3 December, 2022

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Unhindered Or Unhinged? High Security Zones & Rehab Camps! 

By Rajan Philips

Rajan Philips

After this article was sent to Colombo Telegraph at 14:00 hours on October 1, the Daily Mirror has reported (at 16:00 hours) that “An Extraordinary Gazette has been issued by President Ranil Wickremesinghe revoking the order issued declaring the High Security Zones.” This of course is welcome news, but there is no kudos to the President in this. There is nothing extraordinary about the revocation and the President deserves to be condemned on record for imposing what was an extraordinarily bad idea in the first Place. – RP

Last week I ventured to suggest that President Wickremesinghe could quite simply start ending the government’s annual embarrassment in Geneva by starting to implement the many promises of his predecessors – on human rights, reconciliation, executive presidency, electoral reforms and so on. Implement one promise at a time, I said, the UNHRC resolution would wither way in no time. Not that my suggestion was going to make any mark at any place that matters, or anywhere for that matter. Yet even I would not have thought the Wickremesinghe Administration would somehow manage to act worse than any of its predecessors. 

How else could one explain President Wickremesinghe’s gazette notification to declare High Security Zones in Colombo under a 1955 law called the Official Secrets Act? Or the Justice Minster’s Bill in Parliament to set up a Bureau of Rehabilitation to ostensibly to “rehabilitate drug-dependent persons, ex-and misguided combatants, members of violent extremist groups, and any other group of persons who require treatments and rehabilitation,” but actually to ensnare Aragalaya activists already arrested under the PTA. Either the President is at his wits’ end, or he is being played by nitwits around him. 

After a deluge of condemnations of the extraordinary gazette, there were news reports that the President, now on the second leg of his funeral tour, has asked the Attorney General to review the matter in order to have the gazette rescinded upon his return. That would have been quite a withdrawal made between two state funerals. Not so. 

For, on Thursday, 29 September (10:28 AM), the Daily Mirror headlined a story, viz., “Police to quiz some politicos over secret plot to overthrow govt.,” which carried this bizarre gem: “The Daily Mirror learns that despite reports that last week’s gazette declaring high-security zones in Colombo will be reversed, the government will brief the Supreme Court in the coming days over the purpose of why the HSZ’S are required and why the sites listed need to be protected.” Isn’t that something?

Admin without Adults?

For two and a half years the country suffered Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s dupes and dullards running the government. Now, we have to ask the question whether there are any adults in the Wickremesinghe Administration? Otherwise, how would anyone purportedly for the government plant a news story that “the government will brief the Supreme Court in the coming days over the purpose of why the HSZ’S are required and why the sites listed need to be protected?” How is that going to happen? In camera or in open court? Full Bench or less? Since when did Supreme Court Justices become sounding board decoys for national security busybodies?  Or proofreaders for government gazette? 

Even the crux of the Daily Mirror headline – that some politicos have been plotting to overthrow the government – is not at all substantiated in the story. No punchy innuendos or spicy speculations. No concrete evidence, of course. And the police are yet to quiz anyone! But someone has already decided to announce that the Supreme Court is going to be briefed even before the investigation has been completed. What appears to have been official secret so far is that “some politicians” have been encouraging “some ‘protester’ groups to overthrow the government by forcefully occupying Parliament and preventing a vote to elect a new President following the resignation of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July.” 

Now, the hitherto well-kept official secret is being revealed as the main reason for setting up High Security Zones (HSZs).  And the howsoever placed government “sources” have told the Daily Mirror, “as the Supreme Court had not been consulted in the process, the relevant authorities will now consult the Supreme Court and seek its advice over the establishment of these HSZS to ensure an unhindered administration.” The administration is not unhindered but unhinged. And pigs can fly!

The question is where really is President Wickremesinghe in all this fuss that his security underlings are making about high security zones? Was he caught rushing between funerals when he was asked to authorize the Gazette Extraordinary? The widely reported news story that he would rescind the gazette after returning from his Asia-Pacific travels would indicate that he has since come to realize the utter idiocy of the whole HSZ idea and would want to rescind it forthwith. On the other hand, is the above Daily Mirror story the true position of the government? Either way, it is not unfair or uncharitable to infer that the President, after 45 years as MP and not even four and a half months as President, has come to the end of his long extended tether. 

