Today’s sentence shows Sri Lanka is in the grip of a dictator

questions Mahinda Rajapaksa’s de facto dictatorship as his opponent is handed another three-year sentence for making allegations against the President’s brother

Photo credit: Com Sec

Photo credit: Com Sec

Sri Lanka is a country stained by a history of contested identities and civil war. In May 2009 the twenty-six year struggle between the Buddhist Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority ended after government forces seized the last area controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels. Post-war Sri Lanka has since slipped off the international stage. Little is known about its President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the man walking the corridors of power, unchallenged and unobserved.

It is not political apathy but terror that secures Mahinda Rajapaksa his de facto dictatorship. The legitimacy of a government derives from the consent of the governed, but if that consent derives from fear, if that consent is a product of a suppressed people, that government should not be accepted by the international community. No credible opposition exists in Sri Lanka; the opposition leader Sarath Fonseka, the Army General who won the war, has been in prison since February 2010 and was today given a three-year sentence for making allegations against the President’s brother. An amendment passed last year granted Rajapaksa an unlimited term in office.

The Sri Lankan government is compiled of sportsmen, celebrities and members of Rajapaksa’s own family. One brother (the one Fonseka allegedly defamed) is secretary of the Ministry of Defence. Another brother is the Minister of Economic Development, and another is the Speaker of Parliament. His eldest son and rumoured successor, Namal Rajapaksa, was elected as a Member of Parliament in 2010 and his nephew is the Chief Minister of the Uva Province.

The political system is in disarray. The President has a file on each member of his cabinet containing information that would strip them of their position if they spoke out or made allegations of corruption. Former Deputy Minister Mervin Silva was never reprimanded for tying a public servant to a tree last year after they failed to attend an anti-dengue campaign. More recently the Government’s monitoring MP shot and killed a presidential adviser of the same party.

Press censorship ensures the ignorance of the majority. Journalists are writing under pseudo names, regularly receiving threats and sometimes scarifying their lives for a story. Protest is met by martial intervention. The Government is currently drafting university students into military run community projects; sidelining student movements through engagement with ‘shramadana activities’. The Inter University Students Union (IUSF) has recently condemned the military shramadana incentive and the use of ex-military men as University security officers.

It is widely acknowledged Mahinda Rajapaksa used Tsunami aid to fund his own political campaign and international aid organisations were unable to access refugees during the war. This allowed the government to claim that there were six thousand displaced Tamils in one particular refugee camp when in reality there were thirty six thousand; effectively starving and eradicating vast numbers of innocent civilians. On-going rehabilitation projects are dispersing Tamil refugees across the country, preventing the formation of large Tamil communities that would enable a Tamil MP to be elected and the vocalisation of political grievances.

In Britain, the Oxford Union invited President Rajapaksa to talk to its students last December. The British foreign office sent home two Tamil women tortured by the government during the war, who has been sent to testify by the Tamil’s political organisation ‘PLOTE’. Amsterdam’s ambassador refused to comment on the human rights violations of its new commercial partner and China, in a desperate bid to grasp control of the Indian Ocean, continues to invest in Sri Lanka’s ports and natural resources.

Earlier this week, Australian Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland dismissed a court case brought by a Melbourne man against President Rajapaksa, which alleged he had committed war crimes and human rights violations. A backbench rebellion in Colombo is desperately needed, but that will only be possible if the international community takes Rajapaksa to an international court, severs economic ties and puts human rights before political expediency.

21 comments

  1. The article states:

    “In May 2009 the twenty-six year struggle between the Buddhist Sinhalese majority and Muslim Tamil minority ended after government forces seized the last area controlled by Tamil Tiger rebels.”

    The tamil minority is not Muslim, it is predominantly Hindu with a large Catholic population as well as a number of Christian denominations. This tamil minority is the second largest ethnicity in Sri-Lanka and consider themselves indigineous to the island. The third largest ethnicity are the Muslims who speak tamil but identify themselves as Muslim because they consider themselves as the descendants of the Moors – Arab traders that settled in Sri-Lanka. After the Muslims, the next largest ethnicity are the Indian Tamils, labelled so because they immigrated from India as indentured workers to work the tea plantations during British rule. The war was fought between the Sinhalese, the largest ethnicity whose hardliners believe that the island belongs to them and everyone else immigrated and are therefore “guests”, and the second largest ethnicity of tamils who consider themselves indigineous to the island.

