Featured image courtesy Newsfirst.

The birds they sang

At the break of day

Start again,

I heard them say,

Don’t dwell on what

Has passed away

Or what is yet to be.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen[1] 

‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change Do you understand?

Giuseppe di Lampedusa[2]


The genesis of this paper was a recent trip we took to Lanka as election observers for the August parliamentary elections. During the elections and after we had the opportunity not only to visit many  cities in the north, east and the south but to speak to a cross-section of its inhabitants. What follows is the result of our observations, our reading and our discussions about Lanka, not just during our recent trip but also in the course of the past decade.

The elections have given rise to optimism in some and cynicism in others who see the new government concealing an attachment to the bad practices of the past beneath a professed devotion to reform. We do not know which view is true. History is a capricious beast and the present is hard enough to comprehend; predictions are difficult to the point of impossibility. Nevertheless, we offer tentative conclusions, both optimistic and pessimistic.

We start with a very general outline of the historical background of the issues. Then go on to discuss issues like: good governance, accountability and fairness, the possibility of a more economically inclusive and just society, Sinhala Buddhist hegemony, and life in the north six years after the civil war.


Lanka lies off the southernmost tip of India, an island the shape of a teardrop. It is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country of over 20 million inhabitants. The dominant religion is Buddhism, followed by Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. The Sinhalese are 74.9 per cent of the population, indigenous Tamils 11.2 per cent and Muslims 9.2 per cent. Tamils descended from labourers brought from India in the 19th century make up around 4.2 percent of the population.

For around 36 years Lanka was wracked by a bloody civil war between the Government of Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In 2009 the government annihilated the LTTE and reclaimed the territory held by the Tigers. In the last phase of the war around 400,000 Tamil civilians were caught in a pincer movement between the LTTE and the government. It is estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 civilians died during the last months of that particular phrase of the war: around 8,000 to 9,000 Lankan troops also lost their lives between 2006 and 2009. The civil war probably resulted in around 200,000 deaths. The majority of the dead were civilians, and around 30,000 Sinhalese also died, most of who were military personnel.

On the 8th of January this year the increasingly autocratic President of Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was voted out of office by a broad coalition of forces that included members of his own political party. To ensure that greater limits were placed on the powers of the executive Presidency and to restore the principles of good governance, the new President Maithripala Sirisena announced parliamentary elections on the 17th of August. It was in some ways a surreal scenario, as one of the major (centre-left) bourgeois parties, the Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP), was divided in its loyalties, some members supporting the new President and others supporting Rajapaksa, who had re-entered the fray with the aim of being Prime Minister. Just a few days before the polls, Sirisena (in a calculated strategic blow) stated that on no account would he appoint Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, even if the latter secured a political majority.  Rajapaksa was defeated and Ranil Wickremesinghe (Ranil) the leader of the other allegedly more ‘conservative’ party (United National Party) became the Prime Minister of Lanka.

A less authoritarian and more accountable democracy

Since 1978, when J.R. Jayawardena amended the constitution to create an executive presidency, whoever became president of the country inherited powers that made them almost unaccountable for their actions. Even though the powers of the President were enormous, Rajapaksa widened them still further, shifting the balance of power even more from parliament and the judiciary firmly into the hands of the president.

Rajapaksa amended the country’s constitution (the 18th amendment), removing the presidential limit of two terms. There was also a change in the rules applying to elections. No longer was there be an independent commission, but one fully controlled by the President. The vital committees providing oversight of the allocation and spending of public monies had usually been chaired by members of the opposition parties. They were now placed under the control of ministers appointed by the President.[3] His executive powers were expanded to encompass the selection of the judiciary and the leaders of the armed forces.[4]

Sirisena has repeatedly stated his wish to abolish the executive Presidency and restore the role of Parliament as the premier arbitrator of democracy in the country. He has passed the 19th amendment to the constitution, reducing the powers of the President by reviving independent commissions and the Constitutional Court; he has also stated that he will act on the advice of the Prime Minister.[5] Whilst this does not go far enough, with some arguing that it is just window dressing, it is at least a start. He also allowed the Election Commissioner and the police to run and oversee the electoral process free from political interference.