The political betrayal inherent in the very idea of considering security zones in Colombo is monumentally huge. The sense of timing involved, while the government is in the dock in Geneva for human rights violations and economic crimes, is appallingly tactless. And the purported manner of its implementation, by implicating the Supreme Court, is clumsily amateurish. The President has to take ownership for all of this, because the Gazette Extraordinary went out under his name and signature. Whether he signed it in Sinhalese or in English, I do not know. What I know is that Mr. MA Sumanthiran, TNA MP, has been having fun at the expense of the President for his apparently newfound proclivity for signing illiberal announcements in Sinhalese, and not in English. 

It would be rational to expect the President to withdraw the gazette notification and send it to the shredder. He may appoint a committee (headed by the Attorney General?) to look into the matter. That is his usual wont. On the other hand, if he were to persist with the gazette as it is and give the go ahead to his security minions to set up security zones, that would be the Wickremesinghe equivalent of the fertilizer fiasco under Gotabaya Rajapaksa. And it will confirm that the President has not only reached the end of his tether, but he also has no slack left to be of any use in doing anything worthwhile for the country, let alone salvaging the crashed up economy. The forever patient Wickremesinghe faithful will have to finally realize that they cannot expect economic miracles out of someone who sloppily allows a gazette announcement on high security zones. This is not a one off incident but part of quite an established pattern. 

Failed Second Chances

Among his political contemporaries, Ranil Wickremesinghe has been the most unfortunate in electoral politics. But he also leads the list of those who have been given second chances, and he has had them multiple times. He has botched them every time. His peace-process premiership foundered on the corruption of his cronies whom he let loose to do as they pleased. His yahapalanaya stewardship was run off the rail by the bond scam and was permanently disabled by his supercilious inability to work collegially with someone like Maithripala Sirisena. And now as President, at last, Mr. Wickremesinghe is in an unenviable situation where his inherent virtues are hopelessly overwhelmed by the political vices he has accumulated over forty years. 

This is unfortunate, and it is more so for the country than for the man himself. For, Sri Lanka deserved and would have benefited from a brief respite of sanity and stability after the Rajapaksa turbulence. That was all he was supposed to provide. But he got too presumptuous, expanded his canvas to include everything from comprehensive political reform to ultimate economic growth, and has figuratively extended his spell all the way to 2048. The new horizon for the island to reach economic self-sufficiency, one hundred years after independence. All the while extending and expanding the Rajapaksa legacies of cabinet bloating, import profiteering and security scaremongering. I am summarizing here in six words what has been reported over six hundred times each about cabinet jockeying and import corruptions. And now, high security zones. 

How does one reconcile the Wickremesinghe aspirations with the Wickremesinghe realities? That is the question. And one that only Mr. Wickremesinghe can and should answer. But he has failed to do so, satisfactorily enough for his own credibility and adequately for the country’s benefit. The HSZ Gazette Extraordinary makes this failure almost irreparable, in my view. That does not mean the end of the Wickremesinghe Administration. It may and it will likely go on to its term limits. He will be around to preside over haircuts and power cuts, but he will be constrained to spare the SLPP MPs of any cuts. 

It would be idle to speculate whether or not there will be another intervention by aragalaya or a new avatar of it. No one foresaw the first one coming, and it would not have come if it were not for the dire economic provocations of the Gotabaya administration. The current administration will do everything possible to avoid provocations by keeping supplies flowing, but they will keep flowing through the same old channels of spot purchases without tender, and clearance only with commissions. They will not be through the new channels of process and probity that aragalaya aspired, and Ranil Wickremesinghe promised. His spirit might still be willing, but the flesh has never been strong. Except, it seems, when it is needed to clampdown for the sake of protecting government space from public protest. High security zones are the spatial statement of authoritarian politics. No more, no less.

That Ranil Wickremesinghe is at the end of his political tether does not mean the end of Sri Lankan politics. It is in fact a new beginning, and one that will necessarily overlap with the remainder of the Wickremesinghe Administration. The succession to it will invariably involve the present parliament, but hopefully only for the purpose of discarding the deadwood and preserving the good ones. The opposition parties have been correct in keeping out of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s National Council charade. But they will be mistaken if they, especially the JVP or the SJB, try to stage a new aragalaya. Aragalaya was an unrehearsed civil society uprising which cannot be reproduced by political rehearsals. People cannot be won over by rehearsals, but only by real politics in the real interests of the people themselves. 