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  2. First of all, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for caring for Little Ceylon and its woes.

    It is a well written and balanced article, and spot on about Mahinda. However, as Rajah above said, it wrongly identified Tamils as being Muslim. Often this mistake is made in news articles, yet THERE IS NOT A SINGLE MUSLIM among Tamils. So why this mistake is made?This is a product of the vilification of Sri Lankan propaganda, who shows Tamils as terrorists. It wants the world to associate Tamils with terror organizations such as Al Qaeda, and the west often falls for it.

    The liberation movement of Tamils, when it existed, was banned in most western countries, though Tamils NEVER did anything against westerners. If two ethnic groups warred in a country, why would you go and ban the representatives of one, while giving (until recently) all help to the other? This is the success of the malicious sri lankan (Sinhalese) campaign.

    So lets get the clear picture. Tamils are not terrorists. Indeed, acts of violence and terror have been committed by both sides during the war, but in this too, most such acts were committed by the Sri lankan state dominated by Sinhalese. Heck, these acts were committed (such as anti Tamil pogroms) when there was no Tamil resistance, and they are committed today when there is no Tamil resistance any more. Sri Lanka will only attain peace when the world sees the conflict for what it is: an ethnic conflict between Two races, one mostly Hindu (Tamils), and other mostly Buddhist (Sinhalese).

    Many coolies of the sri lankan government will come to this forum and deny this. They will even abuse me, and the writer of this column. But you cannot fool all people all the time.

    Thanks once again, author.

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  3. This is a very impartial article.How ever ther is a mistake in the second paragraph.Mr.Sarath Fonseka is not the opposition leader as mentioned.

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  4. please do a little bit of research before writing an article. There is no Tamil Muslim minority. Muslims in sri lanka are a separate ethnic group with their own identity and with their own set of grievances

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  5. While another census is due, Sri Lanka’s current demographics are roughtly (rounded figures):

    Sinhalese 75%
    Sri Lankan Tamils 8%
    Muslims 8%
    Indian Tamils 8%
    Others 1%

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  6. 19 Nov ’11 at 6:04 am

    American Muse

    Mahinda Rajapasa of Sri Lanka just had his “general election” opponent in last year’s election, Mr. Fonseka, sentenced to three extra years in prison. How’s that for chutzpah?

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  7. 19 Nov ’11 at 6:18 am

    Ananda Seneviratne, Ph.D.

    He is the best President that Sri Lanka ever had. Why? Tamil Tigers were and still are the most brutal and inhumane terrorist organization in the world and these terrorists have distroyed Sri Lanka and have killed more than 40,000 Sri Lankans and Indians including Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims and Indian Tamils as well as Indian and Sri Lankan Prime ministers. After 30 years of bloody terrorism, President Rajapakse and his ex retired Army Colonel Gotrabaya Rajapakse gave the leadership to eliminate Tamil Tigers from Sri Lanka and rescued 300,000 Tamils who were under terrorist clutches. Today no one other than Tamils in North and East Sri Lanka live peacefully, honourably and fearless.
    Yes, like Bush and Kennedys’ in US, Rajapakse brothers are helping the country to develop, govern and unite the nation. Mahinda R has 92% popularity rate. Basil R. is the Rajapakse brother who is responsible for the entire development program in the North and the East. Majority of Sri Lankans know all the Rajapakses are doing nothing other than developing the country and peoples livelihood especially Tamils in the North and East.
    He is the president who rehabilitated 11,000 ex LTTE cadres, who rehabilitated 2000 ex LTTE child soldiers and handed them over to their parents. He is the president who has brought peace, unity, harmony and economic and infrastructure development with is brother Basil to Sri Lanka. All Sri Lankans are grateful to him and his brothers. If he was not there Sri Lanka is still a killing filed and a LTTE terrorist’s paradise. We salute them!!!!. Of course LTTE and their supports in UK hate him and his brothers for eliminating their beloved Terrorist group LTTE. World is a much better place without these terrorists.
    Sri Lanka never was a Tamil country. Even a 6th grader can understand from where these Tamils come and settle in Sri Lanka. Don’t British know that 55 millions of Tamils are living and originated in Tamil Nadu, India just above Northern Sri Lanka. So a few million of Tamils in 19 millions of Sri Lanka came from Tamil Nadu, India and now these idiots are calling Sri Lanka is belong to these murderous Tamil Tiger terrorists? WHAT A JOKE AND A BUNCH OF JOKERS…..You live there thanks to LTTE using “refugee’ stuts.!