We witnessed not only a strengthening of civic society but also an invigorated bureaucracy and police force. In the two districts in which we were election observers, Colombo district and Mawanella (a town near Kandy), the election passed without incident; people lined up early to cast their ballot and the scrutineers from the main parties seemed satisfied with what they were seeing. People were unfailing polite and genuinely happy and hospitable; the old and infirm were helped, sometimes carried by their relatives, other voters or public servants so they could vote. The general impression we got was that the police force and the public service were eager to show their impartiality and professionalism, now that their political shackles were broken.

Marring this was the quality of many of the candidates, whose commitment to transparency and democracy was questionable. One of the candidates we met owned a number of hotels and properties in the area and some argued that he was more interested in preserving his property portfolio than in attending to the needs of his impoverished constituents. Another candidate was running on his fame as a maths tutor: a lucrative profession, to judge by his retinue, the 4 wheel drives and the lavish election rallies. Another reason for worry was the fact that even though voters had rejected a number of candidates from both parties because of their blatant corruption and criminal activities, party leaders allowed them to not only re-enter the political fray but picked candidates to stand for election as members of parliament over more worthy candidates.[6] In line with the corrupt tamasha of the past, fifty cabinet posts were created to accommodate them, which must make Lanka one of the most cabinet-heavy democracies in the world. To be fair, this could be because of the compromises inherent in creating a political consensus.

Nevertheless, people in the current climate felt freer to express their opinions and a majority of the electorate, though they largely voted for the two main bourgeois political formations, picked the one that seemed to offer a more democratic and accountable civic culture.

To reinforce this, President Sirisena, with the help of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, wants to create a national government that will have a tenure of two years. He has invited the opposition to join the government; as a carrot they have been offered cabinet positions and chairmanships of various parliamentary sub-committees. During those two years, parliament could generate a consensus on the following: changes to the constitution to create a more balanced division of powers between the judiciary, parliament and executive arms of government; matters pertaining to national reconciliation; processes that would lead to good governance and transparency. There is no knowing how this will play out.

59 years after the passage of the Official Languages Bill[7]

We landed at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, and walking through its lengthy hallways we came across something uniquely Lankan: a prominent statue of the Buddha in the traditional lotus position. The implication was that we were entering a Buddhist state, not the multicultural and multi-religious country that Lanka actually is.

To better understand the island’s rich multicultural and multi religious history we decided to pay a visit to the National Museum, situated in one of the wealthier suburbs of Colombo. It is housed in a grand colonial edifice next to a picturesque park (Viharamahadevi Park). Wide streets and other fine neo-classical buildings frame the museum. It houses an excellent collection of royal regalia, carvings, sculptures, antique furniture, demon masks, china and ancient manuscripts. It also has interesting though idealised replicas of the life of the peasantry and a strange, beguiling and partisan view of Ceylon through the eyes of its colonial masters in the form of a series of water colours.

What was presented, however, was a Sinhala Buddhist centric view of Lanka’s history. We got some superb glimpses of the wonderful hydraulic civilisations of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, in the form of pictorial and verbal essays, sculptures, stupas, staircases and fragments of temples. There were also beautiful stone and metal statues of the mercurial Siva in his intricate dance of creation and destruction and his consort Parvathi at her most sensual. The quality of these sculptures was breathtaking and would in any other museum be highlights of the collection. Here they looked forlorn and neglected, and their curation was puzzling. Their plaques baldly stated that they were discovered in Polonnaruwa and belonged to the period of the city’s dominance. Also displayed were erotic paintings discovered at Sigiriya that were reminiscent of cave painting at Ajanta, but the question of mutual influence was ignored. There was almost nothing on Tamil culture, religion or society, except for the interesting observation that Tamil textile workers from the sub-continent settled in the Jaffna peninsula around the 17th century under the aegis of Dutch, the colonial rulers of the time. Islamic and Burger culture and social mores were equally neglected.

