Photo courtesy of Valley News

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s appointment of Presidential Task Force mandated to implement the One Country, One Law concept, headed by radical monk Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera, is a clear indication that another period of violence is on its way in Sri Lanka. Since practically the whole nation is engaged in the most widespread protests in recent history, the government needs the mobilisation of those who wish to take to the streets under the pretext of defending the One Country, One Law slogan. The purpose is to usher in a period of religious tension and violence, diverting the attention of the people from their present struggles on economic and social issues.

Ever since the 1978 Constitution was adopted, the necessity of street violence to suppress public opinion on matters affecting the country became a necessity. Over the years, the government and the state machinery acquired experience in the instigation of violence to confuse the masses and divert attention from pressing problems to other issues. In a situation of violence, the people become scared and are cautious about freely expressing themselves and demanding redress for their difficulties.

This time, the emerging problems are much more challenging than those faced before. Probable  starvation or at least serious food shortages have been predicted. Already many people belonging to the lowest income groups, such as those who receive the Samurdhi subsidy, are facing malnutrition and do not have access to very basic needs. The medical system is in serious decline where there are constant complaints by people who have cancer, kidney disease and other serious illnesses.

The government itself is complaining about its inability to deal with the foreign exchange crisis. This means that with the depletion of the nation’s treasury, more and more burdens are imposed on the people by way of constant price increases of essential items. Every family, including middle class families, is in an agitated state.

Teachers have taken to the streets for many months, demanding a pay increase and refusing to do online classes. Farmers are demanding fertilizer to cultivate their crops, burning effigies of the Agriculture Minister to show their desperation. The discontent and discord is widespread and on the rise.

The government knows that it is now in a most untenable position; this is not a normal situation of unrest. It is in a powerless position while people feel a sense of solidarity and strength in numbers as dissatisfaction spreads across the country.

During such instability, world history shows us that many amazing things have happened. In Russia, in the midst of great upheaval, the monarchy depended on a priest called Rasputin whom it thought had magical powers. He was a main cause of its downfall.

The more government leaders feel politically powerless, the more they will seek some force to protect them. In this case, that force is the Sinhala Buddhist movement, which has nothing to do with Buddhism or being Sinhala but is a radical movement seeking special advantages for some groups of people. Caught in the worst crisis ever, the government has appointed a Presidential Task Force headed by a Buddhist monk known for his violent rhetoric and actions, as well for having no respect for any of the decencies of human society including democratic values.

Why a Presidential Task Force? Because it would give some kind of legality and legitimacy to whatever the government is going to do. The government has already shown that it would go out of its way to protect its friends as it has done in the case of 11 people who were abducted and killed in a Navy camp. And there are other criminals who are openly forgiven. The Presidential Task Force will have permission to engage in whatever activities it wishes to with the assurance of direct or indirect impunity.

What has been envisaged under the slogan One Country, One Law is that there will be no law and there will be no country. This is not an exaggeration. The power centre of the country has been blown to pieces under the Executive Presidential system. A power centre means a diverse group of people who work on the authority of the state to ensure that the country remains stable and that all the services are being fulfilled. By its very nature, a power centre is a collective. The notion of the power centre being just one man is a political absurdity. This absurdity has been imposed on the nation and the result is that the system of law has broken down everywhere. The practical reality is that there is no law in operation; unenforced law is no law at all.

The Presidential Task Force will make the law enforcement situation worse. People who work under its protection will be above the control of the police or the military. They will engage in activities that no one can control or investigate.

The Task Force will contribute to another matter, that is, to get a Constitution that has been already drafted passed without proper consultation with the people.

An unpopular government will try to remain in power by inciting violence. If the people understand this, they will be in a position to undermine and defeat this scheme.