Despite the fact that the President has adopted a policy with more weight being placed on a military approach which undermines the civilian rule, obviously he has not been able to achieve any of the intended objectives
Sri Lanka is now in an unfortunate plight in which the failure of the state has entered the phase of its completion both internally and externally. The rule of the country is eclipsed by dark shadows of disintegration and anarchy. The state and the political system are also in a state of disarray and virtual collapse. The economy is on the brinks of virtual bankruptcy. In the sense of geo-politics, the country is largely under siege.
The anarchic situation and bankruptcy the country is facing have become an oppressive and tangible reality which the people could feel. Gotabaya Rajapaksa can be considered as a President elected solely by the Sinhala Buddhist votes. His Government was able to secure a two-thirds majority in the Parliament. However, it is clear that the recognition maintained so far, by both the President and the Government has now eroded.
Another significant characteristic of this trend is that no opposition party movement has been able to enhance their public acceptance in proportion to the extent of decline in the governing party. This clearly explains that the crisis of Sri Lanka is more a crisis of the system itself which has rendered all traditional leaders and traditional political parties failures than a crisis of the leader, the head of state or the government.
Despite the fact that the President has adopted a policy with more weight being placed on a military approach which undermines the civilian rule, obviously he has not been able to achieve any of the intended objectives. A significant number of not only civilians, but also army officers who have been appointed to key positions have abandoned them. It can also be considered as an important trend.
In this crisis, the functioning of the judiciary also can be said to have shrunk and degenerated to a greater extent. It can be said that the Sri Lankan judiciary has reached a level where it finds itself incapable of meting out justice fairly, and providing protection not only to the general public but also to the socio-political system. The pathetic plight faced by Shani Abeysekara is a good example revealing this situation. All investigations carried out by him were pursued with necessary guidance from the Attorney General’s Department and the judiciary. Yet, both these institutions have failed in providing him with necessary protection.
Almost everything in the country is being conducted in an informal and absurd manner. It is only in three areas where active and effective performance could be seen viz in acquitting the leaders of the present Government who were prosecuted during the previous regime, prosecuting the opponents of the Government and looting public property in various fields.
The bankruptcy of the economy which is visible and tangible has become a major factor that oppresses the people. It is unavoidable that this situation will soon develop into an unbearable scale. The exchange rate of the US dollar has already crossed the limit of Rs. 200 and according to the Minister Finance himself, it might reach Rs. 350. Under the circumstances, a bag full of money will be required to buy a bag of goods in the future. The imported goods could be purchased only as long as they are available in the market. Already there are signs of a shortage of tires in the market, and a situation might arise where the motor transportation might collapse at any moment.
A large number of people have already lost their jobs and the number of those whose income has declined though they have been able to preserve their jobs is even greater. There are already signs of mass protests and demonstrations, and probably a situation might arise that such protests will develop drastically in the future.
The lack of having a practical vision needed to overcome the crisis Sri Lanka is facing can be considered as a common feature inherent not only in the Government but also in the Opposition as well. The failure to build the nation and the plundering of public property associated with the ruling power can be considered as the two main factors that have contributed to the current deplorable state of Sri Lanka. The nation must be rebuilt and the State and the political system which have crumbled must be restructured.
In doing so, it is imperative that there must be a large-scale inquiry into human rights abuses while the opportunity gained by the rulers to exploit public property which has become a permanent feature of state administration, is completely abolished. Neither the ruling party nor the opposition parties have apparently felt any disenchantment about the great catastrophe that has befallen the country due to their misdeeds. Both parties have not shunned their greediness for plundering of public property. Both parties are in a state of extreme bankruptcy, devoid of honesty and creative thinking. All opposition parties seem to be thinking that the solution to the crisis in Sri Lanka lies in their seizing the ruling power in the next general election.
Ignoring the geopolitical reality
The extreme pro-China policy followed by Sri Lanka in the field of geopolitics is likely to push the crisis in Sri Lanka to an explosive level. The country is already trapped in a crushing debt burden with China which is not easy to escape from. Sri Lanka is an island located in a strategically important location from which the Indian Ocean could be controlled. India can be considered as the closest neighbour of Sri Lanka. It can also be considered as the major power of the region as well as the one that aspires to become the dominant or the super power in the region.
The location of Sri Lanka cannot be changed. Geographically it lies at the mouth of India and not that of China. Under the circumstances, a pro-Chinese policy that ignores expectations of India can cause great anger in India. If India pushes itself for a policy that interferes with Sri Lanka, certainly the latter will not have a real chance of resisting it.
The recent resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka will inevitably act as a significant element having a major impact on Sri Lanka which is already merged in a deep crisis. If Sri Lanka continues to act arbitrarily, it might lead to a situation in which sanctions could be imposed on Sri Lanka. A major outcome of this resolution would be the establishment of a 12-member UN human rights office on Ceylon in the High Commissioner’s Office to streamline the investigations into alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka which are said to have occurred in the past and occurring at present. A sum of $ 2.8 million has been set aside for the office for a period of 22 months.
UN human rights office on Ceylon
This office will undoubtedly be a crucial turning point on alleged human rights violations and have a greater impact on the internal affairs of Sri Lanka in many ways, not just one. It will act as an important institution for the protection of Tamil and Muslim people who have been significantly deprived of their human rights and also the rights of the Sinhalese people who have been and continued to be deprived of human rights. It will also act as an important centre for those who have been affected in various ways during the two insurrections of Sinhala people who have not been able to receive justice for their grievances, and the victims of human rights violations during the Tamil uprising in the north and the Muslims who have been subjected to human rights abuses subsequently. All affected parties would be able to present their grievances to this office and seek redress.
All the victims involved in the cases such as the disappearance of 11 youths arrested for extorting ransom, murder of MP Ravi Raj, abduction and disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda, abduction of journalists to undermine investigations into horrific incidents of assault can also seek assistance of this office and urge for justice. In particular, people like Hijaz Hezbollah, Attorney-at-law and Shani Abeysekera can seek assistance from this office for their defence and protection.
Also, all political leaders who are threatened with deprivation of civic rights by a system of Commissions which are contrary to the law could also seek assistance from this office to resolve their issues. Similarly, people like me, Tony Emmanuel Fernando and Palitha Bandaranaike who had sought redress for serious human rights violations from Geneva Human Rights Commission under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and being adjudged that their rights have been violated and the respective government ordered to pay compensation for the victims, but so far the orders issued by the Commission have not been honoured by the Government, can also appeal to the Bureau to do justice on them.
Apart from that, those who are interested in overcoming the degenerated state of Sri Lanka and keen in having structural reforms adopted for that, and also those who are interested in making a participatory People’s Constitution to effect a real transformation of the system, could also seek necessary guidance and technical assistance from this office.
The challenge on the judiciary
The biggest challenge of this resolution will be in the judiciary. Internationally the judiciary of Sri Lanka does not entertain a good reputation. The new changes that may arise in the judiciary of Sri Lanka in the wake of this resolution is likely to create an alternative mechanism for victims to go before a court of a foreign country and seek justice in the event they fail to get justice administered by the highest court in Sri Lanka. It will inevitably become an uncontrollable stream if the doors of the courts of India are opened for this purpose in addition to the courts in European countries. How will the judiciary in Sri Lanka take up this signal?