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Latest comments

  • 17
    8

    Let us look at the wishes and assumptions in the final paragraph.
    “That Ranil Wickremesinghe is at the end of his political tether …”
    Is he? I fear that the author is in a hurry to write his obituary.
    *
    “The succession to it will invariably involve the present parliament, but hopefully only for the purpose of discarding the deadwood and preserving the good ones.”
    Is it so simple? Then how come that we ended up with so much ‘deadwood’?
    *
    “Aragalaya was an unrehearsed civil society uprising…”
    Does an unrehearsed event promise success? Not rehearsing is not meritorious on its own.
    There are doubts on this count too. The NED’s role was based on rehearsals elsewhere. Comments here comparing it with Arab Spring etc. encouraged imitation.
    Where it showed originality proved to be disasterous. Making a tea party of what was hoped to be a revolution destroyed some credibility. Adventurist invasion of state owned buildings, could have done with some forethought.
    *
    It is time that Aragalaya or what remains of it self-critically reviews its GFG days.
    Acritical endorsement is something that it can ill afford at this stage.

  • 11
    4

    Can the Security Zone reversal be compared to the Fertilizer fiasco. I think, Yes.
    GR vacated post. Ranil … ??

    • 3
      1

      N
      Not really, corrective action was fairly fast.

  • 8
    13

    Many thanks, Rajan, for continuing to have the patience to keep writing. There are only two comments on this article, by SJ and Nathan. Both sensible.
    .
    When this comment of mine appears, I hope that another five from the new “lunatic fringe” don’t also get displayed.

    • 4
      10

      I breathe a huge sigh of relief. Now with eleven comments on display, nobody has spoken up for Ranil.
      .
      With everything that Ranil was doing seeming to be legal, and with slight improvements to be seen with regard to fuel supply and the availability of milk powder, some people seemed to think that he had “done a good job”.
      .
      But the prices! They are far too high for our meager incomes. No, you cannot increase salaries, either, in real terms, or by printing money. There is no magic solution. We’ve been living beyond our beings, on borrowed money.
      .
      Some of the money may have to be repaid by those yet unborn. How at we to beg permission from those who are yet unborn?

    • 5
      8

      Rajan Philips has said this about Ranil’s rethink:
      .

      “nothing extraordinary about the revocation and the President deserves to be condemned on record for imposing what was an extraordinarily bad idea in the first Place.”
      .
      If people have made mistakes on polling day, and now change their minds, we should admire their honesty and sincerity. So, let me appeal to my friends who had begun to support Ranil; “Don’t don’t support this ‘government any more”.

      .
      The primary aim of the Aragalaya has to be to win those who disagreed with us, to now, come over to our side and be principled in your stands. Forget mistakes, we all make them.

    • 4
      0

      ST Columns Cafe’ Spectator 2/10/22
      “Musical show: Mayor intervenes to take hell out of fire

      The hellfire music festival at the much-hyped Lotus Tower complex caused some controversy for the obviously wrong reasons. Once criticism emerged from certain sections of the clergy, Mayor of Colombo Rosy Senanayake was forced to call the organiser of the event to change its theme.
      Eventually the show was held on Friday night under the watch of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) officials after the Mayor imposed conditions that the event should be held in a manner that it does not harm religious feelings.

      Police had to put a special security unit with over 100 personnel around the tower on Friday night to ensure there were no trespassers while vehicles were parked along the pavements of all adjacent main streets- even in front of the Colombo fire brigade.

      The concert goers who purchased tickets at Rs 5000, Rs 6000 and Rs 15,000 had different level of access and entertainment facilities starting from free booze to the company of complete strangers with heavy music in the backround. The event organiser announced that the one
      night concert recorded Rs 30 million as revenue.

      • 4
        0

        ST Columns Cafe’ Spectator 2/10/22 continued…
        A local who was passing by to witness the fire crackers that lit the night sky noted if any foreigner happens to see this, he or she wouldn’t believe it is happening in a bankrupt nation. “ As of now, living in this country itself is like hellfire,” he muttered.

      • 2
        0

        SW,
        “Once criticism emerged from certain sections of the clergy, Mayor of Colombo Rosy Senanayake…….”
        I doubt there was any criticism from anybody but Rosy herself. The Mayor is an Evangelical Christian, and these people (known for “hellfire and damnation” sermons) take things very literally.
        If this sort of thing is allowed, all sorts of religious extremists will demand that events they don’t like should be banned.
        What about atheists then? Is it illegal to be an atheist?

        • 3
          4

          OC
          “Is it illegal to be an atheist?”
          Fortunately for atheists, the Buddha was a member of the club.
          He said it nicely: “God is irrelevant to what I have to say”.
          It is the Hindu contaminated Buddhists that celebrate gods.

