23 October, 2017

Thought Control In A Failed Democracy

By Baron A Kumara –

Will the people vote for Rajapaksa again? Will he be able to take the country forward into a globalized modernity and further the values of democracy, justice and equality? If your answer is yes, then it may be that you are subject to modes of government control that you are as of yet unaware of.

MahindaSri Lanka has no free press, and as demonstrated by the impeachment this January, no independent judiciary.[1] The last standing pillar of our democracy lies in our ability to vote and elect our leaders. Nation-wide elections have been on the tip of many tongues, and according to informed speculation are likely to occur in the near future. If a government’s ascension to power hinges on performance at elections, and if those elections are fair and free, it might seem sensible to argue that democracy is in full stride. It may seem plausible that the government is dependent on the people for their power, and not the people on their government.

However, although elections may be a symbol of expression of free will, there are ways that a government may exercise control that are extremely powerful and unethical during and prior to elections. Having no free press and no independent judiciary means that at its disposal, the government has the key instruments through which consent is manufactured. In effect Rajapaksa’s popularity has been meticulously and unethically fashioned in ways most ordinary citizens are unaware of.

Controlling the Media

As philosopher Noam Chomsky said, “propaganda is to democracy what violence is to dictatorship”. Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, there is both munificent propaganda, as well as excessive violence. Discourse and dialogue is controlled, thoughts are conditioned, and explicit and subliminal messaging is utilized along a pro-government agenda. According to a study by the Sri Lanka Press Institute[2], the entities controlled by the Sri Lankan government have the greatest potential influence in the Sri Lankan media as a whole, and also have the greatest potential influence on every single major media group in Sri Lanka.[3]

What you see in the newspapers and on TV, therefore, is carefully selected according to guidelines laid down by the government. Rajpal Abeynayake, the editor of the Daily News says, “In the end, you gravitate to a place where the management views (read: Rajapaksa’s views) are in consonance with yours. And I have gravitated to that place.”[4] If this is the view of the editor of the country’s largest English-language daily newspaper, what hope does the Sri Lankan press have for independent objective journalism? In so far as the media is a means of conditioning individuals, generating emotions and directing dialogue, behavior and decision-making, then it is startling to think that in many cases these means of thought control are directly under the harness of the government.

Controlling the Judiciary

According to the International Bar Association, Sri Lanka is “facing a constitutional crisis”. The removal of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was extremely politicized and characterized by lack of transparency, as well as lack of respect for the fundamental guarantees of due process and fair trial. People opposed to the Chief Justice’s removal suffered harassment, intimidation and death threats. The impeachment is just one example of how our judiciary is compromised.

When the government controls the legislation passed and the outcomes of trials in a way that undermines the common good, they abuse an ordinary individual’s inclination to obey the law, and the embedded view of the law as moral authority. The use of the PTA in the arrest of Azath Salley, on the pretence of inciting religious hatred, displays the extent to which the law can be used to further political agendas. Salley, as a critic of the government, was silenced. Who will be next?

Fear Psychosis

Sri Lankans live in an environment dominated by fear. Criticism of the government is not tolerated. Dissent is not tolerated. Threats to the Rajapaksa’s unethical hold on power are eliminated. Emerging from a bloody civil war in which victory depended on the successful deployment of counter-insurgency tactics by the state apparatus, the government has developed a schizophrenic view of every citizen as a potential terrorist. What this really means is that as a citizen, you are a potential threat to the government’s monopoly on power, and if you chose to dissent you will be exposed as a threat to security (or sovereignty), and you will be silenced. Lasantha Wickremetunge, editor of the Sunday Leader, was silenced. Other countless journalists and activists have been disappeared. The black event that happened on the 1st of August, in the town of Weliweriya, where army officials openly fired at men, women and children demanding clean water, is a case in point.

Who will you vote for?

A government’s role is to work for the common good of the people. Post-war, Mahinda appears to have done well to consolidate his power, to make people believe that he is working for the common good. But can his popularity be expected to last? As Mandana Ismail Abeywickremera so aptly articulates – “cracks are beginning to appear”.[5] SLFP loyalists are frustrated at the allocation of patronage and overt nepotism, and the government is not as stable as its projected image may suggest. At any semblance of a strong opposition those frustrated with the current regime are likely to switch allegiances.

