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Sri Lanka: The Aftermath

From the charade of economic miracles to a very real death – that was how the Rajapaksas managed the economy in the past. That past will be repeated if Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins the presidency.

by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“At times media freedom is used to forget what is necessary for the country, what should be done for society… Similarly if we do not get the support of the courts we cannot do this. Every institution must realise this…. ‘Human Rights’, ‘Media Freedom’, various ideas such as these are given to us by The International to control our society... Be it the police, the army, some officials, politicians or leaders: it must be realised that they act sincerely. They must be supported”
Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Interview with the ITN – 24.2.2010)

            If Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins the presidency, he and his family will have two priorities: secure the premiership for Mahinda Rajapaksa and obtain a two-thirds majority in the next parliament for the SLPP. Reaching the first goal would be a necessary condition for reaching the second. If the SLPP can go for the next election under a SLPP president and a SLPP premier, a landslide victory would be possible.

There are rumours that a President Gotabaya plans to replace Ranil Wickremesinghe with Brother Mahinda via a Gazette Extraordinary one minute past Hour Zero. The legality or otherwise of such a move would not bother him. As he said in his famously infamous ‘conversation’ with Fredrick Jansz, “I’m not afraid of the bloody courts!” (The Sunday Leader – 12.7.2017).

The past can be a reliable mirror into the future, especially when some of the lead actors remain the same.

What did the Rajapaksas did when they last won a presidential election?

It was the early hours of January 27th, 2010. The votes were still being counted. Hundreds of armed soldiers and policemen surrounded the hotel in which Candidate Sarath Fonseka, his family and his political colleagues were temporarily residing.

            Various Rajapaksa spokesmen claimed that the purpose of the siege was to arrest hundreds of armed army deserters Gen. Fonseka was keeping inside Cinnamon Lakeside. They accused him of plotting to mount a coup and to assassinate Mahinda Rajapaksa.

            The ‘siege’ couldn’t uncover any deserters. There were none. The only soldiers present were members of Candidate Fonseka’s official security detail granted to him by the military, in accordance with the orders of the Election Commissioner. When these uniformed men came out of the hotel to report to their original unit, they were arrested, made to kneel on the road, handcuffed, and taken away by the military police.

Busy days followed.

The editor of the para-JVP paper, Lanka was arrested. A Swiss reporter was deported for asking sharp questions at a post-victory press conference. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa accused Mr. Fonseka of planning a ‘Bolshevik style coup’. Mr. Fonseka’s office was raided by a 200 strong STF contingent, searching for ‘army deserters’ and ‘illegal weapons’. Having found neither one nor the other, the raiders arrested 15 members of Mr. Fonseka’s staff, all of them duly retired army men. The office of the website Lanka e news was sealed. Government leaders announced their determination to obtain a two thirds majority at the parliamentary election, and effect a constitutional change. The army was subjected to a spate of transfers and compulsory retirements. The state TV began airing old and new songs hailing President Rajapaksa as the King of Sri Lanka. Private TV stations followed suit.

Two weeks after the presidential election, Mr. Fonseka was arrested. He was assaulted, handcuffed, and dragged away like a common criminal.

The next day, Mahinda Rajapaksa dissolved the parliament.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in an interview with The Strait Times, connected the dots: “Now he can’t (campaign in the parliamentary polls). The court martial will begin immediately after the assembling of the summary evidence is done. I don’t know how long it will take because that depends on lawyers. But we want to finish it soon, in less than six months maybe. The severity of the charges is very high. He can be put in jail for as long as five years.”

In the fortnight between the conclusion of the presidential election and dissolving of the parliament, the opposition’s back was broken and the path to a landslide victory for the governing party assured.

Bolshevik Coups and Other Tales

In Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, Joseph K is arrested because “someone must have been telling lies” about him. Throughout the book he tries to discover the name of his crime and fails. In the end, he is condemned to death by “the judge he had never seen” and “the high court he has never reached.” The fear both the protagonist and the reader feel comes from this unknowing. Any landscape however terrifying can be negotiated if it has familiar landmarks. But when a landscape is surreal, unknowing and unknowable, direction has no meaning and being lost is every destination.
Sri Lanka in February 2010 was going to become Russia in October 1917, or so Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa claimed. Possibly with Sarath. Fonseka as Vladimir Illich Ulyanov also know as Lenin.