      • 2
        0

        Sisira Weragoda, regardless of public/religious sentiments GOVT is desperate to bring income what ever way it can. 1) “Night Economics” prescribed by Diyana. G 2) Weed cultivation 3) Casinos, night bars, ” meet strangers” 4)Sending citizen abroad as laborers. 5) Supply fuel, car permits and other perks for people who bring $ 6) Even so called educated think “Lotus Tower” is money maker that can help in reducing foreign debts. In that case Govt should think of building lotus towers in every province. In fact, income made is not even enough to cover the daily interest on debt acquired in building Lotus Tower 6) People from abroad tired of concrete jungles visit Lanka for it’s unique nature and nurture/ hospitality. Not to go to the top of L.T and take selfie to put on FB/Insta. To keep Monks happy govt provided free entry to LT. 7) If the income can reach the poor , (which I strongly doubt ) have more and more LT and Hell Fires. Did you hear WB telling in Lanka only 40 % loans reach the project.

        • 4
          0

          Reportedly this time Lanka may manage to get only 6 countries to support them in Geneva. (soon after last session, I thought it may come down to less than 5 ). There may be some rationale for few to support or abstain to recover loans already provided and in general , sympathy for the suffering public due to bankruptcy, failures)

          • 4
            0

            More than 25 countries out of 47 or so have already signed in favor of sponsors (notable ones are Turkey, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania ). The new resolution express concerns over human rights development since April 2022, including violence against and arrest of peaceful protesters, violence against govt/ Rajapaksa supporters, resulting in death, destruction, violence, injuries) stressing the importance of INDEPENDENT investigations and those found responsible to be held to account.

    • 5
      4

      “When this comment of mine appears, I hope that another five from the new “lunatic fringe” don’t also get displayed.”
      Is this a plea for censorship?
      *
      It is your lunacy, my lunacy, and his and her lunacy that keeps CT going.

      • 6
        1

        SJ,
        “lunacy that keeps CT going.”
        Perhaps some need to start their own website, where people will be invited to display their names, ID numbers, etc, and be regaled by remarks such as “It’s 2.37 in the morning, and evil Ranil has cunningly reduced the price of petrol “
        Old Codger of no fixed abode.

      • 2
        2

        Mr SJ,
        .
        Why do some adults behave like mischievous teenagers?

        Some of them speak highly of tolerance and standards but fail to set an example by showing tolerance to others who may think differently from his tolerance.

        This can be a social problem in our region.

  • 3
    2

    No one understood when the high security zones is imposed that the repercussion is more damaging and later revoking, It is the basic needs of tourism have prevented coming and movements of citizens where the world looks sri lanka like war zone. Ranil the experience should know, He wants full put military power to save his position giving permission to fail and rectify indicate that himself adding value the most. Pinching the baby and rocking the cradle

    • 4
      2

      ” Pinching the baby and rocking the cradle”
      The baby has been screaming for a long while I think.

  • 3
    1

    Aragalaya needs to incorporate definite action plans and behaviour patterns to solve the various areas of lack that the citizens are suffering from. It is good for them to join some of the existing parties in empathy with them so both sides together form a new existence discarding the old disputable ways. This brings a sustainable system change acceptable to most. What is totally unacceptable is the old style suppression of unarmed protestors of the like of the Vasantha Mudalige group, which corrupt leaders want to destroy for their safe robbing. This suppression of protesters freedom is globally condemned. President doing well needs to discuss and negotiate and come to understanding with these educated protesting university youth instead of old style elimination. The future belongs to them and not to the oldies now desperate to prolong their lives.

  • 5
    0

    Nathan.
    The Fertiliser issue sent Gota Home; True. Being the Army man his left,right,left,right March orders took quite a while to be called off.

    But here RanilW. HAS QUICKLY SENSED BEFOREHAND that Rajan Philipps will go to town on the Gazette declaring the High Security zones. So,he issued this Extraordinary Gazette revoking the earlier order. Two steps behind and one step forward………?

    Now coming back to your million dollar question the effect of the high security zone compared to the fertilizer fiasco, my view is that RanilW. HAS SWALLOWED HIS PRIDE whilst overseas,attending a Funeral and may live to fight another day……….

    But still Rajan Philipps has listed out other issues that would make the forward march of Ranil.W.daunting……….

    • 2
      0

      Backed by the overwhelming combination of 2/3 mandate and 20A, Gotha’s fertilizer issue should not be equated to a man who was not voted for by his own supporters.
      Only now, the SLPPs themselves are revealing that the idea is based on a neuroscientist and not a soil expert. It should not be forgotten that Gota was unable to solve the “kitchen cooking gas cylinder problem” let alone a major fuel crisis.
      If so, it must be a joke. A mere comparison is not a match.
      In addition, the fertilizer problem affected the entire Sri Lanka to starve, while the short-term HSZ problem only affected Colombo.

