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Reforms in Sri Lankan Universities

| by Aboobacker Rameez

( January 23, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian)
It is heartening to see a suitably qualified person being appointed as the Minister of Education. It is even more heartening to see the Minister, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe, attempting to introduce much needed reforms to the universities.

One of the other important aspects that has credibly crippled the system of Universities in Sri Lanka is the appointment of non-academic staff by the politicians, particularly the Higher Education Minister, with the collusion of the Vice Chancellors, some of whom also include their candidates in the list to be appointed as non-academic staff.
There are two key important factors, which I think have contributed to the total collapse of system in the universities in Sri Lanka: 1) the process involved in the selection of Council Members; and 2) the process involved in the selection of Vice Chancellors. It is encouraging to note that the new Minister’s reform proposals have taken note of these factors. This article seeks to propose suggestions on how the system in the university could be made immune to political meddling and other influences, so that there will be good governance and the autonomy and integrity of universities intact.

Selection of Council Members

In the past, politicians including the Higher Education Minister, and respective Vice Chancellors of universities played a pivotal role in the selection process of council members. They were selected not purely based on their educational and professional qualifications, but based on their political affiliation with politicians or to their political parties. Vice Chancellors also exploited the opportunity, based on their influence with the subject Minister, in recommending to the UGC/HEM a list of names to be selected to the council. Hence, the council of some universities was constituted with individuals with questionable credentials. I know of a University Council where a brother of a former Higher Education Minister and a relative of the Vice Chancellor were appointed as members of the council. These members are provided personal transportation or their travelling expenses reimbursed; they are also provided with lodging, honorarium and other sitting allowances. These perks and privileges functioned prompting them to play a passive role in the councils, simply giving consent to the decision taken by the Vice Chancellors. It is true that Councils are deemed as mere rubber stamps in the university sector. However, we cannot wholly dismiss the important role these council members can in reality play. They can indeed play a constructive role in making the universities real hubs of knowledge and professional ventures where scholars of higher standard are produced. The sordid practice I mentioned above has not only brought the universities into disrepute, but it has degenerated the university system in Sri Lanka. Thus, it is important that the Higher Education Minister rethinks strategies for the selection of council members to make it corruption-free and efficient. There should be clear-cut criteria for the selection of council members. In my humble view, first and foremost, the criteria should not merely focus upon the educational qualifications of the applicants, but it should also encompass professional expertise and the industrial experience/expertise of those applicants. Secondly, meddling of politicians and Vice Chancellors of respective universities in the selection process of council members should not be permitted. A commission in the UGC, free from political interference, should be delegated with the task of selecting the council members. This process, I believe, will ensure the restoration of a well-organized system in the country, thereby empowering the council members as guardians of the universities, instead of mere rubber stamps.

Process of Vice Chancellor Selection

The lapse in the selection process of council members consequently affects the selection of suitably qualified candidates to the position of Vice Chancellor (VC) in Universities. More importantly, appointing the Vice Chancellors of Universities is so far the prerogative of the President of the country. Thus, politics plays a key role in the selection process of VCs. President favors, for appointment, those who are loyal to him and his parties from a list of 3 candidates forwarded to him by the UGC after being short-listed by the respective University Councils. The Manifesto of His Excellency President Maithiripala Sirisena categorically states that the “Senate of each University will be responsible for the selection of VCs in the future.” This is indeed commendable, not simply because the task would be entrusted to a non-political entity, but because the Senate is the highest standard entity, constituted with the Deans of faculties, the Heads of departments, and members of each faculties of the university, in terms of academic affairs and that they would select the most suitable persons in terms of educational and professional qualification, and administrative experience/expertise without undue political interference or other influences. If this is not possible to implement in the short run, I recommend that a professional committee/body in the UGC level free from political interference should be constituted with the responsibility of selecting the most qualified person from the 3 short-listed candidates recommended by the council of respective universities. It is indeed plausible to assume that people with little academic background/qualifications would be appointed even in the future provided that the status quo is not checked.

One of the other important aspects that has credibly crippled the system of Universities in Sri Lanka is the appointment of non-academic staff by the politicians, particularly the Higher Education Minister, with the collusion of the Vice Chancellors, some of whom also include their candidates in the list to be appointed as non-academic staff. This politically motivated outrageous trend needs to be arrested with an immediate effect, given the fact that such appointments brought the universities into disrepute to a greater extent. We hear that such politically appointed non-academic staff dictate terms to their administrative heads because of their political influence. Instead, competitive exams, constructive interviews and presentations are some other ways and means through which non-academic positions can be filled at the Universities. We are optimistic that the present Higher Education Minister will never leave a room for obnoxiously sordid practices to be perpetuated in the Universities.

Overall, this process, if it is revamped, will ensure the good governance and autonomy of the universities and thus universities will serve as places of genuine intellectual discourses, nurturing scholars with both theoretical and practical/applied knowledge to keep abreast with the modern trend of the world and Sri Lanka.

This writer is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at South Eastern University of Sri Lanka(SEUSL). He is waiting for the viva on his PhD dissertation submitted at National University of Singapore (NUS).

Sri Lanka: Window of opportunity to rebuild damaged legal structure

| The following statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission

( January 23, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The 100-day reform programme of the new government is an opportune moment for rebuilding the legal structure of Sri Lanka, a precondition for achieving the “good governance” that has been promised.

The legal structure of Sri Lanka has suffered a great fall, due to what has been termed as “tomfooling with the constitution”. From 1972 on, and even more so in the wake of the 1978 Constitution, drastic decline in respect for law has been witnessed. In fact, this period has seen a concerted political assault on the basic principles of separation of powers and the rule of law.

All public institutions have suffered serious damage over several decades. Resuscitating the 17th Amendment would be the initial measure for undoing this damage. However, much more needs to be done, particularly in terms of creating functional institutions, by way of necessary budgetary allocations to enable the required improvements
The details of this decline have been well documented. Now is the time to envisage ways to rebuild the legal foundations of the country. This will require attending to the following: removal of all provisions of the 1978 Constitution contrary to the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law; resuscitating basic public institutions by making corrections; re-invigorating lost traditions relating to the independence of the judiciary and removing obstacles to the sustainability of the judicial process; reforming legal education; and undoing psychological damage caused by extensive lawless measures.

Removal of Constitution provisions contrary to principles of democracy and the rule of law:

The process of removing the contrary provisions has already begun; proposals have been made under the 100-day programme of the new government to remove all provisions of the 1978 Constitution that undermine democracy and the rule of law. Today (21st January 2015), the draft legislation to repeal the 18th Amendment to the Constitution is tabled before Parliament; expeditious passage is expected; other measures will be introduced thereafter. The proposed measures are necessary and will pave the way for further measures to strengthen the legal structure of the country. However, the task of undoing all the damage done by the 1978 Constitution will necessarily be very difficult and will require consistent commitment for a considerable period. Much will depend on a conscientious group of persons, both from the government and the civil society, sticking to the task of constitutional and legal reform. The Bar Association, which has been playing an admirable role in the recent times, will need to sustain its efforts till these difficult tasks are achieved. Much will also depend on legal scholars and other opinion makers making their contribution. A critical and well-informed public opinion on legal issues is direly needed.