No one laughed. 

‘Bolshevik Committees’ headed by military officers loyal to Mr. Fonseka were to be formed, the cabinet spokesman claimed. The purpose of the coup was to assassinate Brothers Mahinda, Brothers Gotabaya and Basil and several senior ministers. “With the military officers who were active partners of the conspiracy spilling the beans, it is frightening to contemplate the result of what may have happened if such a Russian Revolution–style military coup had taken place... In a popular revolt when people get killed it is not possible to pinpoint the killers. That was how the plotters planned to divert the attention of the public from the bloodbath and prevent investigations being conducted” (Daily Mirror – 6.2.2010).

How does one respond to such a charge, when laughter is not an option?

The only way the opposition could have managed in that Kafkaesque landscape was by banding together. Instead the oppositional unity unravelled. The UNP and the JVP faced the parliamentary election as rivals, sealing their doom and that of Lankan democracy.

The Rajapaksas won a resounding victory just short of a two-thirds majority. And almost 40% of the electorate did not vote.

The turnout at the presidential poll had been 74.5%. At the parliamentary election turnout was down to 61.26%. That abstention enabled Rajapaksa to score a massive win, despite a drastic drop in its average vote compared to the presidential election.

As the outcome of the election became clear, Rupavahini began telecasting songs hailing President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the ‘God given King’ and ‘Saviour-Hero’ of the nation.

A fortnight later, Gotabaya Rajapaksa issued a warning to the new parliament. “The new government should go all out against any local element promoting separatist sentiments regardless of political consequences,” he told the legislators. He “expressed concern that a section of officialdom could help the separatist cause by trying to appease foreign governments and some funding agencies,” and emphasised the “pivotal importance of the judiciary, particularly the Attorney General’s Department, in supporting the government’s efforts to suppress terrorism.” He stated that “Opposition political parties or constituent partners of the ruling coalition should not be allowed to engage in divisive politics” (The Island – 17.4.2010).

Not a word was said, then or later, about the Bolshevik coup. Having created the psycho-political conditions for a landslide Rajapaksa victory, it was consigned to the abyss of forgotten lies. It was needed. Then it was not. As Joseph K is told by a priest, “You don’t need to accept everything as true, you only have to accept it as necessary.”

The Shape of Dystopia

            This week a man called Julampitiye Amare was sentenced to death.

            Who was Julampitiye Amare? What was his crime?

During the run up to the Southern provincial council election, a JVP meeting in Katuwana, in the Rajapaksa bastion of Hambantota was attacked. Ten men on five motorbikes, armed with T56 rifles shot into the crowd, killing two and injuring several.

Julampitiye Amare, a man the police was looking for high and low but could never be found even though he moved around in broad day in the company of the Rajapaksas, led the attack. This much wanted man was even in the habit of visiting his friends in prison, a judge revealed in open court.

That was how law and order was maintained in the Rajapaksa past.

This is the disciplined and law-abiding future which awaits us if Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins the presidency.

If so, JVP activists in Hambantota might even encounter a hastily pardoned Julampititye Amare during the upcoming parliamentary election campaign.

The Rajapaksas needed the Julampitiye Amares to win elections because of the mess the economy was in by 2011 and its growing political fallout.

For instance, between July 2011 and February 2012, the Central Bank used a third of the country’s gross foreign exchange reserves to keep the rupee stable. More than US$ 2.7 billion was released into the market during these seven months. When this insanity turned unsustainable, the Rajapaksas veered to the other extreme and allowed the rupee to go into free fall. The day the rupee was allowed to depreciate freely the President placed the armed forces on alert. Then he was in Singapore. His brother and economic czar Basil Rajapaksa was missing. When the inflationary time-bomb exploded, neither was around to explain what went wrong. And Gotabaya Rajapaksa was too busy waging a war against birds who were sullying his pristine Colombo with their droppings.