  • 6
    2

    The article takes our scrambled thoughts on these complex political situations and discusses them in a clear and orderly manner, one by one. It enables us to refine our incomplete idea on such matters. It may also enable us to be critical of some ideas presented, where earlier our thoughts were hazy. For all this we must be appreciative of Rajan Philips.

    • 4
      0

      Sarath

      “these complex political situations”

      Beg your pardon, complex political situations?
      Why do you think it is complex?
      Even if it is complex, how did we arrive at this situation?

  • 5
    1

    HSZ may gone but still barracks will be there in the name of tight security, but still PTA intact ,arrests are under way any way
    So they can stop the upcoming Aragalayas. It’s not a new chapter, they already rested the waters
    Now Maha Nayakas wants to slash their electricity bill (probably just woke up)for their rendering service to the public.
    Govnt would listen to satisfy the super 69.

  • 8
    2

    “Can the Security Zone reversal be compared to the Fertilizer fiasco.”
    Gazette notification and reversals by both Ranil and Gota clearly shows that Ranil is continuing the Gota rule. Ranil joined Gota side not now. It was when SJB took control of most of the UNP votes. Unfortunately Gota needed help from Ranil from the threat of India and the West similar to threat when Mahinda faced from West and India. This political culture will never change and Sri Lanka will never ever come out of Buddhist Fundamentalism and slavery of Sinhalese for the Family kingdoms.

  • 6
    9

    Ranil is doing the final fun games he likes so much, rubbing shoulders with high and mighty in rich and big countries-British royalty, Japanese leaders, ADB/Manila big wigs.
    What is the benefit to bankrupt Sri Lanka ?

    Does he think they are as foolish as Sri lankans ? Surely they all know that Ranil is hated in Sri Lanka, has no mandate and is a conman doing confidence trickster acts on the world stage. I think not even that, he has no plan, the tricks and con shows has become the main act.

    • 4
      0

      “…… has no mandate and is a conman doing confidence trickster acts on the world stage.”

      What did happen to the great liberator, the Sinhala/Buddhist, single handed ….. Gota, who had unprecedented public support, 6.9 Million people voting for him?

      Don’t you think both “Leaders” are no different to each other or in fact different from any other leader before? If they are ineffective so are the voters. Crooks are lead by bigger crooks. Voters don’t seem to demand effectively.

      Cowards are occupying top defense jobs, butchers have been given powers to beat innocent people up, kill them when they are trigger happy, …. with impunity, … if the state and political structures are such what can you expect from those who claim to represent you.

      You are part of the problem, not the solution.
      I believe nimal fernando is with you as he seems to be trigger happy.

      • 2
        0

        Native,
        DS has improved slightly. She didn’t mention Ranil being gay this time.

  • 6
    1

    ‘His spirit might still be willing, but the flesh has never been strong.’
    The above sentence is a very good description of RW. His shrewdness in fooling the public as a No-1 Political Leader is known to all of us.
    The Locomotive that NGR was driving was abandoned by him with it’s ignition on. RW has now jumped on to it and running it ILLEGALLY. He should dissolve the Parliament asap and have an election held with the International Monitors observation.
    The Election Commissioner head should disqualify all the criminals and those who have pending court cases.

    • 10
      12

      Thanks, Naman, I think that we are in full agreement, but it may be necessary to choose our words carefully.
      .
      Ranil is the slipperiest of eels. He’s never had popular support, but he doesn’t usually get caught doing the wrong thing.
      .
      He got to be President through a series of legal moves, but he cannot claim to be an elected President. To be Acting President would have been all right, but he wants to be President for another two years. If he wasn’t making substantive changes and was making an effort to conduct “meaningful elections” ASAP we could even have been grateful to him.
      .
      Now he is an ILLEGITIMATE President.

      • 1
        2

        Ranjan Philips
        Please watch closely the video clip from 2.20 minutes onwards.
        How Ranils behavior. Leave for comments

  • 3
    3

    It’s an open secret that Sri lanka is now controlled by Mahinda Rajah as an open prisons Camp. Only Ranil acts as the caretaker. He could be ousted at any time if he disobeys the Rajapaksa family. Until the 134 members support Rajapaksa or King Mahinda this position would prevail at least till the next General Election.

    • 0
      2

      “…an open prisons Camp”
      Do not jump the gun.
      There is some time to go for that to realize.

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