This mono-culturalism seems embedded in the official view of Lankan society. We spoke to many senior public servants in the form of Division Secretaries, Government Agents and senior members of the police force. Two things became apparent: in each of the offices and within many government buildings was a shrine to the Buddha; and communication, even in towns with a predominance of Moors or Tamils, was in Sinhala. Senior public servants had for the most part only a rudimentary grasp of English. This essential monolingualism was problematic in the north and east of the country, where large numbers of Tamils reside. It is not uncommon to see the local police force not being able to speak the mother tongue of the region.

At the major rallies of the two main bourgeoisie parties (SLFP and UNP) and their allies, the candidates entered the dais with a phalanx of Buddhist monks at the front and back of the cortege. Representatives from the other major religions were absent. The monks were the first to be seated on the podium, and then the political hoi polloi and the candidates took their seats. There seems to be little separation between the organs of the state and Buddhism.

The Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa, which houses a tooth of the Buddha), in Kandy, is the country’s premier Buddhist site. After walking past intricate altars and doorways you come to a hall which has a number of frescoes depicting the history of the Tooth. The message of the frescoes was that whoever was in possession of the Tooth ruled the island. One of the principal villains of the drama of the history of the Tooth was one of the last kings of Kandy, Wickrama Rajasinha, who in contrast to the Sinhalese Buddhist rulers (or so the story goes) was a tyrant. The caption said that he was a devotee of Siva. This version of history does not go into the complexities of his reign, the venality of the nobility, the manoeuvring of other claimants to the throne and the meddling of the British, but reaches the simple conclusion that his shortcomings were due to the fact that he was not a Buddhist.

In Batticaloa, mostly inhabited by Tamil speakers, the only ones that conversed in Sinhalese were those who exercised power – the police, military and some sections of the bureaucracy. Oddly, there were many Buddhist shrines and temples. Whilst we strolled in the streets of Batticaloa and around the lagoons we heard the unmistakable sounds of Buddhist chanting, drowning out the sound of pedestrian chatter and the cacophony of vehicular traffic (not to mention the lagoons’ legendary singing fishes). There is nothing benign in this form of Sinhala Buddhist hegemony. It will be interesting to see how it reacts to the call for reconciliation.

This monoculturalism has its roots in the island’s harsh colonial experience and the inability of the indigenous elite to build a national anti-colonial narrative. Important indigenous political and religious intellectuals like Dharamapala[8] in the south and Navalar[9] in the north of the country reacted to the destruction of their culture, the debasement of their respective religions and the social yoke of imperialism along purely religious and ethnic lines, not with a modern anti-colonial sensibility. The left, in the form of parties like the LSSP, did have an island-wide response to the British, but for complex reasons capitulated to opportunistic ethnic chauvinism.

In the North six years after the end of the civil war

On the 13th of May this year, in response to the pack rape and murder of an 18 year school girl, parts of Jaffna erupted into violence. Groups of angry young men burnt tires on the streets; and more tellingly the court and police stations were stoned. The agitators called for a hartal (strike) and the public execution of the people guilty of this heinous crime.

Commentators have pointed out that young people (mostly males), apart from showing little respect for the state apparatus of the courts and the police, do not trust their elders, and that the bonds that held families together in the north and the east are increasingly frayed.[10]

Travelling to Jaffna a month or so later, we passed many military camps for the army and the navy. They look less like camps than permanent settlements, with rows of neat buildings. Many had extensive golf courses attached to them, the grass lush in contrast to the surrounding countryside. We were also told the army had numerous market gardens. We did not see any of the many hotels that they also operate in the area. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 160,000 troops are still stationed in the region. The land expropriated to house them and the numerous golf courses, hotel complexes and market gardens represents land denied to many rural refugees. 80,000 to 160,000 troops in a small peninsula with a population estimate to be around 600,000 seemed not only omnipresent but oppressive.

We felt that oppression at one of the wayside stops when two lorry loads of troops dismounted. They were young recruits impeccable in their short haircuts, crisp uniforms and sense of privilege. They were no threat to us but there was an immediate change of mood. If we as outsiders felt that, one wonders what the locals would feel.

