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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Rajapaksa Hegemony; Is there a way forward?

According to the prevailing state of affairs, the way the GOSL behaves, allowing continuing lawlessness and impunity, the disobedience to oblige international resolutions, the failure or the delay or the casual approach to address, respond and resolve desperate issues such as land, resettlement, livelihood, ethnic harmony and social integration in the north, the delay and the unwillingness in implementing the LLRC to establish genuine civil administration and rule of law, it appears there are factors deliberately fasten by the government preventing to implement and to obstruct the smooth function of all above.
When doing a casual approach in implementing the LLRC no credible local civil society organizations are invited in post war reconstruction and rehabilitation in the north. Though few INGO’s operating few projects none of these projects address the critical issues faced by the people in the north. These restrictions cause severe setbacks and cause vast delay in the rehabilitation, reintegration and development of the war affected people in war torn area. Further the continuation of frequent intimidations and abductions by the paramilitaries and state sponsored mobsters dressed in civilian uniforms, the presence of the military, curtailing the freedom of expression and association it is learnt there is a clear suppression and a debilitation carried out targeting the Tamil community living in the North.

The Rajapaksa administration has extracted and centralized all its power to a single executive location which could centrally administer. It has fastened its brothers, family members, relatives, friends, henchmen’s and stooges to every corner in the public sector and government institutions to strengthen its network.

When we look at the ground situation the people in the north are continuously restrained participate in political activities and freedom of association. This is due to the hidden agendas of the government to oppress the Tamil minority people curtailing their democratic rights. The regime continues the oppression against minorities for its benefit to find a way to exist among the majority community dissembling separatism to the hearts and minds of the majority Singhalese creating a communal hatred among the two communities to sustain its rule. These hidden agendas cause severe setbacks for the establishment and implementation of the 17th and the 13th amendment and the implementation of the LLRC to bring a reintegration and harmony among the communities. Further these hidden agendas limit the ongoing developments (5R’s), the commitment and the government’s willingness to find a lasting solution for the ethnic conflict. The disinterest shown to implement the LLRC and the casual and selective process hinder a genuine reconciliation which is not acquired considering the best interest of the northern people or aiming to find a political solution for the Tamil national issue in a post war situation but to the best interest of few politicos in the regime.
Charging the minorities; aiming credit from the majority.
These hidden agendas are surreptitiously carried out by inaugurating the Singhalization concept among the majority Bhiddist which is created by the Sri Lanka defense authority and nursed by the name of Bodu Bala Sena aiming to establish a political hegemony of Rajapaksa regime to establish a Singhalese state by devolving the ethnic Tamil speaking minority and majority Bhuddist Singhalese in order to sustain the regime’s power within the majority population. These include curtailing the religious freedom, fundamental rights of the minority Tamils and Muslims, land grabbing and colonization of new Singhalese people in the lands belonging to the ethnic Tamils by forced occupation of Sinhala people and disable ex servicemen’s by the name of establishing “ranaviru gammana” (resettling of the disable soldiers), construction of private projects (tourist hotels, factories) and selling lands to foreign investors.
The other hidden agenda the regime aiming to achieve is to prevent the arrival of Sri Lankan Tamils living outside Sri Lanka or who went out of Sri Lanka due to war. If the LLRC is duly implemented and if normalcy established in the North the Tamil refugees will be returned or sent to the island.
To prevent the arrival of the Tamils living outside Sri Lanka the regime is portraying an unrest environment by restraining a military atmosphere of enforced disappearance, abductions, attacks and assaults of the people living in the north. If the government is willing to bring true harmony among the Singhalese, Tamils and the Muslims the regime has to do a genuine reconciliation and accountability. From the above atmosphere it is clear the government has no intention to do a genuine reconciliation fear of losing its power and popularity.
There are several government and politically influenced private, foreign and locally invested development projects undergoing in the north by the name of “Uthuru Vasanthaya” which has not brought significant employment, business and livelihood opportunities to the people living in the North. The resettlement, reconstruction, rehabilitation, reconciliation and reintegration process has to be implemented in parallel. Failure doing so would cause many irregularities in uplifting the lives of the people. According to the residents in Vanni, no people (war affected) in the war torn area are acquired as employees for those projects. If not it would be hard to uplift the lives of these people if the government don’t include them or provide opportunity to be a part of reconstruction or don’t provide jobs and other opportunities to start livelihood.
When resettling the people in Vanni, the government should give importance and priority to resettle the people in the area where they were living before. De-mining should be expedited fast and done in parallel with other INGO organizations. The government should allow the residents to continue and engage in their traditional livelihood. Residential lands including cultivation lands should be de-mined in parallel and jungles should be cleared for the people to access and engage in farming and agriculture. The government should provide space and seek the help of demining and other INGO’s to provide the necessary machineries needed to start livelihood and give the required machineries and training to the needy families. Army camps should be removed from resident areas blocking civilian movements and remove checkpoints restricting people’s activities and allow people to mobilize freely thus not surveying people’s movement. The resettlement process has to be done for the best interest of the citizens in the area but not for the best interest of few politicos.