Resuscitating the basic public institutions:

All public institutions have suffered serious damage over several decades. Resuscitating the 17th Amendment would be the initial measure for undoing this damage. However, much more needs to be done, particularly in terms of creating functional institutions, by way of necessary budgetary allocations to enable the required improvements. Considerable budgetary allocations need to be made in order to improve Sri Lanka’s policing system, one of the institutions seriously undermined under the administration of the 1978 Constitution. The major excuse for inefficiency in this regard is the lack of adequate funding for the development of the necessary expertise in terms of modern requirements and also funding for basic material requirements for the improvement of communications, transport, forensic equipment, and other such facilities.

The structure of command responsibility within the policing system has witnessed considerable decline due to the politicization process introduced during the last decades. Of particular concern is the manner in which the Deputy Inspector Generals of Police and the Assistant Superintendents of police have been playing their leadership and supervisory roles over the rank and file of the organization. Much of the functioning of the local police stations in the manner required by law will depend on the way corrections are made in the supervisory roles played by the Assistants Superintendents of police. It is encouraging that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has shown great courage and leadership to function within the framework of the rule of law, as demonstrated by the manner in which he extended his cooperation for the conduct of the recent presidential election. It is to be hoped that he will initiate a process of upgrading the quality of his high-ranking officers and thereby pave the way for change in the manner in which the rank and file continues their work. The IGP’s attention should be directed towards restoring the discipline of his officers. Complaints of rampant corruption, disrespect for the public – in particular for the citizens of lower income groups – the practice of extrajudicial killings, and the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment are the unfortunate characteristics of the Sri Lankan police. One of the results of this is the loss of public confidence and the public’s refusal to cooperate. Without a qualitative change of cooperation between the police and the public, the promised goal of good governance cannot be achieved. Therefore, one of the priorities for the government must be to reform the police.

A further aspect relating to the promises of the new government is curbing corruption. However, the present institutional framework for this, available through Bribery and Corruption Commission, is wholly inadequate. The public has noticed the tendency for this Commission itself to be corrupt and for the most part the Commission has been unable to win public confidence. While some degree of credibility can be achieved by the removal of those who have proved to be corrupt and inefficient, major improvement can only be achieved if the necessary amendments to the law relating to the Commission are made and considerable budgetary allocations are made for it to function as an independent institution.

In the past decades, there has been much criticism against the functioning of the Attorney General’s Department. It is to be hoped that with the government keeping its promise not to interfere with the legal process, the Department will now take its own initiative to regain lost credibility. The legal officers of the Department must critically evaluate what went wrong in the recent past and urge for reforms. The present Attorney General, according to reports, has demonstrated considerable courage in resisting the attempt of the former President to subvert the counting of the ballots by way of imposing emergency rule. It is to be hoped this same courage will be demonstrated to zealously safeguard the Department’s independence and also to ensure a high degree of responsible commitment to adhere to the rule of law by all the members of the Department. One of the criticisms of the Department in the recent decades has been the involvement of some of its officers in resisting the legal process to ensure impunity for security officers that have allegations against them. Such compromises will undermine the Department’s credibility and the government’s promise to ensure good governance. Particularly in the area of fundamental rights, the role that has been played by the Department should be critically examined, and corrective measures must be taken. Department officers supporting officers charged with fundamental rights violations is a practice that should be discontinued and earlier traditions regarding this matter should be restored.

Re-invigorating judicial independence and re-establishing sustainability of judicial process:

The crucial institution that needs change is the Judiciary. The process of politicization over the decades has undermined the Judiciary even at its highest levels. The last fatal attack on the Judiciary was the removal of former Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake and the appointment of Mr. Mohan Peiris as the Chief Justice. This needs to be addressed immediately; corrective measures must be taken forthwith. Trust in the independence of the judiciary cannot be restored till this problem remains.

After such corrective actions are taken there should be re-examination about the many wrongs that have taken place in terms of appointment policies and other interferences. Much of this change should start from within. The judiciary and the legal profession must initiate a visible process of self-correction.

While the Bar Association has won admiration for its courageous struggle to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, it should be noted that there is public outrage about the manner in which the lawyers themselves abuse the legal process and have been a part of forces that have contributed to undermining of the proper administration of law. The Bar Association should strengthen the disciplinary processes regarding its own members, as it is done in all other countries where the rule of law is maintained.

Reforming legal education:

There is something radically wrong with the way legal education is being conducted in all the institutions such as the Law College and also the faculties of law. The assault on law and the judicial process, which has taken place in the last decade, has met no serious resistance from the legal profession as a whole. This lack of resistance is a clear indication of poor education regarding law and the legal process. Legal education must create lawyers that are imbibed with a deep understanding of what is involved in the maintenance of the rule of law. They must also have a deep enough understanding of the factors that enable the functioning of judicial independence. The law student must be able to gain a critical understanding of what has gone wrong with the legal structure in the country. Such education must create a sense of disgust against the practices of the legal profession that easily compromise all principles and behave in a despicable fashion betraying all the great traditions associated with law, the judicial process, and the legal profession. It is up to the academic staff to take a critical view of the kind of education that has been imparted and to take necessary measures to qualitatively improve such measures in the future.

Undoing the psychological damage caused by extensive lawless measures:

During the last decades, people belonging to all sectors of the society have suffered greatly due to the way the lawlessness was been allowed to proliferate. As the Asian Human Rights Commission has repeatedly pointed out, the idea of legality has lost relevance in Sri Lanka. Many of the revelations in the recent weeks – of the unbelievable levels to which state resources have been abused by the previous regime – relate to actions made possible only because of such lawlessness.

Restoring the confidence of the people in the law and judicial process will not be an easy task. Much work will have to be done both by the Government and by the civil society in Sri Lanka, including its intellectual community, by way of critical engagement on this issue for a considerable period of time before people can begin to regain confidence again. Much work also needs to be done through the media, particularly through the use of state media, by way of encouragement of critical debates on the rule of law, if popular education needed to achieve good governance is to be realized.

Time For Course Correction For Indian Trade Union Movement

| by N.S.Venkataraman

( January 23, 2015, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Several decades back, Karl Marx gave strong call to the workers that “you have nothing to lose except the chain”. This call of Karl Marx resounded across the world, as it was then appropriate to the issues and problems faced by the blue collar workmen. It resulted in the development of very strong movement where every work man participated with enthusiasm and it created fear and apprehension amongst the exploitative employers. May Day , celebrated across the world now , is a tribute to the imagination and pioneering efforts of Karl Marx.

The movement has now even gone a step further causing more confusion, with the self employed people like autorickshaw drivers and small merchants forming associations and claiming sort of trade union rights, resorting to mass action on one pretext or the other and paralysing the society.
However, now many have started wondering whether the trade union movement has outlived it’s need and now has assumed different dimensions and shape, becoming a tool for the politicians.