Fuel prices were jacked up to astronomical levels, all at once. Bus fares and electricity rates also went up within days. When fishermen in Chilaw demonstrated against the fuel hike, they were met by a combined force of police, army and the STF. One fisherman, Anthony Fernando, a father of two, was shot dead and around eight were injured, some seriously. A JVP protest in Colombo was brutally attacked the same day and a joint-Opposition protest was treated in an identical manner two days later.

According to Nesta Fernando, an eyewitness to the shooting of Anthony Fernando, “...the army attacked our people, beat them up and tear-gassed them. They shot at several of our people. We told them several times not to shoot but just to beat back our boys. But they did not listen. We may have been able to save the injured boy if we were allowed to take him to hospital” (Gosssip Lanka – 17.2.2012). Chilaw, on the day of Mr. Anthony’s funeral, looked like a part of the besieged North, teeming with armed soldiers and military vehicles.

From the charade of economic miracles to a very real death – that was how the Rajapaksas managed the economy in the past. That past will be repeated if Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins the presidency.

As for preserving the culture, traditions and heritage, this was what the Chief Prelate of the Asgiriya Chapter, Ven. Udugama Sri Buddharakkitha Thero, had to say in 2012: “Excavating treasure under the guise of resurrecting ancient history is not done without the consent of high-ranking government officials…even excavating machines are used for digging treasures. The average man can’t dig with backhoes, and even if the underlings are caught, the big guns behind these crimes still manage to be safe...” (Ceylon Today – 18.5.2012).

Then there were the plans the Rajapaksas couldn’t implement then, and will resurrect in the future, if the future becomes theirs on November 17th.

Such as the plan by Tharunyata Hetak, a Namal Rajapaksa fief to set up ‘Blue villages’ to develop the villages and to promote the Nil Balakaya, another Namal Rajapaksa fief.

Such as the Jana Sabha scheme. The Jana Sabhas, as the UPFA General-Secretary Susil Premjayanth pointed out, were to have the power to prepare their own budgets and development plans and to obtain the necessary financial allocations from the central government. The elected provincial councils and local government authorities were to be legally obliged to seek approval from the unelected Jana Sabhas to launch any project. The Jana Sabhas were also to be given control over the development funds of parliamentarians, including how the money is to be spent and monitoring of related projects. And they were to function under the ‘purview’ of Basil Rajapaksa.

The brothers were in the process of turning the Lankan state into a Rajapaksa state when 2015 intervened. Will we enable them to resume that interrupted journey on November 16th? That is what this election is really about.

The Morning After

Maithripala Sirisena’s unpardonable decision to pardon the brutal murderer of a young woman was one more reminder of the dangers inherent even in a truncated presidency. Mr. Sirisena’s capacity to abuse power was limited not just by the law, but also by his own lack of real power. He was hemmed in by the fact that his party couldn’t dominate the parliament and he couldn’t dominate his own party.

If he wins, Sajith Premadasa’s worse instincts too would be hemmed in by similar constraints. He wouldn’t be able to rule the UNP, but lead it through a process of consensus. The UNP would not be able to rule the next parliament because there will be a strong opposition.

But none of these constraints will be present if the Rajapaksas make a comeback. Mahinda Rajapaksa could turn Sri Lanka into a familial oligarchy because of a unique set of circumstances. He won the war, and he had a Mafia-type family of brothers, sons, and nephews. With these two factors he was able to hegemonise and command his party, and for several years the country.

If there’s a second incarnation of the Rajapaksa Inc. it would be shorter on hegemony than last time. But in the SLPP the Rajapaksas have a party that is wholly theirs and in Gotabaya they will have the president no Lankan institution will resist (they are already kowtowing to him). If Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins the presidency, the future will be like the past and worse.   

Verdict on Ayodhya in Ram Rajya

The truth of the matter is that the country is in a terrible shape. It is not necessary to rattle out facts and figures. They don’t matter.

by Ajit Hari

The facts of the matter are irrelevant. True, the Babri Masjid was demolished. It was an act of vandalism. It was unlawful. Was the Babri Masjid built over the ruins of a temple? Was the temple demolished to build the mosque? Was the demolition of the temple an act of religious assertion by the Mughals? Was that part of a sustained policy of destruction of temples by Muslim invaders? Was the narrative entirely a story of Muslim aggression and Hindu victimhood? Have there not been religious violence by Hindus?