Forcibly evicted and protracted Northern Muslims of Mannar and Jaffna district
The resettlement of evicted and protracted Mannar Muslims residing in Puttalam and other districts should be resettled in their original places in a way not creating a clash among the Tamil and Muslim communities in Mannar and Jaffna. The Muslim families who were evicted in 1990 from Mannar has significantly grown larger in numbers and protracted should be resettled according to their wishes. People who have built their houses in the Puttalam district should be allowed to stay and seek their ancestral property in Mannar. The children’s born after the eviction should seek permanent settlement either in Puttalam or in Mannar/Jaffna and the elders who were evicted and settled in Puttalam should be allowed to seek settlement in Mannar/Jaffna. If the government is genuinely interested in the resettlement it should find credible measures for such complex issues within a short time by end of the war to resettle the evicted northern Muslim issue. The disinterest the delay and the casual approach by the regime to resolve and resettle the problem of the evicted and protracted (complex problem) northern Muslims in their native places, the government uses this complex protracted situation for its benefit and delay the resettlement of the evicted northern Muslims. 

This indicates the regime does not have a genuine interest to duly resettle the Muslims living in the Puttalam in Mannar district to prevent a genuine electoral registration by dropping a significant amount of people using their franchise during elections thus violating of its fundamental rights. If the resettlement and the electoral registration are duly done the regime loses its power in future elections by significant number of votes.
Resettlement does not mean dropping the people in places other than their original without their concern provided with infrastructure. Resettlement means relocating the affected people in the original area or land where they lived before providing infrastructure facilities, basic needs, facilitating and uplifting their lives to live on their own with dignity and rights allowing them to engage in political, social and cultural activities, informed choices and obtain their democratic rights.
Resettlement has to be carried out for the best interest of the people affected by war identifying their needs. These needs assessments should be done by independent civil societies, with the participation of community based organizations and the people in the area.
Priority areas in resettlement, reconstruction
1. Reconstruction and rehabilitation should be implemented in parallel while empowering the lives, living condition and raising awareness of the war affected people

2. De-mining should be expedited fast in parallel along with other non government de-mining experts. Demining and occupying army camps should not hinder the resettlement

3. Government should prevent the army from land grabbing, occupying, and unauthorized loitering in resident lands and involve in fishing preventing the livelihood of residents.

4. Priority should be given to resettle the people in the same area where they were residing before. People who were residing along the coastal area should be resettled in the same coastal area not on the other side of the road.

5. Civilian resident areas should be de-mined first; the de-mining area should be wide enough where civilians can move around for their daily needs and engage in livelihood such as fishing or farming.

6. Temporary relocation or forced resettlement (not according to their wish) should not be done, as this would lead to permanent resettlement which cause inconvenience for the war affected.

7. Reconstruction of roads, culverts and drains should be constructed in parallel with resettlement as this may cause great inconvenience during rainy seasons.

8. Repairing of damaged houses and construction of new houses, renovating pipe lines and toilettes (water and sanitation) should be estimated in consistence with the ICRC as this may involve severe irregularities and indulge in corruption with contract agents.