The ground reality today is that the trade unions are affiliated to one political party or the other and have come to represent the interests of the political parties, where agitations are launched or not launched depending upon the particular conditions facing the political parties. The immediate example is the recent strike by the transport employees in Tamil Nadu , which was organised by a few unions affiliated to the opposition parties and thwarted by the unions affiliated to the ruling party. The political parties are really serving their political interests by organising the workers under the cover of the trade union concept, and using them to suit their interests.

When Karl Marx envisaged the trade union movement ,he had in mind the poor and the downtrodden people who could not get even a square meal a day and who were exploited mercilessly by the then rich employers in various methods. Today, large section of the members of the trade union movement are no more those whom Karl Marx sought to support and represent.

It is ironical that even those working as air pilots getting huge salary and perks and officers in the bank, public sector undertakings as well as college professors and others , who live in posh flats and own cars and live in comfortable conditions, also form unions and claim trade union rights. They organise themselves and resort to agitations and strikes , whimsically claiming that they are being exploited.

To add to such strange situation, now Information technology(I T)employees

also want to form trade unions and they are being encouraged by the political parties to do so. None of these IT employees can be called as deprived and downtrodden persons and one would know this if he would care to see their life style. The well paid I T employees strangely argue that they have the right to form associations and unions and claim that they are covered under the Industrial Disputes Act and Labour Act !

Obviously, the trade union movement today has become an exploitative means on the part of the organised employees, drifting far away from the original image of the trade union members as exploited class.

Mass agitations and strikes by these organised class of employees have become the order of the day, often disrupting national life and inconveniencing millions of people. The public resentment against this sort of behaviour of the organised class are now becoming evident but these organised class , backed by diverse political parties and led directly or indirectly by political leaders, do not seem to care.

It is high time that a relook should be taken into such behaviour of the organised class of employees, which is causing set back to the economic interests of the country.

The movement has now even gone a step further causing more confusion, with the self employed people like autorickshaw drivers and small merchants forming associations and claiming sort of trade union rights, resorting to mass action on one pretext or the other and paralysing the society.

Of course, there are still millions of unorganised workers in the country today like domestic servants , unskilled agricultural workers , construction workers who are not in a position to assert their rights and demand justice when exploited. May be, the concept of trade union movement still have some relevance to this class of unorganised people.

The present situation certainly calls for a re look and perhaps legislations should be evolved fixing income level above which the rights of employees to organise themselves into associations for the purpose of carrying out agitations and strike should be denied.

eThis has become a matter of urgency as the present style and content is no more the one that Karl Marx knew of. It has become a tool to meet the interests of the political parties and the organised class also cooperate with them, as they can get the benefits , while meeting the interests of the political parties also. The trade union movement has to undergo a course correction now, as the larger national interests are being affected and inconvenience caused to the public by the exploitative methods of the organised class.

Nepal: Promulgation of New Constitution: Dead line Missed

| by S. Chandrasekharan

( January 23, 2015, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) As expected the dead line of Jan 22, 2015 for the promulgation of a new constitution is being missed. The political parties refused to compromise and made little headway in drafting a new constitution. One whole year was wasted.

Too late in the day and very close to the deadline the eight ruling two parties with two independents on January 20 tried to pass a resolution for a panel with a questionnaire on the issues that remain to be solved and get it voted through the assembly. Opposition groups mainly led by the Maoists of UCPN (M) of Dahal with the support of the two Madhesi Groups of Gachhaadhar and Upendra Yadav physically prevented the resolution from being passed.

Tuesday the 20th of January could be called the black day in the parliamentary history of Nepal and the display of hooliganism seen on that day in the Parliament was unprecedented. Chairs were thrown at the podium. Microphones were thrown at K.P.Oli chairman of the UML as well as on respectable UML parliamentarians like Bidya Bhandari and Rishikesh Pokharel. Even Prime minister Sushil Koirala was manhandled. 12 security Marshals were injured in the melee.

Responsibility for the violence perpetrated must be placed squarely on the Maoist leader Dahal who called for “physical obstruction” of the house to prevent the bill being passed. He now claims that his call was for “peaceful obstruction” and the media in Nepal is giving a spin to the whole issue that Dahal has since apologised! Violence was pre planned and Dahal as the senior leader of the opposition is responsible.

Instead of taking immediate action on the chair throwers who were many, the Speaker is said to have formed a task force to enquire into the cases of hooliganism. This is another instance of weakness displayed by an indecisive government.

One other instance that comes to my mind is the decision of the government to send the disputed issues once again to the CPDCC ( Constitutional Political Dialogue & Consensus Committee) headed by Baburam Bhattarai on the 8th of this month with a deadline of 5 days to solve the issues that had remained unsolved for one whole year! Baburam Bhattarai had already made up his mind and the issues were returned promptly on the 13th.

The Maoists then started street agitation from the 15th resulting in damage to many vehicles and shops that refused to close both in Kathmandu and elsewhere. The Maoists now joined by the Madhesi groups have threatened to “intensify” the agitation throughout the country. The government has sufficient forces at its disposal to handle the agitation. The people and the civil societies would certainly go for the support of the government if life and property are threatened.

Instead the Government seems to be worried about the “bandas” getting out of hand!

Many of the nine points raised by the opposition alliance led by Maoists could be resolved without much delay. These include the form of governance where the alliance wants a mixed form of governance, citizenship through mother, bicameral mixed system for federal and pradesh elections, separate constitutional court etc.

But the sticking point will continue be on State Structuring. The Maoist Alliance is still adamant on 10 provinces while the ruling parties are unwilling to deviate from the seven provinces they had proposed. To me, it appears that Dahal’s moves are tactical. It does not matter to the Maoists whether it is seven or ten but what matters to them is they could use this opportunity to consolidate their position both in the Terai and among Janajathis!

Another problem is going to arise on the 22nd when the UML chairman K.P.Oli will lay claim on the post of Prime Ministership. This was the understanding in the ruling coalition when Sushil Koirala took over earlier.

Of late, K.P.Oli is seen to be more of a stumbling block and his elevation as Prime Minister will be another setback for early promulgation of the new constitution. On the 15th of this month, he made a categorical statement that a “federal system separating the hills from Terai is unacceptable. Earlier on the 4th he said that the new provinces must integrate the mountain, the hill and the plains to generate and preserve the country’s larger identity! This means going back to the Panchayat days where the regions were configured vertically.

More problems and more agitations could therefore be expected this year if an unrelenting Oli is to take over as Prime Minister!


| by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Is it always the same Spring
Who reprises her role forever?”
Neruda (The Book of Questions)

( January 22, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Why were the police slower than slow in acting against marauding Parliamentarian Palitha Thevarapperuma?

Wasn’t this tardiness due to the fact that the alleged miscreant is on the governing side? Does it not demonstrate that as far as the police are concerned nothing very much has changed?
If a UNP politician attacked a UPFA politician just a month ago, the police would have arrested him in the blink of an eye. When will the police learn that their job is to move against all wrong doers and not just wrong doers who are on the ‘wrong’ side of the political divide?