Our sense of being in an occupied country heightened when our driver had to register our entry into the peninsula. We felt we were entering a foreign country under military occupation, with one side speaking Sinhalese, the other Tamil. This feeling was reinforced by the number of war memorials for the Sinhalese troops who died during the conflict. One of the more disturbing ones we passed was in Kilinochchi (which had been the headquarters of the Tigers): a dynamited water tower with the message that this is what the Tigers did whilst the Singhalese troops liberated the Tamils. It is undeniable that the LTTE committed war crimes, but so did the Government forces. What was disturbing was that these monuments served as a symbol of Sinhalese Buddhist domination. Where are the Tamil monuments and graves for the dead?

The scars of war were not generally evident in the North. The railway was running again, a brand new station had been built and the roads were free of potholes. It was only in the side streets that we could discern traces of the conflict. The Jaffna library had been rebuilt and the walls of the fort had been reconstructed, giving us fine vistas of the shimmering Indian Ocean. A tourist ignorant of the city’s recent history would have concluded this was a city that had not experienced conflict and was experiencing a building boom.

Evidence of the psychological damage caused by 36 years of war could be seen in a large billboard in front of one of the municipal buildings in Jaffna. It depicted a nuclear family with phone numbers and help groups for people who were victims of domestic and sexual violence.

When speaking of these matters with a former vice-chancellor of Jaffna University we were given an elite view of this problem. Though reticent in talking about it, he did point out that many young people are disrespectful of their elders and many elders have resorted to extreme forms of corporal punishment to deal with the problem. There is a burgeoning drinking and drug problem amongst the youth of the peninsula. The solution lies partly in the hands of women, as many are now, because of the war, de facto heads of the household. It seems that under customary law they are also the inheritors of the family assets. (Customary law, as often noted by historians and cultural commentators, has also preserved the power of the dominant caste in the peninsula.) In addition, around 70 per cent of tertiary students are women. Another hopeful sign is that caste distinctions are gradually being eroded. These things could be interpreted as the beginnings of a revival in Tamil culture. We are not convinced.

Conservative, caste-bound hierarchical and patriarchal cultures like Hinduism (only 15 per cent of the population in the peninsula are not Hindus) have dominated cultural discourse in Jaffna. These cultural practices have shown a remarkable ability to resist change and only seem to reinforce the status quo. As these issues are complex and controversial, we will simply draw your attention to Dr Hoole’s many publications, in which he analyses the flaws of this sort of thinking in Sinhalese and Tamil culture.[11] That may be why he was recently banned from speaking at the vice-chancellor’s alma mater: Jaffna University.

We paid a visit to Jaffna Hospital, the main public hospital in Jaffna, and spoke to the professor who was in charge of its psychiatry department. When we visited (around 11 am) we found the hospital in full swing. The facilities seemed shabby and out of date and the medical staff seemed harried. There were hundreds of patients in its many out-patient clinics. In contrast to many of the Tamil elite, they were skinny, dark and shabbily dressed. These were the actual masses so many of us extol and presume to speak on behalf of but have never met. The professor informed us in no uncertain terms that the society was deeply traumatised, as evidenced by the widespread breakdown in the peninsula’s social and family structure, with a rise in family and sexual violence, rebelliousness among young people and sexual promiscuity. The Tamil elite seemed reluctant to talk about this, let alone spend time and resources in dealing with the problem. Many in the south know little and care nothing about these issues.

Meanwhile, thousands of bright young people without job prospects are desperately trying to get out of the peninsula. This is no surprise, given that the peninsula only contributes 4 per cent of the nation’s GDP. We had the chance to speak to a few of them at our hotel. Many were studying hard to get a scholarship to do post-graduate work at a foreign university. They were earning between Rs 7,500 to Rs 12,000 a month, depending on whether they worked part-time or full time. Part-time is usually 38 hours a week, though in many instances it was dependent on the whim of the employer. We saw this in a hotel that charged Rs 14,000 (AUD 140) a night.

Given the release of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report on war crimes committed by both parties in the war, there is little excuse for the inhabitants of the south not to come to terms with the pernicious effects of the civil war and the misconduct of both Sinhalese troops and the LTTE. Inaction is not an option, given the gravity and urgency of the situation.[12]

Truth and reconciliation programs dealing with the trauma of war, the development of infrastructure and industry, dealing with the disappeared and re-establishing filial connections (not a cultural issue) in the north and the east: these things are now a pressing political necessity.