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  8. Tamils are not terrorists, anybody knows that.LTTE is the terrorists.

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  9. Welcome to Sri Lankan justice-

    -Terrorist leader responsible for thousands of killings- not only no word about justice but govt. showers with blessings, comforts, security

    -Ex Attorny General – dismisses criminal cases ( murder, rape) specifically against politicians and one of them kills again

    -Underworld kingpins, rapists given authority to monitor law enforcement

    – Underworld killers sent abroad with in hours after killings- No one responsible

    -Man ties another man to a tree- and he is given minister of public relations

    -Top politicians boasting about law and order- sleeps, cuddles, kisses, with underworld kingpins doing extra judicial killings/ kidnappings

    – Many journalists killed/ missing- no one found guilty

    – Around 30 have died under police custody- no one guilty

    -Billions plundered from the state, inferior oil imports, oil hedging, world cup cricket loss of billions- no one guilty

    – Most govt. departments running at a loss of billions- no one responsible

    -Ex president CBK says 80% politicians corrupt- no one found guilty

    But
    SARATH FONSEKA
    – ‘Doing politics while being in the army’- GUILTY
    ( oops not applicable to presidents son !!)
    He must be GUILTY of saving the country !!!

    -’White flag case’ – GUILTY
    -’Irregularities of war procuments’- GUILTY
    – ‘Keeping army deserters’- GUILTY
    ‘Dealings with Hicorp company – GUILTY
    – Medals removed
    -No pension
    – and many many more guilty verdicts to come…..
    Welcome to Lanka – the country with animal law !

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  10. Gladwin

    For heaven sake, who is the uninformed person who wrote this article and some of the equally uninformed (or deliberately so) respondents who have added to this strange article. Not onlt have you got your facts wrong but your basic assumption that Rapaksa rules through fear and not a popular mandate is belied by recent elections that include a presidential, parliamentary and provincial polls.
    Even the University of York must have some sort of library or technological means of ascertaining information.

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  11. Well..guys I dont know whether to laugh or cry.Because as a Sri Lankan living in Sri Lanka, after reading this article I was confused whether I am living in Sri Lanka or some other country has the same name.Because the writer wanted to make a picture about a horror movie but failed to do so because he didnt know anything about Sri Lanka.I dont blame him because he has been in a really bad mood when he was writing this.But I agree with him about showing Mahinda Rajapaksa as a dictator.The problem is Sri Lankan people made him a dictator and keep him in that way.Now ask why it is.Very simple- every time he shows people article like these.Then people understand how badly western people wanted him to go home.And everybody know what western people tell is very often wrong or with bad intension.So keep writing articles like this.But keep away from Sri Lankan Muslims because if you say a Sri Lankan Muslim is a LTTE for his face you are in a big trouble.Search-LTTE’s Kattankudi Muslim Mosque Massacre..

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  12. Sri Lanka is in the grip of a dictatership with no Rule of Law and no Human Rights. Here is the view of outsiders who toil there – a group of NGOs who presented this at the recent 47th UN Meeting on Torture.

    http://WWW.srilankabrief.org/2011/10/joint-alternative-report-from-sri.html

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  13. 19 Nov ’11 at 4:12 pm

    Ponniah Sinnalingam

    A recent Gallup poll showed that over 90% of Sri Lankans back Rajapakse’s leadership. So much for “dictatorship” and “ruling by fear”.

    Judging by the numerous howlers I suppose rudimentary research isn’t a requirement for this sort of article. It’s only a student paper after all.