Mahinda Rajapaksa and his motley crew of loyalists are waiting, eagerly and expectantly, for the new government to make their old mistakes.

Will it?
Palitha Thevarapperuma incident is a test case. If the new government fails it, Yaha Palanaya will become an empty slogan, a joke, a forgotten footnote, like the Dharmishta Samajaya of 1977. Instead of the rule of law, law of the rulers will continue to reign; different rulers, same impunity.


Why did Gotabhaya Rajapaksa open a separate account to deposit monies obtained from selling the former Army Headquarters?

Did he not know that according to Chapter XVII of the Constitution all revenues of the republic must be credited to the Consolidated Fund?

149. (1) The funds of the Republic not allocated by law to specific purposes shall form one Consolidated Fund into which shall be paid the produce of all taxes, imposts, rates and duties and all other revenues and receipts of the Republic not allocated to specific purposes. 

Mr. Rajapaksa has claimed that he opened the account with cabinet approval. Did he not know that such separate allocation requires parliamentary approval/knowledge?

151. (1) Notwithstanding any of the provisions of Article 149, Parliament may by law create a Contingencies Fund for the purpose of providing for urgent and unforeseen expenditure.
(2) The Minister in charge of the subject of Finance, if satisfied –

(a) that there is need for any such expenditure, and
(b) that no provision for such expenditure exists,
may, with the consent of the President, authorize provision to be made therefore, by an advance from the Contingencies Fund.

(3) As soon as possible after every such advance, a Supplementary Estimate shall be presented to Parliament for the purpose of replacing the amount so advanced.

Mr. Rajapaksa claims that the money was credited not to the Consolidated Fund but to a separate account for the purpose of constructing a new headquarters for the army. Why did he feel the need to bypass the Consolidated Fund entirely? Was it to escape parliamentary oversight? Since Mr. Rajapaksa neither obtained parliamentary approval to open the account nor kept the parliament informed about account-operations, wasn’t he acting in violation of the constitution?

Did he knowingly act outside the Constitution? Did he think the Constitution mattered not?


Will the new government end up with as large a stable of ministers as the old one?
The new government seems to be acquiring new ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers, one day at a time! Does it think that by increasing the number of ministers gradually it can hoodwink the populace? Has it not learnt from Rajapaksa mistakes?


Who made the decision to privatise the two armouries maintained by the Sri Lanka Navy in Colombo and Galle and why? 

Until 2012, the Navy was in charge of maintaining these weapons stores for merchant vessels plying pirate-infested waters. In 2012, the storage facilities were handed over to a private company called Avant Garde.

What were the reasons for this act of privatisation? It could not have been lack of profitability because it was reportedly a very profitable operation. The Navy could not have been overstretched, because the war was over. 

What was the logic in getting the Navy to run tourist hotels, maintain the Floating Markets and clean the Vihara Maha Devi Park while an important and profitable security related task is given over to a private company?

According to media reports, the Navy suffered a loss of revenue amounting to Rs.300 million due to this privatisation . Is this true?

This deal, like so many other deals which had nothing to do with national-security, was shrouded in secret. It needs to be held up to public scrutiny. The public must know why the Rajapaksas implemented this act of privatisation, to the detriment of the Navy and to the benefit of Avant Garde.

Was this curious transaction another indication that the Rajapaksas were building a military-commercial complex, under their control, for their politico-economic benefit?


Will the practice of singing the National Anthem in Tamil be restored?

This practice was banned by President Rajapaksa, in a petty act of revenge, after Tamil-Diaspora protests caused the cancellation of his second Oxford Union lecture in December 2010. The LLRC recommended its restoration as a necessary step towards national reconciliation. Will that recommendation be implemented? When?

When will the new government move to reclaim the monies owed to the state by heavyweights of the previous regime? 

These include,

Rs. 30.49 million for the use of the commercial service of the Air Force, just from December 1st 2014 to January 8th 2015. Among those who used this service sans payment for electioneering were Namal Rajapaksa (Rs. 15.08million), Wimal Weerawansa (Rs. 5.98million), Basil Rajapaksa Rs. 4.81million) and Susil Premjayanth (Rs. 2.6million), according to an expose in The Sunday Leader by Nirmala Kannangara. 

Rs. 140 million to the CTB, according to Transparency International . Half of the operational fleet of the CTB was reportedly used for electioneering purposes.

Rs. 2.03 billion to state and public media organisations, for election ads. 

When will the relevant state institutions ask the Rajapaksas and other former power-wielders to pay their dues? Will the state take legal action, if necessary, to obtain these payments?

When will justice be done to Jeyakumari Balendran and other civilian Tamils taken into custody to prove a non-existent LTTE threat?

The same government which informed the courts that it has no evidence against Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP arrested the aged Ms. Balendran on terrorism charges. Ms. Balendran has been fighting to know the fate of her youngest son, a child-conscript who handed himself over for rehabilitation and vanished. Her only surviving child, a daughter aged 12, is in a children’s home in Killinochchi.

When will Jeyakumari Balendran and others like her know freedom? When will Kumaran Pathmanathan’s freedom end?

Will the National Executive Council end the various exorbitant privileges Lankan parliamentarians have allocated themselves, overtime?

Why should elected representatives be entitled to a substantial pension after serving just 5 years while most Lankans do not have a pension or must work for long years to qualify for one?

Will all members of every new parliament have the right to import duty-free vehicles and sell them?
In Burkina Faso, a President of 27 years was forced out of office by a popular uprising. Post-revolution, bowing to popular demand, the country’s parliamentarians agreed to halve their salaries .

Can we learn from that excellent example?

Mahinda Rajapaksa and his motley crew of loyalists are waiting, eagerly and expectantly, for the new government to make their old mistakes.
Will it?

  • http://www.priu.gov.lk/Cons/1978Constitution/Chapter_17_Amd.html
  • http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2012/10/14/arabian-sea-maritime-security-temporarily-at-risk/
  • http://www.sundaytimes.lk/120819/news/dispute-with-britain-over-sea-marshals-9402.html
  • http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2015/01/18/flying-high-with-public-funds/
  • http://www.srilankamirror.com/news/item/1738-rs-140-m-loss-for-sltb-due-to-prez-polls-tisl
  • http://www.care2.com/causes/burkina-faso-whats-happened-since-the-revolution.html

Sri Lanka returns to fold of democracy

| by Kuldip Nayar

Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa did not regret the blood bath that the Sri Lankan Army indulged in even after the LTTE surrendered

( January 21, 2015, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) New Delhi had lots to explain when Mahinda Rajpaksa was re-elected as Sri Lanka’s President for the second time. India had supplied him small arms which he liberally used to kill the Tamils, the largest minority in that country. He should have been tried for war crimes because he killed 40,000 Tamils in cold blood even after the surrender by what was then called the LTTE, the militant face of Tamils in northern Sri Lanka.

That he tried to woo both military and police chiefs to stay back even after the defeat shows how adroitly he led a democratic India up the garden path. Yet New Delhi should have known what was all over — that he ruled the country by force.