It’s the economy stupid

The most glaring omission in the election was any discussion of the economic direction of the country, as none of the major parties questioned the prevailing neo-liberal policies. The differences were simply that one party claimed to be less corrupt than the other, and that one favoured countries like China while the other preferred closer ties with India and the West. We are not sure how the standard of living of the two thirds of workforce who work as casuals will be improved; nor do we know what will be done about the corruption in the business sector.  Nor is it clear what change will be made to the startling fact that 20 per cent of the workforce works abroad.

Lanka produces few of its avidly sought consumer goods like phones and TVs; the top 20 per cent of the population enjoy 42 per cent of the island’s income whilst the lowest 40 per cent make do with 17.8 per cent. Individual debt aside, national debt is now 79 per cent of GDP. The educational system is not producing the quality graduates the country needs (the elite educate their students abroad or in private and expensive international schools). For the students that graduate at the tertiary and secondary level there are not enough jobs and university positions to meet their expectations. Very little is spent on health services. Many families are forced to rely on the expensive private health system and are reduced to penury as a result. Another looming health issue is dengue fever. It is on the rise, especially in the western provinces – there were 20,000 reported cases in the first six months of 2014.[13]

In the decade since we last visited Colombo has grown exponentially. Its roads and pavements have received a facelift, with a spider’s web of highways now threading the city from the airport and major cities like Kandy and Galle. Travelling on the highway from the airport to the city was like a magic carpet ride. It was devoid of the traffic that mars so many major thoroughfares in the city, the reason being that the majority of the residents of Colombo would not be able to afford the toll. (This depends on the size of the vehicle and ranges from Rs 200 to Rs 600.) It is likely that many could not afford to buy and run a car.

The highway was built with money borrowed from the Chinese and built mainly by Chinese labour. It is reminiscent of the megalomaniacal infrastructure built by the Kim dynasty in North Korea and at the height of Ceausescu’s dictatorship in Romania.  These grandiose projects benefit only the elite and leave the country and its inhabitants further enmeshed in debt.

Once you reach the environs of the city the traffic crawls, snarls and snakes its anarchistic way around the city. There are still traces of its fine colonial architecture and pockets of fine modernist buildings, but these magnificent edifices, wide streets and boulevards are being choked by an unplanned building boom. From a town planning perspective it seemed a disaster, as every empty space seems built on, with a laissez-faire approach to style and quality, and an indifference to the obscuring or obliteration of many of the fine facades that give Colombo its charm.

Facing the Galle Face Green, one of the lungs of the city where the city’s inhabitants come to promenade in the cool sea breeze, a gigantic luxury hotel, apartment and shopping complex is being built. This complex will not only dwarf one of the lovely landmarks of the city, the Galle Face Hotel, but will in time inhibit the ability of its citizens to enjoy a much-loved public space. Many of these new developments are not affordable by ordinary citizens. They serve as architectural reminders of what the rich can buy.

This lopsided development took on a surreal aspect when we visited the homeland of the Rajapaksa clan, Hambantota, a town whose population is in the tens of thousands. Driving through the town one comes across a cricket stadium, a concrete colosseum that dominates its surrounds. It cost over US $7 million and seats around 35,000 spectators: more people than live in the town. But there is more. As you drive to the outskirts of the town the road widens and the traffic thins out; suddenly a vast highway reveals itself, with a nature reserve on either side and the occasional small hut. Apart from a small bus and a bicycle or two, ours was the only vehicle.

The monotony of short spiky trees was suddenly disrupted when we glimpsed the US $15 million dollar convention centre. Your eyes are immediately drawn to a long avenue, seamlessly joined to a magnificent stairway and crowned by a huge concrete building which stubbornly ignores the jungle encroaching on its environs. On the right, we got glimpses of the gigantic billion dollar port. If this was a working port we saw no evidence of it, as there was nary a ship on the horizon. Further up the road was a spanking new international airport which, on the day we were there, was closed.

