Sri Lanka’s Descent Towards Oppression


All photos by the author. Click on each for higher resolution version.

Sri Lanka’s descent towards an oppressive State is far from complete; however, recent actions carried out by the government have shown that this is progressing rapidly towards such a regime.

Media censorship, impeachment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and intimidation and assault of protesters by government supporters are all signs of regime that is not willing to accept any form of opposition.

On Tuesday, 15th January, the Supreme Court was the scene of what can only be described as an exhibition of the strong arm of the regime. Police barricades surrounded the court complex, armoured vehicles and armed STF guards patrolled the streets and over a hundred government supporters gathered in a mob across the road yelling out support for the government.

The mob reminded many people of the previous protest that took place outside of the courts which saw supporters of the government assault protesters and lawyers with stones and clubs.

As lawyers in support of the independence of the judiciary appeared ready to talk to the media, police lines were formed preventing people from approaching the barricades that divided the lawyers from the media scrum. Anybody who happened to be on the wrong side of this police line was forced back in to a crowd that had been formed by the government supporters.

Further down the road a bus full of armed STF personal was being unloaded as they formed a second line between the police barricades and the courts, an ominous sign for many people who were out there in opposition.

While nothing violent emerged from this day, it was quite clear that the government had succeeded in quashing any hopes by the opposition to express their support for an independent judiciary. The lack of protesters in opposition to the impeachment of the now former Chief Justice is clear indication of the fear the recent assaults have instilled.

The government has not only successfully dissuaded street protests; they have also expressed intentions to prevent any form of legal opposition.

On Wednesday, the Minister to Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Dr Rajitha Senaratna, suggested that Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (Executive Director to the Centre of Policy Alternatives) could be summoned before the House for contempt of Parliament.

In fact the only clear contempt by Dr. Saravanamuttu is CPA’s decision to oppose the controversial decision by the Speaker and Parliament regarding the impeachment of the Chief Justice. While no official summons have been delivered to date, this is just another avenue of opposition that is being halted by the government.

Media organisations have been censored with independent papers being purchased and their stances changed, the judiciary is being chopped and changed whenever there is any form of opposition to the actions of the regime. While protesters taking to the streets are being intimidated with the presence of armed personnel and mobs of government supporters and even those who seek legal avenues of opposition are being labelled as being in contempt of Parliament.

The irony is that Sri Lanka was a country that achieved its independence from British rule through popular opposition and peaceful demonstrations. Now as the country looks to move forward from the 30 year civil war, the present government is ensuring that any expression of dissatisfaction is subdued through any means possible.

  • Jayalath

    This development is not started recently , I have told this before . This type of thuggery and repression began after 77 . I feel late president , Jayawardana would have ever thought it would end in this way ,because he showed reluctant to use full force right of the constitution althought he initiated it .

    So, now it in hand of monkeys , what we can do now. Pro. Steven Hawking once said , humans are very clever to invent nuclear bombs but I hope they will clever not use them . The nuclears are very useful and cheapest to generate energy and less damage to the environment as well , but it is dwn to us whether it is for the peaceful purposes or not.

    To be honest , I have heard lot good things of him too , he has done many good things that no one has done before, which needs to be appreciated . I hope we can see the result of every thing in few years . If he didn’t have his family around him at this moment he may have been six feet under .

    However , he needs to treats people well than he does now , then he can regain the respect .

  • http://- Justin

    The constitution of Sri Lanka(SL) was flawed from its first republican constitution, declared unilaterally and illegally by the Sinhalese in 1972. Further, there was no referendum as it is a “Must” for any constitution of any country. This deliberate action made the constitution null and void.

    So, what is that we have in SL now? Obviously, it is not a constitution but a “Mandate” given by the Sinhalese to rule themselves and the people of Tamil Eelam, but erroneously called a “constitution” and accepted by the world, because SL convinced the International Community fraudulently.

    Therefore, the present constitution is a fraud perpetrated on all the citizens, by the political elite in Colombo.

    This action was allowed to pass by the citizens and the politicos felt that with this ‘political coup de tat” they could make the legislature Supreme, even above the judiciary.

    Judiciary, which should have been allowed to act independently was threatened and policised. If we look at the Chief Justices who were impeached or confronted to make them go of their own will, proves my position ..

    The licence to kill the JVP supporters in 1971 and thereafter, the killing of the LTTE combatants and the licence to kill about 70,000 Tamil civilians were all exercised under the same “constitution” which I call a “Mandate”.

    This Mandate, which the GOSL calls a constitution, is a murderer and not for the people and by the people.

    Therefore, let us all draft a constitution, at least now, to overcome the genuine and evidenced fears of Tamils against genocide and grant them at least a semi autonomous state as in Hong Kong under China, and live peacefully and unitedly in the island.

  • oopla

    ahhhh…makes me so happy