One of his brothers was the defence secretary. I can never forget his role because the police harassed me at night. My only crime was to observe that the now-defunct LTTE should be fought politically, not with the military. That night there was a knock at my door. The police did nothing except to see my passport. The message was clear. I left the country the following day and have never returned to Colombo.

Now that the country has ousted the dictatorship, it should implement the old US-sponsored resolution, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The resolution said that Sri Lankan government should conduct an “independent and credible” investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and the untold atrocities committed in the last phase of the war.

Unfortunately, one message that came loud and clear was that New Delhi tried it best to defend the Rajpaksa government. But the 47-nation strong body, led by the US, not only brushed aside India’s objections but also refused to water down the resolution. As a protest of Delhi's attitude, the DMK had withdrawn support at that time. It is still not too late to constitute the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) suggested by India at that time, to probe the atrocities unleashed which would bring skeletons out of the Sri Lankan cupboard. A similar attempt earlier proved to be futile because the Sri Lankan government, the accused, held the probe itself. Naturally, nothing worthwhile emerged from the investigation, which was a sham.

Indeed, it is heartening to see Sri Lanka returning to the fold of democracy. But it is unfortunate that, in contrast, people of Pakistan are not asserting themselves to have real democracy back. The surrender of politicians on the constitution of military courts is the recent example.

What it meant is an amendment in the Constitution to provide for trial of terror suspects by military courts for a period of two years. Unfortunately, the only comment came from General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s military chief, who said: “Special courts are not the desire of the army but need of extraordinary times”. The timid politicians gave concurrence by their silence.

Both Sri Lanka and Pakistan are our neighbours. What happens there can have repercussions in India. That the roots of democracy in our country are deep enough to withstand such developments is heartening to see. Yet a dictatorship next door is disconcerting. New Delhi cannot export democracy to other countries. But it should do all it can to see the will of people prevailing in the neighbourhood, without interfering in the internal affairs of the countries.

Dictatorships get a fillip when democracies falter. India committed this cardinal sin when it abstained from voting at the UN Human Rights Council a few years ago. A resolution was sought to be passed to seek an international, transparent inquiry to find out whether Sri Lanka had killed in cold blood 40,000 soldiers and others in the wake of hostilities against the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE). Even after they surrendered unconditionally.

India's abstention at that time reminded me of the words of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru: “When aggression takes place or human rights are violated, we will not and cannot remain neutral.” Yet the Manmohan Singh government was found placating the dictatorial government headed by Rajapaksa. New Delhi did not bother the harm it would be doing to the cause of Tamils' rights and their own say in governance.

My hunch is that bureaucrats in the Ministry of External Affairs, with their mindset, decided to stay absent because of what they thought was “in the interest of the country.”

The then hapless Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid went along. He probably wanted the release of 100 fishermen who had “strayed” into the waters claimed by Sri Lanka. I was not surprised to read the Rajapaksa government's reaction: Thank you.

No doubt, New Delhi was under pressure from the democratic world, led by America, that China and Pakistan, where democracy has been reduced to a relative term, supported Colombo. I do not regret the obliteration of the LTTE, which was largely a terrorists' organisation. But as a humanist, I feel sad over the killing of soldiers and their supporters after the surrender.

The Sri Lankan army, obviously with the blessings of President Rajapaksa and his brother, Defence Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, had no remorse over their indulging in a blood bath.

The world would not have known about the killings if the enterprising BBC Channel 4 had not shown the documentary on the killings and atrocities committed not only against the LTTE troops but also against the innocent Tamils. Colombo’s own inquiry was eyewash, exonerating the army and heaping the blame on the Tamils who wanted an equal say in the affairs of Sri Lanka. Will they get it under the new regime is a test for its democratic governance.

Gota's Real War

How the U.S. Can Help Sri Lanka Turn the Corner—with a targeted war crimes prosecution

| by Ryan Goodman

( janaury 21, 2015, New York City, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Obama administration helped catalyze the United Nations’ ongoing efforts to bring accountability in Sri Lanka for mass war crimes committed in that country’s civil war. In a New York Times Op-Ed, I discuss the historic opportunity presented by this month’s surprising defeat of the autocratic Rajapaska regime in national elections. I write about something that only the United States can do to help the country consolidate its new hope of a democratic future. Now is the time for the U.S. administration to express its interest in pursuing the ousted Defense Secretary, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa who happens to be an American citizen and who is thus liable under the U.S. War Crimes Act. It is important to add that he is potentially liable as well under a host of other federal laws if he committed tax evasion, obstruction of justice, or immigration fraud.

Key questions for any moment of transitional justice—today’s Sri Lanka included—is whether and when to pursue accountability for past atrocities, especially when doing so could destabilize a new government. Now may not be the best time to push for widespread accountability in Sri Lanka. But that time should come. In the meantime, it is important for the international community to use the forthcoming report of the United Nations war crimes investigation as a basis for keeping the democratic momentum going and helping the country confront and repudiate the worst elements of its past.

That said, the delicate balance between accountability and political stability is not present in the case of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In the Op-Ed, I explain why going after him now would serve the interests of the new fledgling administration and prevent a return to the past.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Ryan Goodman is co-editor-in-chief of Just Security. Ryan is the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. Follow him on Twitter (@rgoodlaw).

No One In This Country Can Be Taken To The International Courts Against War Crimes

| by Ranil Wicramasinghe

( January 21, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) “Throughout the previous government, the judicial powers of the country was misused by the political interests. Even after war got over, the law of the country was not properly established,” Prime Minister appointed Mr. Ranil Wicramasinghe noted in a statement.

“We are in the process of bringing to Parliament the Witness Protection Bill, the Right to Information Bill and the National Audit Bill. The Minister of Justice is entrusted with this task. It is just the beginning of good governance, the Parliamentary Committees, the establishment of the Public Finance Committee and the enforcing of parliamentary control over the executive,” he added.

“Sri Lanka was not a party to the Rome Statute and therefore all matters should be determined by domestic jurisdiction but that the new Government would engage with the UN Human Rights Council and the concerned members in a positive manner so that an understanding could be reached on outstanding issues on human rights. Further, no one in this country can be taken to the International courts against war crimes. All such matters to be solved through the internal courts of the government,” he further added.

Chomsky: Paris Attacks Show Hypocrisy Of West's Outrage

| by Noam Chomsky

( January 21, 2015, Boston, Sri Lanka Guardian) After the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, which killed 12 people including the editor and four other cartoonists, and the murder of four Jews at a kosher supermarket shortly after, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared "a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity."

Anyone with eyes open will quickly notice other rather striking omissions. Thus, prominent among those who face an "enormous challenge" from brutal violence are Palestinians, once again during Israel's vicious assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014, in which many journalists were murdered, sometimes in well-marked press cars, along with thousands of others, while the Israeli-run outdoor prison was again reduced to rubble on pretexts that collapse instantly on examination.
Millions of people demonstrated in condemnation of the atrocities, amplified by a chorus of horror under the banner "I am Charlie." There were eloquent pronouncements of outrage, captured well by the head of Israel's Labor Party and the main challenger for the upcoming elections, Isaac Herzog, who declared that "Terrorism is terrorism. There's no two ways about it," and that "All the nations that seek peace and freedom [face] an enormous challenge" from brutal violence.