To tackle this lopsided development and endemic corruption the link between powerful business interests and members of both bourgeoisie parties needs to be broken. This means a more interventionist state in the social democratic mould, a vibrant trade union movement and a strong judiciary. Unfortunately the current Prime Minister Ranil’s track record shows a strong ideological commitment to expanding the parameters free market.


We must also take into account the fact that the government did not get a resounding majority; a sizeable minority did not vote for them in the south, as we were reminded when we took a taxi in Colombo. The driver, whose English was excellent, enthusiastically joined in our endless political discussions. He emphatically informed us that Sirisena had been ‘bought’ by the West: he was given $400 million to help him fight the election and if he wins he will be beholden to the supporters of Eelam.

Fuelling this rancour are those tiresome intellectual courtiers of the previous regime and Sinhalese exceptionalism: HLD Mahindpala and Dr Dayan Jayatilleka[14]. They repeatedly and vehemently insist that acceptance of the UNHRC report is tantamount to treason and a surrender of the national sovereignty of Lanka. Refreshingly, this political mendacity had no effect on those many voters who saw it as a smokescreen for the autocratic inclinations of the Rajapaksa clan. Does that mean there is some empathy for the plight of the Tamils in the north and east? Apart from a minority of Lankan intellectuals, political activists and commentators, we are not so sure.

Also troubling is the fact that the new parliament is still tainted by the: incompetent, criminal and corrupt. Prime Minister Ranil, a believer in the free market, is likely to pursue economic policies that will benefit private capital and contract the role of the state. The effect on an economically fragile and socially divided country like Lanka could be catastrophic. It would certainly exacerbate the economic and social divide in the south, and if neo-liberal policies are followed in the north and the east it could tear Lanka’s fragile society even further. Facing the conundrum of economic inequity and the strident noise of ‘Sinhala disadvantage’ compared to other communities, past governments with significant members of the ‘left’ have also resorted to populist pro-Sinhala sentiments.

The armed forces could also intervene if their interests are not attended to.  The army is huge, with at least 200,000 members. During the Rajapaksa regime the armed forces were given a number of economic concessions and important ambassadorships, and some of its middle and high-ranking officers became senior public servants. In the north and east they occupy large tracts of land. Their economic activities (as mentioned above) are also extensive; they own and run hotels, golf courses and market gardens.  If the reconciliation process has any meaning and if people are to be resettled in large numbers, it would mean reducing the size of the army in the north and east and the armed forces giving up their lucrative businesses activities there. Two disturbing questions arise from this. Has the government got the nerve to do it and would the armed forces allow it? Regardless of the political hue of the government running Lanka, they will have to tread carefully, especially since the governing coalition is so fragile.

Clouding the current government’s intentions is the huge public relations effort they have made to portray themselves as being strong supporters of transparency and good governance. Many see this as ploy to save their skins. They point out that Sirisena was a prominent figure in the previous regime, and was for a while the Defence minister. We did not hear him objecting then to human rights violations and corruption.

Sirisena and Ranil are clearly not social and economic reformers like Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the British Labor Party or presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the United States. Unlike Podemos in Spain or Syriza in Greece they have not linked their reformist agenda to grassroots organisations which could ensure not only the viability of that agenda but its democratic content. One thinks of the demise of Abbott and the ascendancy of Turnbull to the job of Prime Minister of Australia – a change in style, not substance.

Notwithstanding the above, it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge that Lanka is a different country to what it was in the Rajapaksa era. The elections were not tarnished by violence and the bureaucracy and police force were scrupulous in ensuring a free and fair election. The population came out to vote in large numbers. Some of the arbitrary powers of the President have been stripped away and the government is not hostile to the UNHRC report on war crimes.

As we have said, the current government needs to offer concrete policies. The rift in the ruling elite, the broadening of the democratic space for actors in civil society, the UNHRC report and the strong commitment of some members of parliament to transparency and good governance must be nurtured and supported.

Now is the time for progressive minded Lankans, including those living abroad, to make themselves felt: trade unionists, human right activists, members of progressive civic groups, supporters of national reconciliation and active members of progressive political parties.