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  14. 19 Nov ’11 at 4:47 pm

    Chandra De Silva

    Please pay attaintion to Mr Ananda Senevitatna’s report.I agree with him.

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  15. 19 Nov ’11 at 8:50 pm

    Ananda Seneviratne, Ph.D.

    All those who hate Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan President and Sinhalese, there is only thing I want to tell you. Sri Lanka is a beautiful paradise and people living in Sri Lanka including innocent Tamils are good human beings who like to live peacefully side by side with Sinhalese, Muslims and Malays. They are not 100% perfect but good human beings who help each other and care each other. That is why more than 50% Tamils are still living in the South of Sri Lanka. Majority of Tamils living outside Sri Lanka continue to hate us and our country. GOOD LUCK!!!!Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans will prosper, will be united and will live peacefully without Terrorists like LTTE.
    With regards to human rights, law and order, there are no human right violations as these LTTE and Sarath Fonseka supporters are screaming; 300,000 Tamils were rescued, 11,000 ex LTTE and 2000 child soldiers are rehabilitated and integrated in to the society and also they are provided with education, houses, money, and training to get their life back to normal. Their infrastructure is under rapid development. Every Rajapakse and every politician elected democratically and not by thuggery or dictatorially. Still Sri Lanka has law and order and a well functioned judiciary system but I am sure when the decisions are going against your wish you can call “there is “no justice and law and order”. Sri Lanka is Asia’s most rapidly developing country with 30% more tourists’ arrival, Asia’s best economy and the best place to travel in Asia. The government has been spending billions of dollars to develop the North and the East so the Tamils who suffered for 30 years under LTTE terrorists are now happy and finally breathe easily.

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  16. 19 Nov ’11 at 10:16 pm

    John J. Rambo

    Who wrote this article ? Surely it was written by a misinformed white boy/girl from the York University. Wow….being a Sri Lankan I didn’t know that Tamils were muslims all these years…wonderful journalism! Shows where the British society is heading.

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  17. 20 Nov ’11 at 12:59 am

    Christopher Kay

    I agree with Ananda Seneviratne, Ph.D. has to say about President Rajapakse, and his siblings are doing for the country. But what Sri Lankans in general do not like to see happening is how this family is amassing wealth by raping the country financially and morally. The president cannot thrive on past glories forever. Sooner and not later he will have to answer to the citizens of Sri Lanka as to where he himself, his brothers, his sons and the relatives got all the wealth what they have amassed during this short period of time.

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  18. 20 Nov ’11 at 3:37 am

    Fil Munas, M.D.

    This is a good and well written article.

    Even the reference to Sri Lankan Muslims as “Tamils” in the earlier version of the article is permissible. Muslims in Sri Lanka are ethnically mostly Tamils, originally from South India, and speak the Tamil language as their mother-tongue.

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  19. Kudos to Ananda Seniviratne’s reply. Not everyone is perfect, but thank god we have a country called “Sri Lanaka” thanks to MR and his brothers who work tirelessly to bring every citizen to have equal benefit. Don’t be stupid to ignoe how sri lankan past politician like Ranil, Chandrika, JR misused the power for there own benefit and made only colombian happy. Only the morans who cannot see how the entire country developed under MR.. from south to north.. and East to West, should take their head check before spitting out the stupid facts.

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  20. 24 Nov ’11 at 4:29 pm

    Dr Aran kandaswamy (MBBS BSc FRCS) surgeon

    The Tamil Muslim component of the article is the only incorrect bit. Whoever agrees with the pathetic words of the phd mr seneviratne I a racist and simple minded as he is. I know of several innocent people back home killed and robbed by the Sri lankan army. I have also worked alongside the Sinhalese immunity in their main hospital in Colombo. Sinhalese people are well aware of the corruption in their government especially their president. It’s these politicians that need to be held responsible. Go get an education before you attempt to litter these discussions with your false information and statistics mr phd. An thank you to the uthor. Well done.

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  21. Jesus Christ.

    Are all of you so bereft of confidence in your arguments that you feel the need to sign comments on a news article with your full name and academic title?

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