The crimes also elicited a flood of commentary, inquiring into the roots of these shocking assaults in Islamic culture and exploring ways to counter the murderous wave of Islamic terrorism without sacrificing our values. The New York Times described the assault as a "clash of civilizations," but was corrected by Times columnist Anand Giridharadas, who tweeted that it was "Not & never a war of civilizations or between them. But a war FOR civilization against groups on the other side of that line. #CharlieHebdo."

The scene in Paris was described vividly in the New York Times by veteran Europe correspondent Steven Erlanger: "a day of sirens, helicopters in the air, frantic news bulletins; of police cordons and anxious crowds; of young children led away from schools to safety. It was a day, like the previous two, of blood and horror in and around Paris."

Erlanger also quoted a surviving journalist who said that "Everything crashed. There was no way out. There was smoke everywhere. It was terrible. People were screaming. It was like a nightmare." Another reported a "huge detonation, and everything went completely dark." The scene, Erlanger reported, "was an increasingly familiar one of smashed glass, broken walls, twisted timbers, scorched paint and emotional devastation."

These last quotes, however -- as independent journalist David Peterson reminds us -- are not from January 2015. Rather, they are from a report by Erlanger on April 24 1999, which received far less attention. Erlanger was reporting on the NATO "missile attack on Serbian state television headquarters" that "knocked Radio Television Serbia off the air," killing 16 journalists.

"NATO and American officials defended the attack," Erlanger reported, "as an effort to undermine the regime of President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia." Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon told a briefing in Washington that "Serb TV is as much a part of Milosevic's murder machine as his military is," hence a legitimate target of attack.

There were no demonstrations or cries of outrage, no chants of "We are RTV," no inquiries into the roots of the attack in Christian culture and history. On the contrary, the attack on the press was lauded. The highly regarded U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, then envoy to Yugoslavia, described the successful attack on RTV as "an enormously important and, I think, positive development," a sentiment echoed by others.

There are many other events that call for no inquiry into western culture and history -- for example, the worst single terrorist atrocity in Europe in recent years, in July 2011, when Anders Breivik, a Christian ultra-Zionist extremist and Islamophobe, slaughtered 77 people, mostly teenagers.

Also ignored in the "war against terrorism" is the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times -- Barack Obama's global assassination campaign targeting people suspected of perhaps intending to harm us some day, and any unfortunates who happen to be nearby. Other unfortunates are also not lacking, such as the 50 civilians reportedly killed in a U.S.-led bombing raid in Syria in December, which was barely reported.

One person was indeed punished in connection with the NATO attack on RTV -- Dragoljub Milanović, the general manager of the station, who was sentenced by the European Court of Human Rights to 10 years in prison for failing to evacuate the building, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia considered the NATO attack, concluding that it was not a crime, and although civilian casualties were "unfortunately high, they do not appear to be clearly disproportionate."

The comparison between these cases helps us understand the condemnation of the New York Times by civil rights lawyer Floyd Abrams, famous for his forceful defense of freedom of expression. "There are times for self-restraint," Abrams wrote, "but in the immediate wake of the most threatening assault on journalism in living memory, [the Times editors] would have served the cause of free expression best by engaging in it" by publishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons ridiculing Mohammed that elicited the assault.

Abrams is right in describing the Charlie Hebdo attack as "the most threatening assault on journalism in living memory." The reason has to do with the concept "living memory," a category carefully constructed to include Their crimes against us while scrupulously excluding Our crimes against them -- the latter not crimes but noble defense of the highest values, sometimes inadvertently flawed.

This is not the place to inquire into just what was being "defended" when RTV was attacked, but such an inquiry is quite informative (see my A New Generation Draws the Line).

There are many other illustrations of the interesting category "living memory." One is provided by the Marine assault against Fallujah in November 2004, one of the worst crimes of the U.S.-UK invasion of Iraq.

The assault opened with occupation of Fallujah General Hospital, a major war crime quite apart from how it was carried out. The crime was reported prominently on the front page of the New York Times, accompanied with a photograph depicting how "Patients and hospital employees were rushed out of rooms by armed soldiers and ordered to sit or lie on the floor while troops tied their hands behind their backs." The occupation of the hospital was considered meritorious and justified: it "shut down what officers said was a propaganda weapon for the militants: Fallujah General Hospital, with its stream of reports of civilian casualties."

Evidently, this is no assault on free expression, and does not qualify for entry into "living memory."

There are other questions. One would naturally ask how France upholds freedom of expression and the sacred principles of "fraternity, freedom, solidarity." For example, is it through the Gayssot Law, repeatedly implemented, which effectively grants the state the right to determine Historical Truth and punish deviation from its edicts? By expelling miserable descendants of Holocaust survivors (Roma) to bitter persecution in Eastern Europe? By the deplorable treatment of North African immigrants in the banlieues of Paris where the Charlie Hebdo terrorists became jihadis? When the courageous journal Charlie Hebdo fired the cartoonist Siné on grounds that a comment of his was deemed to have anti-Semitic connotations? Many more questions quickly arise.

Anyone with eyes open will quickly notice other rather striking omissions. Thus, prominent among those who face an "enormous challenge" from brutal violence are Palestinians, once again during Israel's vicious assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014, in which many journalists were murdered, sometimes in well-marked press cars, along with thousands of others, while the Israeli-run outdoor prison was again reduced to rubble on pretexts that collapse instantly on examination.

Also ignored was the assassination of three more journalists in Latin America in December, bringing the number for the year to 31. There have been more than a dozen journalists killed in Honduras alone since the military coup of 2009 that was effectively recognized by the U.S. (but few others), probably according post-coup Honduras the per capita championship for murder of journalists. But again, not an assault on freedom of press within living memory.

It is not difficult to elaborate. These few examples illustrate a very general principle that is observed with impressive dedication and consistency: The more we can blame some crimes on enemies, the greater the outrage; the greater our responsibility for crimes -- and hence the more we can do to end them -- the less the concern, tending to oblivion or even denial.

Contrary to the eloquent pronouncements, it is not the case that "Terrorism is terrorism. There's no two ways about it." There definitely are two ways about it: theirs versus ours. And not just terrorism.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His most recent book is "Masters of Mankind." His web site is www.chomsky.info.

This article was originally published at CNN

Will Mahinda now look towards UN and US for relief?

| by Upul Joseph Fernando

( January 21, 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) "The media does not highlight the threats hurled at my supporters. The media behaves in a manner as if it does not know such things" – Mahinda Rajapaksa tells BBC Sandeshaya Channel from Medamulana after his defeat. When in power Mahinda labelled the BBC and the international media as contractors of the LTTE. When the United States brought a resolution before the UNHRC against the Rajapaksa government in March 2013, Mahinda's government disrupted the BBC Tamil Service. He censored all news that was critical of his administration. That was a violation of the agreement between the BBC and the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. It appears that Mahinda has forgotten that past.