How these dialectics intersect, clash, mutate and coalesce is anybody’s guess. Unlike the previous regime, Lanka is now pregnant with a sense of creating a more dynamic civil society and we wish and hope to support those progressive elements in their struggle to create a more inclusive society that better reflects the multicultural and multi-religious tenor of this beguiling verdant island.

Such is life.

[1] Cohen, Leonard (1993) Anthem in Stranger Music, Jonathan Cape p. 373

 [2] Di Lampedusa, Giuseppe (1969). The Leopard. Fontana, p. 28.

[3] Punchihewa, S.G. (2010). Sri Lankan constitution and democratic rights. In Sri Lankan Guardian of 10 October 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/10/sri-lankan-constitution-and-democratic.html

[4] Nagaraj, V. (2011). The Sri Lankan army is selling vegetables. In The Guardian of 28 January 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/28/sri-lanka-army-military

[5] Ramachandran, Suda (2015) Sirisena reins in Sri Lankan Executive Presidency in Asia Times May 4, 2015 Retrieved: http://atimes.com/2015/05/sirisena-reins-in-sri-lankas-executive-presidency

[6] Our respective reports as election monitors for the August 2015 parliamentary elections.

[7] The Official Language Bill better known as the Sinhala Only Bill was passed in 1956. It made Sinhala the official language of Lanka. In the fifty nine years since its passage the island experienced: numerous riots, pogroms, acres of verbal invective and miles of printed bile and a thirty year civil war that ended in 2009

[8] Anagarika Dhaarmapala (1864-1933). Born Don David Hewavitharana, he was also known as Venerable Devamitta Dharmapāla. In the latter half of the nineteenth century he, like many others, was caught up in the wave of Buddhist revivalism that swept Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). It was engendered by two theosophists, Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott, who set up a number of Buddhist schools on the island. He changed his name during this period to Anagarika (one who does not inhabit a house) Dharmapala (guardian of the Dharma) and played a pivotal role in linking Buddhism as practised on the island to the anti-colonial struggle. His rhetoric was unfortunately heavily infused with racial imagery and Sinhala exceptionalism. He eventually broke with the theosophists over their idea of a world religion. In the later stages of his life he went to Northern India to revive Buddhism where it had lain dormant for over a thousand years, rebuilding a number of temples and monasteries.

[9] Arumuga Navalar (1822-1879). He played a pivotal role in revival of Hinduism in the north and the east of the island. Navalar was one of the early adaptors of modern Tamil prose, introduced Western editing techniques, and built schools (in imitation of Christian mission schools) that taught secular and Hindu religious subjects. He was a defender of Saivism against Christian missionary activity and was one of the first indigenous citizens to use the modern printing press to preserve the Tamil literary tradition. He published many polemical tracts in defence of Saivism, and also sought and published original palm leaf manuscripts. He also attempted to reform Saivism itself – an effort which sometimes led to the decline of popular deities and worship modes and confrontation with traditional authorities of religion. Some post-colonial authors have criticised his contributions as parochial, limited, conservative, and favouring the elite castes. Within his anti-colonial message and struggle the tone of his campaigns and crusades was largely essentialist and anti-modern.

[10] Balachandran, R. C. (2015) Post-War Systemic Breakdown Blamed for Jaffna Riots in The New Indian Express. 22 May 2015. Retrieved: www.newindianexpress.com/world/Post-War-Systemic-Breakdown-Blamed-For-Jaffna-Rape-and-Mayhem/2015/05/22/article2827962

[11] In particular Hoole, Raj (2001), The Arrogance of Power: Myths, Decadence and Murder, published by University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna).

[12] See: UN Human Rights Boss Urges Creation of Hybrid Special Court in Sri Lanka – Colombo Telegraph – September 16 2015. Retrieved: www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/un-human-rights-boss-urges-creation-of-hybrid-special-court-in-sri-lanka/

[13] See Hettige, Siri (2015), Towards a Sane Society, Sarasavi Publishers, for a fuller exposition of these matters.

[14] An example: Jayatilleka, Dayan (2015) Prince Zeid’s War on Sri Lanka. Colombo Telegraph – September 16, 2015. Retrieved: https://www.colombotelegraph.com//index.php/prince-zeids-war-on-sri-lanka.