18th Amendment, Colombo, Constitutional Reform, Politics and Governance, Post-War

Might is Right in Sri Lanka today

“I define Justice or Right as what is in the interest of the stronger party – the ruling class in any state, but I can see you don’t agree” says Thrasymachus, the sophist to Socrates in Plato’s  – The Republic. The sophists dismissed conventional morality as a sham and substituted self-interest.

In Sri Lanka today might has been proved right in several instances. The forces that Lasantha Wickramatunga continued to criticize in his regular columns were definitely stronger and he was easily eliminated. The fact that he was brutally slaughtered in a high security zone in broad day light shocked only a minority. The majority continued to remain silent. Might was proved right. Not so long ago Eknaligoda was abducted, again for his critical writings and made to disappear. General Sarath Fonseka who saved the country from the terror of the LTTE is today stripped of his rank, denied his pension and incarcerated. Not many people even want to point out the injustice done to these men. Their reasoning seems to be – Lasantha and Eknaligoda should not have criticized powerful politicians. As for General Sarath Fonseka he is being punished for his ambition. He should have quietly retired and not contested the Presidential election. That was his mistake. He could even be executed for treason. There will be death for his ambition but no honour for his valour, being stripped of his rank and medals and subjected to severe humiliation. Majority of Sri Lankans may accept this as just, for it is those with might who do it and might is proved right.

“A land without opposition” is the subject of the editorial in a daily newspaper this week. There is no collective protest from the opposition parties. The leader of the opposition Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe has been named Ranil Rajapakse for the support he lends the powerful Rajapakse regime. In the occasional public statements he makes he may sound critical of these many acts of injustice but all his actions prove that he supports the powerful regime.

Many admire this regime for the power it wields and they want to be a part of it. The SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem seems convinced that Mahinda Rajapakse should remain President for life. We still do not know what ministerial post he has been offered for his timely support. The next to join the merry band of ministers could very well to be Sri Ranga. The opposition has allowed itself to be completely swallowed up by the regime, because it is profitable to be with the strong and mighty ruling clan. It is also the right thing they seem to believe.

“The President can contest for ever once the constitution is amended” is the main headline in a week end newspaper. Already these amendments have been approved by the cabinet. Very soon it could be passed in parliament with 160 members in favour. That is more than two thirds majority. According to these amendments the President can, not only remain in power for life but also wield enormous power without any checks. The more power the President acquires the more attractive he seems to the people, at least to the majority.

The police, the guardians of the law also act in favour of those in power, proving that might is right. Wimal Weerawansa the powerful minister was only exercising his right to protest in front of the UN office. But the Buddhist monks near the Fort railway station protesting against the detention of General Sarath Fonseka were treated as law breakers. The police did not see this as their democratic right to express dissent as in the case of Wimal Weerawansa.

What hope do we have then for a just and stable society in Sri Lanka? Today justice seems to be what is good for the ruling party. And there is no Socrates among us to whom we could appeal: “Prove to us, therefore, not only that justice is superior to injustice, but that, irrespective of whether Gods or men know it or not, one is good and the other evil because of what it inevitably does to its possessor”.

But all is not lost. There are still a few dissenting voices that do not agree with Thrasymachus’s definition of justice. To quote one example – Renaissance man in his Sunday Leader column (July 18/2010) under the heading “I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” says. “We have rationalists justifying every step of the Rajapakse clan’s path to total and absolute power, we have erstwhile Troteskyists performing semantic gyrations in an effort to prove that the current regime doesn’t preside over corruption that isn’t without equal even in Sri Lanka. We have Stalinists providing an example of self righteousness— justifying god knows what horror that those of us who once lived in a Sri Lanka of decency and where the Rule of Law prevailed could never have anticipated”.

But then a time may also come when all such dissenting voices will become silent if not silenced.