None of this matter. None of this should matter.

What should matter is the state of the country at this moment, and the projections for the immediate future and its prospects in the longer term. And this should be the concern of all its citizens. Of all religions, all regions, all linguistic units. All the men and all the women, even children – instilling the right values in them to grow up into responsible citizens.

The truth of the matter is that the country is in a terrible shape. It is not necessary to rattle out facts and figures. They don’t matter. Suffice to say that the country is at the lower reaches of human development indices on hunger, education, healthcare, freedom of expression, human rights… practically everything.

And what do people of this country want? They want Cow Protection Bill. And they have got it. You could well say that it is just the Hindus who want this. But then, out of a population of 1.3 billion, a billion of them are Hindus. You might well say that it is just the upper caste Hindus who want this, and you would be right. But then, the lower caste Hindus don’t count. After all, they are just – low caste Hindus.

That is the reality of Bharatiya Janata Party’s India. As it stands, BJP has a strangle hold on India. They are the only pan national political force. They set the agenda for the country. And their agenda is very simple. Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan.

Thirty years ago it was inconceivable that India could countenance such a regressive ideology. It was the domain of the lunatic fringe. India was a secular democracy, albeit an imperfect and impoverished one. BJP had one seat in the parliament. Today they are the single dominant presence in the parliament.
And, they have to thank Mr. Lal Krishna Advani for that. He had the brilliant idea that the issue of building a temple at the Ram Janambhoomi would resonate with the average Hindu. He would forget all about roti, kapada aur makan, and sadak, bijlee aur paani. He would be perfectly happy with a Ram Temple. Even if he was a low caste who was not allowed to step into it.

And Mr. Advani came up with the perfect strategy to mobilize the Hindus on the issue. That was the Rath Yatra. The moment the Rath moved, the Idea of India died. All that followed was a foregone conclusion. It had to come to this. There is much more to come. All of it terrible.

Now, none of this would have been possible without the active complicity of the Muslim community in India. Just as the temple was more important to the Hindus than development and a better standard of living, the Muslims were just as clear that the mosque was more important to them than all this and more – well, their very lives. The Muslims are very big on martyrdom. And that suits the Hindus and the BJP just fine. They are very happy to oblige.

It has been a veritable orgy of rape and murder from instant the Rath Yatra got under way. And the Muslims of India appear to be reveling in the joys of victimhood. Win-win all around. It never seem to have to occurred to them they could let go of the mosque and get on with their lives.

The Muslim community and BJP have got able assistance from another quarter in fulfilling the BJP’s agenda. And that is the liberals of India, mainly comprised of the moderate Hindus. In their eagerness to demonstrate their secular credentials, they have been willing accomplices in the worst impulses of the Muslim community. They have championed the right of the Indian Muslims to every regressive practice enjoined upon the ummah by orthodox Muslim establishment. In the process, they have alienated the average progressive Hindu from the debate.

And the moderate, modern, progressive Muslim. They are nowhere in the picture. They dare not open their mouths. Any attempt to say anything sane or sensible is shouted down by not just the extremists, but the average Indian Muslim. It is their lot to suffer in silence and get raped and killed when the next cycle of ritual massacre of the Muslim comes around.

It was expected to happen when the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya Issue was delivered on the 9th of November. There was a collective sense of relief that it did not come to pass. But that was because the verdict was in favour of the Hindus. If that was not the case, it could have been another story altogether.

This is the new reality of India. The New York Times described it succinctly in their report on the Ayodhya Verdict. According to NYT, the Muslims received the verdict with ‘sullen resignation’. That is what the progressive Hindus and Christians also did. There really was no other option.

So, this is where we are at this moment. An India where the Hindus lord it over the Muslims, and the upper caste Hindus lord it over the lower caste Hindus. And the 2% Christians? What about them? They don’t count.

Only the upper caste Hindus count. Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan.

This is Ram Rajya.

Ajit Hari is a filmmaker and social activist.

Sri Lanka: The Outlook On Governance Looks Scary

When a person is willing to act contrary to the very justice system of the country, how or which democratic institution can hold such a person accountable for his deeds.

by Mass L. Usuf

In the case of Gouriet v Union of Post Office Workers (1977-1-AER-696), Lord Denning said:

“To every subject of this land, however powerful, …
Be you ever so high, the law is above you.”