Perhaps you identify with Mahinda Rajapaksa. Perhaps you believe he is working for the common good. After all, he takes credit for ending the war and has built expressways and roads. He seems to espouse a certain vision of what it means to be Sri Lankan that is sometimes appealing. Start to distrust your thoughts.  Remind yourself that this pro-government view has been meticulously fashioned by a compromised media and judiciary and an environment of fear. Many who support the government today, have views that have been compromised by the oppressive environment we live in, or have been bought over through state patronage.

I am Sri Lankan too. I want to live in a country where people can express their opinions freely, and where they can be sure to receive a fair trial. I want to live in a country where people are no longer afraid and where one will be rewarded for meritorious and honest work. I certainly don’t want to have to doubt my own thoughts and the behaviours and intentions of the people around me. That is why come next elections, I will not vote for Mahinda.


[1] Sri Lanka ranks 162/179 on the Press Freedom Index

[2] Sri Lanka Press Insitute and Verite Research. The Advertising Landscape An Analysis. Rep. Colombo: n.p., 2013. Print.

[3] Advertiser’s potential influence on media groups was based on the portion of their contribution to the total revenue of the media group.

[4]  Harris, Gardiner. “A Sri Lankan Journalist Eagerly Toes the Line.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/19/world/asia/a-sri-lankan-journalist-eagerly-toes-the-line.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&/>.

[5] Abeywickrema, Mandana I. “MR’s UPFA Becomes A Simmering Pot.” Colombo Telegraph. N.p., 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/mrs-upfa-becomes-a-simmering-pot/>.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    You must have vote for the ex General last time.

    Please do the same next time.

    • 0
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      This disgusting [Edited out] of the MARA regime always pokes his nose and makes stupid comments whenever he can. This bugger and his clan of Leelas, Jim Softies, Max Silvas etc must be agents that belong to Para Gotas white van brigade. This fellow has no shame he is a well known crook involved with all sorts of rackets in real estate. Readers should ignore this idiots rantings the bugger is suffering from senile dementia.

      • 0
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        @ Kapila, Mara have a team look into all these blog sites, facebook and to make pro-UPFA comments and make these stupid comments attacking the writer. -:)

        they are paid to this job.

        • 0
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          Sumith, you are absolutely right on the money here. In fact a lot of these guys are ex-military and the few who can manage to construct a comprehensible English sentence are from the gov. publications, K.A Sumanasekera being in the latter group.

          They not only monitor news sites related to Sri Lanka and Facebook, they are tasked with monitoring foreign news sites such as BBC, Huf-post, Economist etc. and post messages with the same few lame arguments they all make.

          Their modus operandi is:
          1. Insult the writer or poster of a message; call them an LTTE sympathizer or someone who receives money from the LTTE. This argument is usually enough to infuriate the Rajapaksa demographic against anybody but these guys haven’t figured it out that it has no affect on rational people.

          2. Others are doing it too. Ether US, UK are involved in war crimes too. Or the UNP used to do it too. Again they are not aware that more rational people are of the mindset that “two wrongs don’t make a right”.

          3. Rajapaksa development: The last argument is that MR did all this development work that people should forget all barbaric; they are all in the past. Let’s forget that and move on etc.

          They tried the zero-casualty argument for a while but had to admit finally that even their own gullible fools don’t buy that. So they gave up on that.

          Now they don’t even try to argue the war crimes didn’t take place. They are trying to get people to stop speaking about it. THAT IS IT!!! That is their whole plan. Insult people into not talking about it. Wonder if this is the strategy Bell Pottinger came up with for all those millions spent on them.

        • 0
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          Sumith;

          Only Looted and Ransomed Money Talks from Dahja Jarapassa and clan.

          But they are afraid of Peoples power.
          They are afraid of, what Is comes out of their wrong deeds.
          They are afraid of the People, who knows, what they have looted. They are afraid of the people, who knows, whom they have Abducted and killed for objecting to KUDU dealers and Rapes.
          They are afraid of Coming out of their Shady Property deals and Bogus Land deed scams.
          they afraid of revelation of Forced Banks accretions to the family.
          They are afraid of Revelation of their Families educational Qualifications.
          There are many on the list.

          So What are we expecting from a Scaundreles and Criminals FAMILY.