So now he claims that the media ignores attacks on his supporters.

This scenario recalls to memory, the services rendered by the alternative media spearheaded by Lasantha Wickremetunga in the past. Lasantha launched repeated attacks on the Chandrika Kumaratunga administration from 1994 – 2005. When Chandrika lost power and new President Mahinda Rajapaksa launched attacks on Chandrika, Lasantha's 'Sunday Leader' newspaper gave space for Chandrika's views too. If Lasantha was alive today, he would have given adequate space for Mahinda to highlight the attacks and issues faced by Mahinda and his supporters. Sadly Lasantha was mysteriously killed during Mahinda's regime. On the instructions of Mahinda, the 'Irudina' and 'Sunday Leader' publications of Lasantha was bought over by a businessman close to his government.
When a new government is elected, any attacks on the supporters of the defeated regime are usually reported by the alternative media. Also when new governments take office media institutions which indulge in business transactions with governments attempt to renew such links with the new government. Hence, they fear to report attacks on supporters of the defeated government. The only media that would act fearlessly is an alternative media as they do not contract businesses with governments.

This scenario recalls to memory, the services rendered by the alternative media spearheaded by Lasantha Wickremetunga in the past. Lasantha launched repeated attacks on the Chandrika Kumaratunga administration from 1994 – 2005. When Chandrika lost power and new President Mahinda Rajapaksa launched attacks on Chandrika, Lasantha's 'Sunday Leader' newspaper gave space for Chandrika's views too. If Lasantha was alive today, he would have given adequate space for Mahinda to highlight the attacks and issues faced by Mahinda and his supporters. Sadly Lasantha was mysteriously killed during Mahinda's regime. On the instructions of Mahinda, the 'Irudina' and 'Sunday Leader' publications of Lasantha was bought over by a businessman close to his government.

It is no surprise therefore that Mahinda, by going to suppress the alternate media while fondling the state media today has no media whatsoever. Mahinda never dreamt that he would end up back in the opposition. Had he thought in that direction, he would have realized the need of an alternative media, human rights, non-governmental organizations that spoke of democracy, the United States and West were important. When he was in the opposition from 1989 – 1994, he sought relief from the alternate media, NGOs, UNHRC and the western countries. That was why Mahinda went before the UNHRC to lodge complaints against the then administration. Upon assuming office as President, Mahinda erased that past from his memory.

David Gladstone divulges Mahinda's tattling...

If the UNP and Maithripala cause injustice to him tomorrow, he has only two places to make representations. First is the judiciary. But today he cannot go before the judiciary he once destroyed. Why? It was reported that he destroyed the independence of the judiciary. Therefore, how could Mahinda expect justice from a judiciary that is reported to be partial considering the past history? The second place he could go is the embassies of the west. When Mahinda was in the opposition during the Premadasa administration, Mahinda brought the issues faced by then opposition before David Gladstone, the former British High Commissioner in Colombo. Gladstone has recently divulged to the media how Mahinda divulged facts and information as an opposition MP to him. During the Rajapaksa regime it bitterly criticized the British High Commissioner in Colombo. Having won the terrorist war in 2009, the British High Commission in Colombo was pelted with stones and tomatoes.

It must be recalled that when British High Commissioner in Colombo, John Rankin stated in his website in 2012 that the government should withdraw troops from the North, Rankin was summoned by External Affairs Minister, Prof. G. L. Peiris and reprimanded. In the recent past, the former United States Ambassador to Colombo was accused of bribing government ministers by offering US dollars to overthrow the Rajapaksa government and urged the US to remove her from office. The UNHRC Commissioner, Navi Pillay was insulted. Allegations were also levelled at the incumbent UNHRC Commissioner.

Now where could Mahinda, the Rajapaksas' and their supporters go to lodge complaints about injustices caused to them? The country eagerly views that situation.

( The writer is an editor of Mawbima, a daily based in Colombo) 

Collapse of the Rajapaksa Regime

| by Laksiri Fernando 

( January 21, 2015, Sydney, Sri Lanka Guardian) If there is any overall lesson from the Rajapaksa collapse, that is ‘not to abuse power or position.’ Although this lesson is loud and clear for anyone in politics, it is difficult to believe that they would readily follow, unless strict rules are in place. That is unfortunately the present nature of politics and power. What is reassuring is the promise, in the 100 Days Diary, to introduce a ‘Code of Conduct for All People’s Representatives.’ The date given for its introduction is 22 January. Even with some delay, if this is introduced, it would be immensely useful for good governance in the country. 

Two matters highlighted in this article pertain to the electorate/elections in the South. Although it might be unlikely that the ‘ghost voters’ would play a major role in the next election under the new government, in principle it is necessary to scrutinize or clean the electoral lists for the sake of good democracy and good governance. This might be one task for an Independent Election Commission appointed hopefully soon.
There are some rules already in our statute books which are breached than followed. For example, the declaration of assets and liabilities is a must not only for political representatives but also for certain categories of public servants and others (newspaper editors) since 1975. But this has hardly been the practice. Even when the assets are declared, there is no proper mechanism to verify them. Most of the declarations are supposed to be bogus. 

The proposed code of conduct is looser than statutes. Therefore, when the ‘Code of Conduct’ is introduced, there should be a proper mechanism to monitor and implement the provisions. 

The Sandcastle 

After the elections, Rajapaksa regime soon collapsed like a sandcastle. Although there was an attempt (midnight coup) to hold on to power, that didn’t fortunately materialize. It revealed its artificial nature. It was so powerful, yet fragile. Only a small wave of democracy demolished it. That wave was hard to come by because of some barriers both of structural and ideological nature ingrained particularly in the South. In this respect, this time, the minority communities did play a positive role, helping in overcoming the barriers. That should be frankly acknowledged and acted upon. 

Where did we have the almighty Hero this time? In the South. Almighty Hero was already gone in the North in Nandikadal. That was five years ago. 

One of my former colleagues, Prof. M. O. A. De Soyza (University of Peradeniya) has vividly revealed the constructed image of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the following manner, writing to the Sunday Divaina recently (18 January 20105). That is the best description I have seen so far. 

“Until around 2010, people considered him to be a devoted political leader who looked after their welfare. He was especially revered for defeating LTTE terrorism. However, thereafter, he was transformed into a different persona or a God King. It was the media and those stooges who surrounded him that constructed the transformation. Many songs were sung, calling him a Great King (Maha Rajanani). Security forces protected him, caging him in a surreal world. Many artists joined the fray. Even some found his ancestral connections to Lord Buddha! He was praised as ‘this root’ or ‘that root leader’ (moola nayake). All these nonsense seeped into his mind. He was elated. He was converted into a different personality. 

Astrologers, newspaper editors and some Buddhist monks who were watching this transformation (vipariyasaya) started to say that he should rule the country for 50 more years. They opined that only Rajapaksas should rule.”

Soyza further argued that Rajapaksa’s bid for the Third Term (2015) was to keep the Presidency until Namal Rajapaksa becomes qualified at the age of 35 in 2021. That was well known. It is no surprise that Namal defended the ‘dynastic rule’ of Rajapaksas giving an interview to the NDTV on 17th January. 