Some of the utterances made by the Presidential candidate Mr. Gotabaya Rajapakshe on different occasions have begun to have a ripple effect in the minds of the independent voters. Of the several, this piece will analyse one such statement.

In his address at the maiden election rally of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) in Anuradhapura, he promised that all imprisoned war heroes will be released by the morning of the day after the presidential poll.

“A large number of war heroes (ranaviruwan) are languishing in prisons over false charges and cases. I would like to declare at this moment that they will all be released by November 17th morning,” Rajapaksa said.

Fear, Anxiety, Flattery

This statement is typical populist flattery in the post-war Sri Lankan context. So, what is populism? The basic tools the populists exploit are fear, anxiety and uncertainty. They use these conditions that exist in society to gain power and then change the fundamental system of governance. To appease the people populist sentiments of different types are contextually and consistently addressed. These days it is common to hear the subject of racism, national security, Buddhism, 21/4, ranaviruwan etc. manipulatively used by speakers of all the parties involved in the Presidential campaign, to their advantage.

In this exercise, flattery becomes an indispensable component. Socrates, it is believed, had said that an authoritarian ruler flatters those over whom he seeks to rule. One more method is to create a distinction between the opponent and one’s self. Thus, claim the exclusive ability to solve anything and everything.

Implications Of This Statement

To mention that he will release all ‘war heroes’ held as prisoners is a serious statement. In his celebrated speech to the electors of Bristol in 1774, statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke said, “ … But Government and Legislation are matters of reason and judgement, and not of inclination; and, what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decide; ….”.

A presidential candidate positioning himself in this manner exposes himself in a very negative sense – ignorance or arrogance. Not that all what the other Presidential hopefuls say are oozing with wisdom but this one stands out. In order to establish that this column is not a prejudiced assertion, an inquiry under the following headings would be helpful.

1. As a presidential candidate

A presidential candidate is supposed to inform the people about his policies at a macro level for the benefit of the nation. His main focus should be to discuss, debate and defend these. In contrast, here is someone who wants to micro manage the Department of Prisons. Are the handful of prisoners his priority? Will not such an act impinge on the functioning of the justice machinery? Moreover, such sentiments reveal a self-conflicting view, to the often-repeated rhetoric by this person, of a disciplined society and good governance. The public is confused!

2. The Separation of Powers

A President of a country should carry out his duties and functions with legality and not arbitrarily. What this entails is respecting the rules of natural justice, abiding by the constitution and the law of the country. By his statement Mr. Gotabaya Rajapakshe is intending to breach the fragile doctrine of the Separation of Powers. The Executive branch of government will be directly interfering with the functions of the judiciary.

One of the fundamental assets and at the very heart of a democracy is the rule of law. Article 12 (1) of the Constitution states that “All persons are equal before the law”. There cannot be one set of laws for the so-called ‘war heroes’ and another for the citizens. Moreover, there is a need to define this phrase, ‘war hero’. It has become like a blob of clay in the hands of a person who can turn it into any different shape and form as he wishes. There are several members of the armed forces serving sentences for criminal activities and they have been dealt with according to the law. The law applies equally to all the citizens.

3. Independence of the judiciary

“Any person charged with an offence shall be entitled to be heard, in person or by an attorney-at-law, at a fair trial by a competent court.” (Article 13 (3) of the Constitution).

“No person shall be punished with death or imprisonment except by order of a competent court, made in accordance with procedure established by law”. (Article 13 (4) of the Constitution).

To claim that they have been imprisoned on false charges is an affront on the Police, the Attorney General’s department and the judiciary. The due process of the law had been followed and the prisoners would have had the opportunity to disprove charges made against them. It was not a kangaroo court that sentenced them or holding them in custody. Such a sweeping call will erode the confidence people have on the judiciary and the judicial system. The judicial officers themselves will be discouraged from carrying out their noble task of adjudicating.

4. To the armed forces – wrong message

Our armed forces in general, are to a great extent considered to be a disciplined force. Of course, there are bad eggs too. However, such statements by a Presidential hopeful, who if elected will be the Commander in Chief, sends an absolutely wrong signal to the members of the forces that they can get away with anything. Given the extremely sensitive and delicate balance of our social structure as of today, this will be an encouragement towards anarchy and, to act with impunity.