9. Major irrigation projects should be started where the farmers can get water to start their cultivation lands.
From all above it is learnt there is a great reluctance for the GOSL to do a genuine reconciliation and do not like the presence of international NGO’s to work and monitor the integrity of its development in post war situation in war torn areas but interested only receiving grants from donors. Though the UN is a non government body, it is working only in association with the government when it comes to larger projects. The GOSL wants every project to be implemented with the concurrence and monitoring of the defense, the economic development ministry under the supervision of the PTF – (Presidential Task Force). Though there is a resettlement and disaster management ministry is deployed all grants and funds are disbursed through the ministry of economic development. There is a greater setback when implementing large projects through this ministry as there is no participation of civil society and no proper needs assessment carried out on behalf and for the best interest of the beneficiaries. Further there is a greater possibility of corruption and conflict of interest as there is no proper monitoring, evaluation, transparency and consistency of these project when working with the local government bodies, district secretariat, government agents and relevant line ministries during approval, implementing projects and providing contracts opportunities to development partners.
Militarizing or not reducing the presence of the military
If the GOSL is interested in a genuine reconciliation it should demilitarize or should reduce the presence of the military in the entire north to build the trust of the Tamil people in the Vanni and the Tamils living outside Sri Lanka. New singhala colonization or colonization of disable army villages should not be established in traditional Tamil villages. This will help the large moderate Tamil people to build have trust with the government. The government should allow the freedom of expression and right to engage in social and political activities. The Government should remove ex military officers from the public service in the north for the people to assimilate with local government bodies. This will allow the public to build trust and gain confidence and engage in dialogues. The government should appoint Tamil G.A’s (government agents) from the same area (not a political appointee) who knows to work for the best interest of the residents to resolve their land, livelihood and housing problems. The government should unarm the paramilitary forces enabling an atmosphere creating a risk and terror free civilian movement. The government should create a conducive environment for the people to move forward with trust. Without achieving the trust the people in the north has to permanently live with a doubt which will not benefit both ethnicities in the long run to achieve peace and bring harmony among communities.

The absence of a true political will
Under the presence situation in the north it shows there is an indirect restrain of its citizens and the civil societies to participate or mobilize and select informed choices. Further it prevents the assimilation of civil society organization with the people forming opinions for the best interest of its people. A genuine process of reconstruction, rehabilitation, reintegration and reconciliation has to be created, initiated and implemented none other than the government of Sri Lanka if it has the commitment, a true political will to find a lasting solution to the ethnic conflict.
The selective and the casual approach and the manner the present governance behaves it is evident that it does not want to find a solution to the Tamil national issue. The Rajapakse government is preserving the Tamil national issue for the sole existence of its government in power.
From the attitude and behavior of the Rajapaksa regime it is clear the Rajapakse administration is capable of surviving under national or international criticism but cannot survive given a political solution to end ethnic conflict. Due to this the regime is creating of a tyrannical hegemony of sinhalization by means of militarization of the whole country. In order to stay in power the Rajapakse administration is using the Tamil community as second class citizens among the majority Sinhalese. During the post war situation the Rajapakse administration has not taken any voluntary single effort to find a political solution to end the ethnic conflict gives a clear indication that it does not care nor bother any national or international criticism, reconciliation, accountability or resolution.

The failure or the fear of enforcing the 17th amendment, continuation of lawlessness and the best interest of the regime
The coalition members who are pro government allies who survive under the majority Sinhalese franchise are not in favor of giving a political solution to the ethnic minority to implement the 13th amendment to the minority Tamils and the 17th amendment to the general population. They consider the country is owned by the majority Sinhala Buddhist where as other religious/ethnic minorities are guests who cannot claim their fundamental rights but can live under their security and protection. Both the 13th and the 17th amendments are detrimental to Rajapaksa regime losing administration.
If president Rajapakse has a true political will and determination, it has to free itself from pro national members of its alliance who oppose for a political solution and the implement of 13th amendment. The way regime nursing and nurturing the pro national parties with its coalition under an alliance allowing to give anti LLRC statements is another clear indication the regime is not genuinely interested to give a political solution to the Tamil minorities. It is leant the Rajapaksa administration is purposely avoiding and neglecting the importance to bring a lasting solution for the national issue is nothing but to protect and covering its inability of the regime fear of losing its government in power. Legislating the 18th amendment bypassing the 13th and the 17th amendment discloses the government’s best interest in demoting democracy and good governance to uphold the Rajapaksa monarchy.

