolidating their hold on power than on lifting this country from the morass ti has fallen into, resulting in what we are blessed with today.

    • 0

      “The present set of politicians are more concerned about consolidating their hold on power”

      True! ………..by switching sides at the appropriate moments, some have been ministers continuously for longer than 25 years ………….

      That’s longer than ……… under Stalin, Saddam, Idi Amin ……….and all the rest of the other great leaders around the globe……..whose names I can’t recall at the moment……………….

  • 2

    Wanda Pethi turned out to be Harmless Pitti (flour). The Muslims have once again, been violated, attacked, and terrorized, for no reason. We must look like uncivilized and uneducated people internationally, for a percentage of people, are gullible, and easily believe in the most ridiculous rumors, being deliberately circulated, by thuggish monks, and militant Buddhists, to turn the majority against the minority.

    Are we the next Myanmar? If patriotic Sri Lankan leaders do not want another ethnic conflict, and want this country to prosper and progress, they have to be smart enough to avert what could be a deadly turn for the nation.

    “As in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, Buddhist extremists have terrorized Muslim minorities in other parts of Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, arguing that Muslims are a threat to the Buddhist way of life.

    “The recent incident of violence illustrates how quickly tensions can turn to violence, especially when social media is whipped up to spread further unrest and misinformation, often by playing on existing prejudices,” Champa Patel, head of the Asia Program at Chatham House, told Newsweek.

    “The climate for this type of attack is made possible by the pernicious influence of Sri Lankan hard-line Buddhist groups such as Bodu Bala Sena,” she added. “Holding such groups accountable for their incendiary rhetoric is critical to ensuring tensions don’t overspill into devastating consequences.”

    Ban these extremist groups, they are a danger to all.

  • 0

    Declaration of emergency gives special powers to the Security forces and the Police. Despite this, mobs had unabatedly attacked some Muslims under the very nose of the law enforcement personnel. It appears that there is serious lapse in the discharge of duties attributable to poor training and inadequate command and control.

  • 1

    Hope Mr Uyangoda still have at least vague memories of 1971! We recovered from the mindless violence of 1971 and we are likely to recover from this. Don’t be despondent. We are all hypocrites!

  • 1

    We, the long suffering Lankan silent majority share Prof Jayadeva Uyangoda’s angst.
    The present crisis started with the ‘Wanda Pethi’ rumour. Much to the chagrin of he rumour machinery, a 1983 situation did not eventuate. The well oiled machinery will start again.

    Up to now none of our leaders have called the ‘Wanda Pethi’ rumour a canard! There is a stronger force which controls over leaders, police, armed services etc.

  • 0

    Having mandates received on the 2018 February 11 by majority rejected and ejected current UNP+SLFP regime in power.
    1 Result revealed 44.6% won by SLPP largest single party was founded not more than Three months
    before 2018 .

    2 UNP won only 32.2 % of total polled voters in headed and leading role play by “Good Governance” and “Rule of law” that nation leadership of core man is Primer of Ranil Wickrasmige of UNP leader?

    3 SLFP won only 13% by leadership of President Mathripalla Sirisena? Key partner of ‘good governances’
    and by managing country of Presidential system of Republic. 2015 Jan. 9th, MS won 6.2 million voters.
    Last 2015 January 9 the Presidential election no longer valid is rejected by voters 2018 February 11 that New mandate of sovereignty of voters. President votes impermeable from 6.2 million to 1.3 million. during last 38 months of mishandling of democracy.
    We as citizens of country view to carry forward rule of democracy governances and respect wish of democratic need to be addressed of another New and fresh WILL OF THE PEOPLE. Indeed current regime has to leaves in gracefully given an other set of rulers to country that back to normalization of democracy and development .Island..
    That is who respect for will of majority no any middle course. This has been shown by recent experiences of election . Either all power goes to People and nation in made fully democratic norms or another sovereignty affairs occurs sooner than later
    What is now necessary in Sri lanaka is not to invent new “reforms of democracy” not to make “constitutional plan” of changes.
    The power of democracy this is only way to make further progress, gradual and peaceful and smooth keeping perfect pace with the political awareness and resolve the majority people hardships and with people own experiences.

  • 1

    In 2015, the difference between MR and MS was less than 450,000 votes. At the Parliamentary election, the difference between the present govt and the previous one was less than 300,000 votes. At the presidential election, MS swung the towns and MR the countryside. It looks to me as if a) the present govt has chosen to lose the towns, which is where the businessmen are who are losing business with all this blocking of social media, and b) the present govt doesn’t want to be returned at the next polls. Wouldn’t it have been more merciful for them to just walk away than to cut off our right to freedom of expression and making a living?

  • 0

    We can only empathize and sympathize with Uyangoda’s plight. Firstly, how on earth did Uyangoda, a supposedly “political scientist” expected Ranil and Sirisena to usher in good governance to the country? We, the political ignorant saw it through even then (in 2015) and certainly now. Secondly, the 2015 campaign was to defeat the majority of the majority as could be seen in the electoral results in 2015 as well as recent LG polls. How any political scientist could surmise that stability and prosperity of the country could be achieved by defeating majority of the majority is beyond us. Our politically ignorant view is that the majority of the majority must ALWAYS be a constituent party of any broader coalition that seeks a stable, prosperous and peaceful Sri Lanka.

  • 0

    -When we had independence we did not take stock of the real situation (positives and negatives) draw up a clear vision. All the leaders failed COLLECTIVELY to give the country a united head start. Well the history can record at least we were indeed united on something…….destruction.
    – Say we kept own learning on the job for the first few sessions of the “parliamentary democracy” to deliver social justice to a mere 6-7 million then……
    – Now 70 years passed since independence/ growing population of 21 million and counting we are still learning to manage our own destiny.
    -In the process we created segregated communities and started drawing new war fronts with very creative solutions.
    -In this process we have lost few hundred thousand arms and limbs/life’s of our own, to this day do not know/sense the urgency to change…..
    -destroyed everything there was that others looked up to in the other developing asian economies now they have successfully moved on but we are sliding back to a big dark hole…….falling feel like flying for us all I guess…
    -come up with few thousand year histories to defend each others positions………..a very mentally dysfuntional beings can only relate to such imaginary world few thousand years ago when we can not even remember where we were yesterday and do not even know what is around the corner for tomorrow?
    -we have hurt each other mentally and physically to the max… even the worst of recoded horrors in the world can not match the savagery we are capable of…..
    -sawn hate and trauma in our next generation of our own children and cloned them for repeated vicious cylce of violence forever……
    -we understand “democracy” is a good way to destroy each others forever……….so one need to ask ourself why we needed independence in the first place????

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