5. Presidential Pardon

The national newspapers reported in May 2019, that the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was of the view that the power of pardon granted under the Constitution should not be exercised in an arbitrary and capricious manner without consulting the vital stakeholders, namely the Court which imposes the sentence and the Attorney General.

The BASL made these observations after issuing a special statement regarding the recent act by President Sirisena in granting a Presidential pardon to Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thera who was serving a sentence by the Court of Appeal for Contempt of Court committed in the presence of the Homagama Magistrate. The BASL will be gravely concerned of this power being exercised arbitrarily in the above instance.

6. Sri Lanka, Internationally

Think about the impression that would have been created in the minds of democratic statesmen and leaders internationally, when they heard this statement. Literally, promising to release all war heroes the very next day he takes the oath of Presidency. Every person is entitled for his or her amateurish or immature rhetoric but to do so impacting on a national and international level is something that is serious.

7. Locally – Public Perception

Studies on authoritarianism indicate that after gaining power, the authoritarian in order to reinforce and establish himself firmly in power violates the principle of accountability. This is one of the checks to ensure the proper execution of powers in a democracy. One of the ingredients of an authoritarian ruler therefore, is lack of accountability.

To defy the due process of the law and to release prisoners who have been sentenced or those in remand custody pending investigation will be a travesty of justice. When a person is willing to act contrary to this very justice system, how or which democratic institution can hold such a person accountable for his deeds. Mr. Rajapakshe’s position in this regard will be considered as an explicit endorsement of the public perception. He may need to course-correct to keep this country on its democratic path and to show that he is indeed a democratic leader.

Ending Violence, Exploitation, Ecological Destruction and War: Creating a Culture of Peace

Creating a culture of peace relies fundamentally on understanding the critical role of suppressed feelings (emotions) in shaping deep culture and generating conflicts, including violent conflicts, and then taking action that addresses this cause.

by Robert J. Burrowes

The date 11 November is well known and commemorated in many parts of the world because it marks the Armistice ending World War I – ‘the Great War’ – in 1918.

In the evocative words used by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., an atheist humanist, in his novel Breakfast of Champions, the day is remembered thus:

‘When I was a boy … all the people of all the nations which fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It was at that minute in nineteen-hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields at that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.’

And what, exactly, did God (by whatever name: Allah, Krishna, Yahweh…) or the Gods say? we might ask. Well even those who profess little more than scant knowledge of religious texts that purport to represent the word of God might suggest that s/he simply breathed a (silent) sigh of relief that the insanity of mass warfare had ended. For now at least.

For those of us concerned with the struggle to create cultures of peace or, even, a world culture of peace, there are some fundamental questions to consider including the classic question discussed by two of humanity’s greats – Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud – when they tackled the question Why War?’

Of course, as many people now understand it, peace entails far more than simply a state without military (including terrorist) violence and war. Beyond these forms of violence, many exponents of peace seek the end of other dimensions of what I call ‘visible’ violence, including:

1. Direct violence that goes beyond military violence, such as ‘biological violence’ (that is, violence against the body) in the family home and as a result of violent crime as well as ‘physical violence’ (that is, constraints on movement). See ‘Violence, Peace, and Peace Research’.

2. Institutional violence: socially endorsed violence including that inflicted by parents, teachers, police, legal and prison systems – see ‘Punishment is Violent and Counterproductive’ and ‘The Rule of Law: Unjust and Violent’ – and which now manifests in a myriad other forms with the emergence of the surveillance state that spies on and gathers endless data on individuals to build substantial personal profiles on each – linking many personal records including those related to health and financial matters with political activities and consumption patterns – in violation of any basic understanding of, or commitment to, human rights in their many political, economic, social, cultural and other forms.

