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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Supremacy of the national security apparatus

by Basil Fernando
in the previous article, Can the idea of nationalism be separated from the idea of justice?, I discussed the idea that the state that exists in Sri Lanka now is a national security state. The national security state is the result of the operation of the 1978 Constitution. What are the basic assumptions on which this national security state is constructed?

1.That trade unionism is bad for the country. Therefore the security apparatus should be allowed to crush the emergence of trade unionism and all the activities of trade unions. The 1980 general strike was crushed ruthlessly and the justification was that such trade union actions are bad for the country. Now even court orders are used to stop such trade union actions.
 2.That the existence of independent political parties is bad for the country. Therefore the national security apparatus is allowed to take whatever actions it decides fit to ensure that the political parties are not allowed to operate freely. All kinds of attacks on political parties, including kidnappings, assassinations and every other form of attack on those who become politically active, is now allowed.
 3.That free and fair elections on a regular basis are bad for the country. Therefore “the electoral map should be closed”. For this purpose the possibility of conducting elections under an independent election commissioner should not be allowed. Further, the security apparatus can do whatever it takes to ensure that free and fair elections are prevented.
 4.That the exercise of freedom of expression and association is bad for the country. Therefore the security apparatus is allowed to take whatever action, including extrajudicial killings and other acts of violence, against journalists. Also, the independent media institutions can be attacked. Impunity for all such actions is assured.
 5.That the existence of civilian policing, working on the basis of the rule of law, is bad for the country. Therefore the policing system should be brought under political control. By this method, the right to credible investigations into all allegations of crimes is denied now. The place of the civilian police is given to the security apparatus.
 6.That the independence of judiciary is bad for the country. Therefore the judiciary should be subjected to every possible control so that the judiciary will not obstruct the operation of the national security apparatus.
 7.Any criticism of the national security is bad for the country. Those who engage in any such criticism inside the country or out are “enemies” Therefore they should be seriously punished.
 8.Finally, most important national institution is the ministry of defence. One who the actual head of ministry of defense hold the most powerful position next the executive president of Sri Lanka.

All these are no longer mere ideology. Every aspect of these prohibitions is meticulously carried out and the people have been experiencing these for several decades now.

Therefore, the political system that exists now cannot be one that has been brought about by social contract among the people of Sri Lanka. All people desire to live in a situation where they can enjoy civil liberties, where there are opportunities available for them to pursue what they wish to do, and that there is the possibility of a earning an adequate income for every person.

The national security state operates against civil liberties and denies opportunities and, above all, imposes conditions within which people are unable to earn an adequate income to live a decent life.

What all this implies is that a political discourse that does not reckon with the existence of a national security state is based on the illusion of Sri Lanka still being a democracy. Naturally, such a view fails to reflect the actual reality. I have used the term social contract in the same way as John Rawls used it in his work, A Theory of Justice.

The first step towards developing any enlightened discussion on the future of Sri Lanka is to reckon with the fact that what exists today is state control by security agencies and not by a political system acceptable to a free people.


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