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Back to Total War?

| by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“…soon there will be no one but warriors and brigands.”
Jorge Luis Borges (The Garden of Forking Paths)

( April 3, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Last week, the Rajapaksas were put on notice by the international community, the electorate and the SLFP.

The UNHRC investigation will proceed, whether the Rajapaksas cooperate or not. Hopefully it will bring to light some of what the LTTE did in the name of Eelam and the Rajapaksas did in the name of anti-terrorism. 

The PC poll results demonstrate that the Rajapaksas are not immune to the law of diminishing marginal utility. So far elections have been held in eight (out of nine provinces) and in six of them, the UPFA’s share of vote has decreased, compared to the LG poll of 2011.

By placing the JHU-livewire Udaya Gammanpila at the head of the UPFA’s Colombo list, the Rajapaksas indicated that under the new regimen loyalty to the Ruling Family takes precedence over membership of the SLFP. Many SLFP voters responded by not voting for Mr. Gammanpila. Mr. Gammanpila’s sorry performance indicates that there is considerable discontent in the SLFP about the Rajapaksa practice of treating the party as their feudal property. 

The Siblings need to stymie the UNHRC investigation, prevent the erosion of their Sinhala-Buddhist base and crack down on dissent, nationally and within the SLFP.

A Tiger, alive and marauding, can be used to undermine the UNHRC investigation, repress the North with impunity, frighten the South into compliance and persecute (actual/potential) troublemakers, including within the SLFP. 

Only a resurgent Tiger can justify such a total war.

The wholesale banning of Tamil Diaspora organisations is an ominous step in this anti-democratic direction. 

The proscription will be ineffective in curtailing the activities of the proscribed organisations since they operate outside Sri Lanka (apart from the LTTE which is extinct and the Headquarters Group which does not seem to exist anywhere). Since the UN does not accept the Rajapaksa equation of separatism with terrorism, none of the countries in which these organisations are based will act against them, not even Australia.

But the proscription will be extremely useful nationally, to terrorise and persecute Tamils in general and Rajapaksa-opponents particular. Its main function will be to provide the Rajapaksas with another Sword of Damocles. 

The Rajapaksas might use this proscription to discourage even non-resident Lankans from cooperating with the UNHRC investigation. After all, many of the potential witnesses/informants would have families in Sri Lanka. And the Rajapaksas are proven votaries of the feudal practice of punishing the kin of absconding opponents. (When the authorities failed to apprehend Gen. Fonseka’s son-in-law, Danuna Tilakaratne, they persecuted his mother and grandmother.)

The recent arrests, including of Jeyakumari Balendran, Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Mahesan, indicate that the PTA may replace the White Vans as the main instrument of Rajapaksa-terror. This week’s mass proscription will create a terrain ideal for the PTA. As the mendacious campaign against the ‘Sinhala Tigers’ and the travesty of Tissanayagam trial proved, with the PTA evidence is not necessary; a heap of sufficiently lurid lies, repeated ad infinitum will do. The proscription will enable the Rajapaksas to arrest and detain any opponent under the PTA, just by accusing him/her of having links with a banned terrorist organisation (especially the Headquarters Group which seems as much of a Rajapaksa construct as the Viplavakari Vimukthi Peramuna of 2007-9).

The Rajapaksas are experimenting with multiple methods to control and pre-empt dissent in the South. For instance, there seems to be a plan to impose judicial restrictions on the democratic right to protest, using public inconvenience as an excuse. In response to a petition filed by a citizen, the Supreme Court has already directed “the Secretary Defence, the IGP, the Attorney General and petitioner Sanath Kumara Atukorala to submit to the court….the procedure followed in other countries to prevent demonstrations and protest rallies from inconveniencing the public” . Needless to say when the laws come they will be used only against anti-government demonstrations. (Incidentally the Rajapaksas used a similar method to expedite the Presidential election and to de-merge the North and the East).

The regime is also planning to institute a ‘legal’ crackdown on organisations working on environmental issues. Lankan capitalism is increasingly becoming an ‘acolyte-capitalism’, with the acolyte capitalists accorded near total socio-economic impunity. New methods are needed to prevent protests against the public harm these acolyte capitalists cause in their single-minded pursuit of profit (as in Rathupaswala). In future, all environment organisations will have to register themselves with the CEA. And according to the CEA, “certain groups who had flagged themselves as NGOs…. (are) deliberately overreacting to vague evidence of environmental pollution as well as on development projects” . Once registration with the CEA is made mandatory, the CEA can give a free hand to polluting industries while denying registration to environment organisations protesting against the effects of such pollution.

The mass proscription of the Diaspora organisations is therefore not an isolated incident. It is an important component of a gamut of measures the Siblings plan to introduce in order to kill all national dissent and ensure the long term survival of familial rule.

Dividing People

In Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, Joseph K is arrested because “someone must have been telling lies” about him. In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, people are arrested because the regime concocts lies about them.

Such as the Sinhala Tigers; or Mr. Tissanayagam; or Ms. Jeyakumari.

The Rajapaksa attempts to resurrect the Tiger began almost as soon as the Tiger died. In August 2009, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said, “Neither the President nor the Defence Secretary has stopped this war… The war will stop only after all the enemies who acted to the detriment of their motherland were brought to book irrespective of whether they were local or international” . Within hours of this proclamation, the Colombo Crimes Division, under the leadership of the then Rajapaksa-favourite SSP Vaas Gunawardana, made a sensational discovery: an explosive-laden van about to be sent to Colombo on a suicide mission. The CCD arrested the van but released the driver. Fortunately the state still possessed a modicum of autonomy then. Less than 24 hours after the momentous discovery, the DIG of the Northern Province (and former STF Commandant) Nimal Lewke dismissed the story as ‘suspicious and questionable’ .

Today the Lankan state is under near-total Rajapaksa occupation. The Siblings can concoct any lies about anything or anyone with complete impunity. The latest such construct is a ‘plot’ by the resurgent Tigers to kill President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Pretty soon, the regime might find a connection between this plot, the proscribed Diaspora organisations and various Lankan ‘troublemakers’.

The proscriptions will also be used to prevent a majority-minority alliance, which is a necessary precondition for the dislodging of the Rajapaksas from power. The Siblings want a country fragmented along every conceivable line and structurally incapable of human solidarity and politico-electoral cooperation. If the minorities are also divided amongst themselves (Wahabis attacking non-Wahabi Muslims) it would suit the Rajapaksas even more. 

Soon the regime will be able use the PTA against those who strive for ethno-religious cooperation in the oppositional (politico-electoral) space, just by linking them to a proscribed (ergo ‘terrorist’) group.


Indian Express – 11.8.2009
Daily Mirror – 13.8.2009