The link between the 13th, 17th and the Tamil national issue
There is a link between the Rajapakse administration, Tamil national issue -13th amendment and the establishment of independent commission (17th amendment to the constitution). The moment the 17th amendment is implemented and elections held under the independence police, public services and elections commission the Rajapakse administration looses its power. The government can sustain its power only by not implementing the 13th and the 17th amendment.
The failure to enforce the 17th amendment has a greater effect for the social instability of the country which the Rajapakse administration does not wish to establish. The failure to implement the 13th amendment expose the Rajapakse administration wants to preserve the Tamil national issue unresolved without a political solution in order to sustain its governance.
Rajapaksa Hegemony
Allowing to continue the lawlessness, depicts the Rajapaksa administration does not interest in a genuine reconciliation, require a social stability, a stronger public service for the simple reason to sustain its corrupt governance in power. The Rajapakse administration can survive only under a destabilize environment, an authoritarian administration, a singhalization hegemony and a weaker public service which can only establish its family rule in administering governance to get the support of the majority Bhuddist masses.

The Rajapaksa administration has extracted and centralized all its power to a single executive location which could centrally administer. It has fastened its brothers, family members, relatives, friends, henchmen’s and stooges to every corner in the public sector and government institutions to strengthen its network.
From the above factors and actions of the government in a post war situation the way Rajapaksa administration nurtures and mobilize the state sponsored paramilitaries and pro ethnic political parties it is clear the regime is purposely avoiding and surviving behind the Tamil national issue which is the burning problem of the country and its people.
When the government faces pressure and criticism local and internationally, unable to provide a permanent solution for the Tamil national issue and other critical issues the government diverts the attention of the community by instigating and nurturing communal hatred using its pro national political parties between the majority Buddhist and the minority Tamil/ Muslims living in the country. It suppress the war affected ethnic Tamils in the north by abductions and enforced disappearance preventing their political rights by the use of paramilitaries and government sponsored mobsters. It suppresses anti government dissenting voices by white van abductions, create chaos among communities by instigating communal hatred and use the recently legislated criminal procedure bill to take citizens into custody. It oppress anti government voices by political motivated attacks preventing the fundamental rights to engage in political rights and the freedom of association in every part of the country. The regime uses above methods to salvage its existence and sustain its regime in power.
The only way Rajapaksa administration survival is to keep alliance with pro national political parties and who oppose the 13th amendment and the non implementation of the 17th amendment. The Rajapaksa administration nurturing the pro national parties to create and nurture communal hatred between ethnicities to preserve the support of the majority Singhalese masses for its survival.
There is a widespread speculation and a view that the Rajapakse Administration is purposely abstaining to implement the 13th amendment and disinterest to give a political solution in order to sustain its popularity within the Buddhist Singhalese masses. It appears in order to sustain the government in power Rajapakse administration will never implement the above factors which are detrimental to their existence.
Now it has come to a situation where the government ministers, secretaries, political appointees are engaged in mass scale corruption which the government has no capacity, choice or ability to stop. Though the government has a synthetic majority in the parliament (obtained by providing perks and privileges) by not a free and fair election the Rajapaksa regime has a major uncertainty about its existence due to the lawlessness and international criticism and local pressure. Due to this the ministers, secretaries, political appointees are engaged in making quick short money engaging in sordid deals before the collapse of the administration.
When we read above it is clear the stakeholders above are joined in a system cycle where one partner cannot leave or does not wish to counter corruption, promote good governance, and work for the best interest of the people for losing benefits. Each partner is engaged in corruption where the centralized executive allows it to grow, disinterest to halt. This confirms the central power is also part and parcel of corruption. The action of the executive is appearing to be always in the aim of safeguarding its power, strengthening its political network locally in all parts of the country, neglecting the wellbeing of the people. The executive and its surrounded arms are politicized where the activities of the Rajapakse administration do not show any consistency in its governance locally and internationally.
Criticism against the opposition
There is a widespread speculation that the Rajapakse administration has strengthen its authoritarian power due to a weaker opposition. As a political analyst I don’t see there is a weaker opposition but I see a weaker public service, a politicized judiciary, corrupt police, a synthetic ruling legislature which does not represent the actual mandate of the general public and a weaker civil society which has given the authorization power to the executive to work for the best interest of preserving power forgetting the people who elected them.
There is a widespread criticism the opposition leader is violating the party constitution and prolonged his leadership by another six year term. There are allegations that the working committee of the party is consist of friends of the opposition leader who don’t have the capacity to lead the party to win elections. There are allegations within and outside the party that the leadership has continuously lost 17 elections from the year 2002 and the opposition leader don’t have the required capacity to lead the party and win the confidence of the general public and party supporters to win in coming elections so that the party leadership should change.
We wish to reiterate from the recent past there are no free fair elections held in Sri Lanka. The regime is disinterest to register voters in areas of minority community lives. If registered, the registered voter will be dropped from the voter list or no polling cards issued. From the day the election date is notified there are state sponsored attacks and assaults carried against the opposition party members and offices. During elections the police force are forcefully transferred to different areas and given instructions not to take action against election violence carried out by the ruling party mobsters. Due to this state sponsored violence the people’s actual franchise is not mandated during elections. There are credible reports alleging the 2010 general and presidential elections results are rigged and manipulated electronically. Owing to this there are no proper investigations conducted by the elections department. The regime is disinterest to stop this violence instead promotes sponsored mobsters to engage in elections violence to rig the opposition votes. These violations are mostly triggered by the ruling party in power against the opposition.
The only alternative to stop this election violence and abuses is to establish the 17th amendment which can bring the independent commissions which can consistently monitor the electoral registration and election process in a free and fair manner. Up to now the main opposition UNP has not met any free and fair elections under the 17th amendment after 1994. Though there are many persuasions from the joint opposition to legislate the 17th amendment the government or the president has never given any consideration to establish the 17th amendment which is detriment to the MR administration.