It was this dynastic project that became demolished on the 8th of January, so peacefully and constructively. It should not be allowed to come back. However, in preventing a resurrection of the Rajapaksa ghost, no one should take the law into one’s own hands or indulge in dirty tactics that the Rajapaksas used to indulge in dealing with their opponents. 

In this respect, it is disturbing to note yesterday’s reported police raid on Rajapaksas’ Carlton Residence in Tangalle in search of a Lamborghini sports car. Lamborghini is not the major issue in Rajapaksa atrocities. Even a car was not found. The police or the Magistrate should have used more discretion before acting upon unsubstantiated information. These kind of actions could easily be called political harassment which could create unnecessary sympathy for the ousted regime. 

Although, Rajapaksa was defeated convincingly, there are people who still argue that he won the ‘majority of the majority’ in the South. The argument is based on partial reading of the election results. There were undoubtedly constructed barriers, some structural and others ideological, to prevent the sandcastle being swept away by the democratic waves. Let me give two examples. 

‘Ghost Voters’ 

When Mahinda Rajapaksa ostensibly won 10 electoral districts in the South, these were not merely on the strength of people’s mandate. For a long time, the SLFP organizers were manipulating the electoral registers, to my information and knowledge, through their appointed Grama Niladari’s and other functionaries. Although Maithripala Sirisena was the General Secretary of the party, Basil Rajapaksa was the National Organizer. Namal Rajapaksa has been intervening in the process in the recent period with his Nil Balakaya. I have dealt with this matter with detailed figures previously in “A Critical View on Some Election Figures” (Sri Lanka Guardian, 15 January 2015). 

First there are questions about the electoral lists. It is difficult to believe that all 73 percent registered voters were genuine when over 26 percent of the population are under 14 years of age. This is without counting the ages of 15, 16 and 17. There are serious suspicions about ‘ghost voters.’ It is possible that names of migrant workers were included in the registers. It is also possible that the underage were registered through the Nil Balakaya. The critics have talked lot about the ‘Deep State.’ It is difficult to imagine that the ‘deep state’ was just sleeping during the Election Day. 

Rajapaksa won higher majorities in districts where voter turnouts were around 83 percent. That is too farfetched to my opinion. Many people who were soft on Rajapaksas previously now admit the prevalence of corruption, misuse of power and political manipulation of the regime. But these would not have happened in abstract. Were they not happening during the election? It is difficult to believe that the regime didn’t have any plans for influencing the voter outcome through direct intervention on the Election Day or voting. Because the retention of power was the most important for them. Having realized that their popularity was waning at the provincial council elections they must have intensified their efforts during the presidential elections. The local organizers, particularly at the divisional levels (old electorates), were most interested in these manipulations because they have to show positive results to the party hierarchy for their own benefit. 

It has been my count that at least 5 percent of votes were manipulated on the Election Day where the SLFP and the Nil Balakayas had their strongholds. If not for these manipulations, the districts of Anuradhapura, Kalutara, Kegalle and Kurunegala could have been won over by Maithripala Sirisena in addition to the 12 districts that he won at the elections. Therefore, the so-called winning of the ‘majority of the majority’ is tainted by possible election manipulations and malpractices. 

I am saying this not only to discount the argument about the ‘majority of the majority’ which is particularly aimed at sowing ethnic distrust, fear and antagonism between communities. Most importantly, the existence of distorted voter registration lists or possible ‘ghost voters’ have a considerable impact in tainting the democratic process through a distorted election process. 

Chauvinist Ideology 

More than the ‘ghost voters’ and possible distorted voter lists, Rajapaksa regime’s grip on the Southern voters had been based on chauvinist ideology propagated by the regime, the media and several of organizations (BBS in particular) through their networks and activities. Even after the collapse of the regime, and immediately thereafter, there were efforts to spread rumors and create dissent in the country perhaps with the hope that the regime could come back on the basis of military backing. The resurrection of separatism was the intended excuse to be given. Some people were even arrested in this connection. 

Two of the main rumors were that ‘the LTTE flag has been hosted in Jaffna’ and ‘stones were thrown at army barracks and/or army personnel in the Northern Province.’ 

During the campaign, it was propagated that a vote for Sirisena is a vote for separatism. To substantiate this claim, there was a fabricated MOU presented by the former UNP General Secretary, Tissa Attanayake, who previously defected to the Rajapaksa regime. Now he has fled to Singapore. It was irrespective of this vicious campaign that large numbers of people voted for the Swan, the election symbol of Sirisena. The opposition was branded as a tool of an ‘international conspiracy.’ This international conspiracy theory was linked up to the ‘international inquiry on war crimes’ and extremist propaganda by certain sections of the Tamil Diaspora. Mahinda Rajapaksa emotionally vouched that he is ready to go to the ‘Gas Chamber.’ The propaganda was so cheap. 

Without going into further details, there is no question that there are deep seated ‘fears and antagonisms’ among all communities, apart from real issues, that opportunist political leaders try to utilize particularly at election times. On the Tamil side, there were efforts to ask the voters to boycott the elections saying that no good would come out of any Sinhalese leader and ‘national issues are not Tamil issues.’ The TNA successfully managed to counter these arguments, and the Tamil voters overwhelmingly participated in the national elections. 

The election was a victory for the moderates of all communities, the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims. Let me conclude keeping this article within a readable length for the general and the busy reader. 


The victory for moderation is not a reason for complacency or to emulate the old habits of the defeated regime. Any victory could be temporary unless permanent measures are taken. No government should last for more than it is necessary. However, there is a mission for the new government (I would not call it a regime) to pursue and fulfill. No change is pure. The old habits, attitudes and practices might surface unless conscious efforts are taken to overcome them. Old habits die hard! The most important task might be to prevent the Rajapaksa regime coming back in the immediate future and that means at the next parliamentary elections. 

Two matters highlighted in this article pertain to the electorate/elections in the South. Although it might be unlikely that the ‘ghost voters’ would play a major role in the next election under the new government, in principle it is necessary to scrutinize or clean the electoral lists for the sake of good democracy and good governance. This might be one task for an Independent Election Commission appointed hopefully soon. 

Most important and priority might be to dispel the fears, suspicions and chauvinist feelings among the electorates both in the South and the North. This is a task both for the government and the civil society. This also means moving towards reconciliation keeping in mind that there can be backlashes particularly in the South. There should be an ‘ideological’ effort to dispel fears. Mildly put, the effort should be educational not only for the people, but also for the Media, the police, administrative officers and the military. School teachers could play a major role, if those educators are properly educated! Given the restrictions on time, space and finances for ‘grand seminars’ of the old type, the best means would be to utilize the radio, TV, social media and simply written material (pamphlets and leaflets) for an effective campaign of education for ethnic, religious and social reconciliation in the country. In addition to ethnic type conflicts, it is clear that there are so many other conflicts in society and politics that need to be addressed, reconciled and harmonized. One breeds the other.