          Any fair deals or Just Governance?????????/.

          2014 Budget declaration is coming???????.

          KAALA WARELLAA?.

    • 0
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      I wish people like sumanasekeras were less in sri lanka. Big time idiots. Still doesnt know whata rajavassas are doing. People like this are should be treated like slaves. Kd sumanasekera can be my servant.

      • 0
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        You can also consider using Sumanasekera as a replacement for bathroom tissues. He has been Rajapassa clan kiss ass man for a long time.

    • 0
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      FYI – The General’s ballot boxes were tossed into the Parakrama Samudraya by an army unit ! Done by the Sinhala Budhist President. He has rigged every election since, so no one can win against him…..show’s what class you have Sumanawathie akke !

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    In the last few days, our country has managed to successfully take a share of space in many international news entities such as BBC, C4, Reuters, CNN, TheGuardian, Sky News, Aljazeera so on and so forth for all the wrong reasons.

    So here are the top ten things that are being reported

    1.War Crimes in the last stages of the war with 40,000 (as per the UN report) civilians being killed mostly by government forces

    2.Stories of post war torture and rape, from as recent as this year.

    3.Grabbing of land in the north

    4.Not looking into missing people – post war

    5.Slow growth of development / reconciliation in the north and east

    6.Racial Extremism (which evidence suggests that this has partially to do with the government)

    7.Freedom of speech

    8.Violence against journalists

    9.A broken legal system

    10.Amendment to the constitution that advocates higher gain in government power

    • 0
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      Sri Lanka is constantly in the international media.
      But I agree that during the last few days the TV media covergae was relayed directly in to the sitting room. dinning rooms, hand held computers of households all over etc and the Radio coverage was everywhere cafes,supermarkets,cars, taxis. buses all over the world.

      I understand there is a huge demnad to telecast KillingFiedls all over the world.

  • 0
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    Who does the writer suggest the people vote for: Ranil? :))

    They never voted him in as President even when there was no ‘thought control’ as alleged i.e. during the 1999 elections when he ran against CBK.

    • 0
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      @Dr Dayan,

      My friend and mentor. I think you would make a great president of any country in the world. Your such a marvelous human being and you have the greatest intellect that I have seen in any man or animal that lives on this planet. But for Sri Lanka you would make the perfect King. I bow my head in obeisance to you. Long live Dr.Dayan! :)

      • 0
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        Duhwood Blocker

        I see that you do not have eye for details.

        Read what Dayan write again:

        “They never voted him in as President even when there was no ‘thought control’ as alleged i.e. during the 1999 elections when he ran against CBK.”

        At the 2005 elections, Dayan as usual conveniently forgotten the fact that how VP was bribed to restrain Vanni Tamils from voting.

      • 0
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        Why the bugger DJ stays away from commenting on the record hight human rights violations of his king ?

        Very recently, he was seen on ” Newshour india”. There the man was interrupted by the panelist and moderator to a manner that he admitted he is no longer one of current regime. But the guys changes this word play time to time as if he does know what end he sprouts his views- sadly… lankens have come a point now – LIKE OR NOT, our kind RAJA has gone on records in terms human rights violations. Sinhala fractions could also join Cameron and reveal more, for some reasons, they failed to do so.

      • 0
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        That was funny. DJ:for president: what next Duminda for Min of Health?

    • 0
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      What’s with this guy and Ranil? What ever Ranil has got on him seems to make him incapable of seeing beyond Ranil.

      OK, I’m starting to wonder if Ranil is some kind of a Shaman or something with strange powers on people.

    • 0
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      “Who does the writer suggest the people vote for: Ranil? :) )”

      what an incredible stupid question ? obviously this larger than life spin doctor wouldn’t/doesn’t want to get the simple message that the writer tries to convey , he says in very simple plain English ” do not want to vote for MR ” whom you are voting is another entirely different question , putting forward RW’s name and then tries to justify vote for MR ! OMG , isn’t there an end to these kind of childish arguments ????

  • 0
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    Obama has a security detail of 300, whereas SL Prez. has 3000 – says
    Sarath Fonseka.

    Only ONE Somarama is all that is required to V O T E !!!

    • 0
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      no , it should be 300,000 not 3000 !
      all Army,Navy,Air-force,Police and civil defense forces directly and indirectly working to protect MR.