In a situation where there is a dishonest head of state who is a commander of the three armed forces and the police, a politicized judiciary, a corrupt legislature, a biased national media and a manipulative elections commission all of which collectively protect the corrupt executive how can a democratically elected opposition overrun the above and seek due process?
In a circumstance where the law of this country is not free and fair, not equitable for its citizens, where anti government voices are killed or abducted in white van, where ethnic religious minorities are prevented, attacked and assaulted in exercising religious rights where the countries head of state is disinterest, allowing to grow, abstaining to enforce the law and order, where people of this country cannot keep faith in a politicized police and a judiciary where the country’s ruling legislature creates laws to suppress the rights of its citizens how a democratically elected opposition can be blamed for not winning elections ?
If a country’s head of state who is the commander of the three armed forces is above the law and if the chief justice and the judiciary is undermining the law and if the democratically elected government behaves in an arbitrary and authoritarian way not working for the best interest of its citizens but protecting its power it is a sorry state of affair. The Rajapakse governance has ruined all its public service bodies from the parliament to the local government, from the chief justice to the attorney general, from the IGP to the constable to the lowest level comparing with previous governments.
All public services heads, ministry secretaries including the Foreign Service has become political appointments who are lackeys of the head of state who waits for opportunities to earn a quick buck during their tenure. The corruption has become such a low that inferior blood platelets and fuel are imported from black list companies out of tender procedures.
The citizens of the country has become senseless numb stooges watching the actions and acting of political lackeys stooping to the lowest waiting for an opportunity for appointments. The people’s strength of character is transformed into a defenseless and powerless state.

Under the circumstance there is no way a democratically elected opposition and the citizens can expect due process from judiciary of Sri Lanka. When the arms of the democracy are paralyzed there is no way an opposition can seek justice from the judiciary and the legislature unless a people’s rebellion. The people of Sri Lanka do not need a head of state/politician that should adopt mobster politics when required or who seeks or keep the help of thugs but a professional statesmen.

(The writer is a Human Rights Defender/Minority Rights activist who is raising awareness for Sri Lankans )
Courtesy Sri Lanka Guardian 

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