  • 0
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    The votes are not hought controlled but physically controlled.swapping of ballot boxes, vote rigging etc.

  • 0
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    Maybe the writer thought that you should run for President? Why not?

  • 0
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    DJ – lets all vote for the Great General who will I believe be able to restore justice, peace, dignity and justice to all, if he is not influenced by the mafia and the ruthless BBS.

  • 0
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    There enough water buffaloes in the country to vote MR & the clan.
    How else could people Dr Vemin, Paba etc can get most number of votes?

    So please don’t blame MR.-:)

    • 0
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      I wish you were wrong Sumith; I wish you were wrong.

  • 0
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    Baron, you have reasoned your case and given your answer to your opening question. I believe we should all respect your decision. However as any impartial psephologist might tell you, MR has done all the right things to appeal to the majority Sinhala-buddhist voter:
    1 He is the only candidate who can tell the electorate that HE delivered on a gold-plated promise – to defeat terrorism and bring peace to our island nation.
    2 He has maintained peace against much pressure.
    3 His buddhist credentials remain unimpeachable.
    Other things like development etc are open to debate but again, look around, and it is MR who can take the credit.
    The only outside chance of him losing the next election – all things being equal – is if 2.8 million of the 3.5million people who did not vote in 2010 come out in support of an opposition candidate. That is an improbable likelihood, I hope you will agree.
    So, there had better be an outstanding candidate to take on MR – sadly, I cannot see any. Can you?
    There is one other thing Baron; we can offer pooja’s, say prayers and make vows for MR and his brothers to change and get rid of the crooks and thugs who have infected his government. Then, Baron, Imagine….
    Imagine there are no provinces, it isn’t hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too! Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope some day you’ll join us, And we on this thrice-blessed island will live as one. And as we say down south, Baron, ‘venna swargayak kumatada’.

    • 0
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      I think this illustrates the bigger picture I’m getting at – we THINK this way about Mahinda only because we are subject to his thought control through media, fear, and legal instruments. If the media was free, there would be MORE people with arguments AGAINST Mahinda, OTHER candidates would appear more attractive, there would be MORE criticism against the government. If legally we weren’t compromised, lots of the things the current government was doing would appear morally illegitimate, and the government wouldn’t have the moral force it appears to have today. If we didn’t live in such an environment of fear, individuals wouldn’t be so afraid to contest in elections and to run against the government. There would be more opportunities to evade these vicious cycles.

  • 0
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    In the next Provincial Elections, some Provinces are likely to follow the path taken by the Northern Province. Meanwhile if the cost of living goes very high and unbearable to the people, then there is a likelihood of a change. How long can MR threaten the people with the Military Force. The younger generation are not going to listen to him. One should not forget how Srimavo Bandaranayake lost her election after Industrial Exhibition.

  • 0
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    Spring koha ,

    “So, there had better be an outstanding candidate to take on MR – sadly, I cannot see any. Can you?”

    yes , i can see one ! he is none other than Ven Sobitha Thero , if he were to contest under the 17 th Amendment regulations ( free election commission,free police commission etc ) , all likely hood of every one coming out to cast their votes , there are two major obstacles though ,

    1) Will MR agree to hold a free and fair election ?
    2) Will all the opposition parties agree to forward one candidate ?

  • 0
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    Kumara,

    In answer to your Question I would say without hesitation King Mahintha is a President for life and no one would get a look in.
    He is the ultimtate Racist Sinhala Lanka has ever produced and for us Tamils what better satisfaction there could be other than to see King Mahintha wave Goodbye to his subjects for the last time and board the Plane and disappear in the Wilderness.

    The worry for me though is this. If he doesnt get elected who ever is enthralled to the Seat of Leanding Sinhala Lanka will use the Presidential Pardon as happened when Ex President Nixon was pardoneed by Gerald Ford and kept him out of Jail and save MR from being indicted to the HAGUE for WAR CRIMES.
    No we cant have that and keep MR out of Prison in the HAAGUE.
    NO NO NO.

  • 0
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    Dear Baron A Kumara,
    No one down south I know is living in fear. They are not even scared of Mahasona…
    This all sounds a bit like pathetic whining of the UNP iers and the lost Eelamists.
    In the next election, unless King Dayan presents himself, I will still vote for MR.

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