3. Structural violence which Mohandas K. Gandhi originally identified when making his observation that ‘exploitation is violence’ and Professor Johan Galtung – see ‘A Structural Theory of Imperialism’ and ‘Violence, Peace, and Peace Research’ – later elaborated as violence built into structures, such as capitalism and imperialism, that deprive some people of the opportunities to live full and meaningful lives and manifest, for example, as poverty, homelessness and the economic exploitation of people who live in Africa, Asia and Central/South America. And

4. Ecological violence: those activities ranging from destruction of the climate and rainforests to the killing of insects and wildlife that constitute destruction of the biosphere.

Of course, these categories are not mutually exclusive but they serve to illustrate categories of violence not always recognized as such.

Apart from these forms of ‘visible’ violence Professor Johan Galtung also identified the importance of psychological violence – ‘lies, brainwashing, indoctrination of various kinds, threats, etc. that serve to decrease mental potentialities’ see ‘Violence, Peace, and Peace Research’ – and coined the term ‘cultural violence’ to describe ‘those aspects of culture, the symbolic sphere of our existence – exemplified by religion and ideology, language and art, empirical science and formal science (logic, mathematics) – that can be used to justify or legitimize direct or structural violence’. See ‘Cultural Violence’.

Beyond these and other categories of violence – including patriarchy and racism as specific manifestations of violence that are, arguably, simultaneously direct, structural and cultural – which stand between humanity and a culture of peace, there are two other categories of violence which I will argue it is necessary to end before we can make profound inroads in ending those mentioned above.

These two categories – which I have labeled ‘invisible’ violence and ‘utterly invisible’ violence – describe vitally important categories of violence which human adults inflict on children. Moreover, complemented by the ‘visible’ violence that adults inflict on children, it is this ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence which destroys the unique human individual who was created during a nine-month gestation period and turns them into a ‘socially constructed delusional identity’ who submissively fulfils the extraordinarily limited expectations of their particular adult world and, with only rare exceptions, willingly participates in many if not all of the other forms of violence that torment our world and certainly includes inflicting invisible and utterly invisible violence on their own children. Which is why the cycle of violence goes on.

Why is this?

Because society is preoccupied with producing submissively obedient students, workers, soldiers, citizens (that is, taxpayers and voters) and consumers. Hence, the last thing society wants is powerful individuals who are each capable of searching their conscience, feeling their emotional response to events, thinking critically and behaving strategically in response. For that reason our parenting and education models use a ruthless combination of visible, ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence to ensure that our children become terrified, self-hating and powerless individuals like virtually all of the adults around them.

How does this happen? What is this ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence?

Perpetrators of violence learn their craft in childhood. If you inflict violence on a child, they learn to inflict violence on others. The political leaders who decide to wage war, the military leaders who plan and conduct it, as well as the soldiers, sailors and aircraft personnel who fight war each suffered violence as a child. The terrorist suffered violence as a child. The man who inflicts violence on his partner suffered violence as a child. The corporate executive who exploits working class people and/or those who live in Africa, Asia or Central/South America suffered violence as a child. The racist or religious bigot suffered violence as a child. The individual who perpetrates violence in the home, in the schoolyard or on the street suffered violence as a child. The individual who overconsumes, or even consumes certain products, and/or otherwise destroys the biosphere, suffered violence as a child.

If we want to end violence in all of its manifestations and create a culture of peace, locally and globally, then we must finally end our longest and greatest war: the adult war on children. And here is an additional incentive: if we do not tackle the fundamental cause of violence, then our combined and unrelenting efforts to tackle all of its other symptoms must ultimately fail. And extinction at our own hand is inevitable.

How can I claim that violence against children is the fundamental cause of all other violence? Consider this. There is universal acceptance that behaviour is shaped by childhood experience. If it was not, we would not put such effort into education and other efforts to socialize children to ‘fit into’ their society. And this is why many psychologists have argued that exposure to war toys and violent video games shapes attitudes and behaviours in relation to violence.

But it is far more complex than this and, strange though it may seem, it is not just the ‘visible’ violence (such as hitting, screaming at and sexually abusing) that we normally label ‘violence’ that causes the main damage, although this is extremely damaging. The largest component of damage arises from the ‘invisible’ and ‘utterly invisible’ violence that we adults unconsciously inflict on children during the ordinary course of the day. Tragically, the bulk of this violence occurs in the family home and at school. See ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.

So what is ‘invisible’ violence? It is the ‘little things’ we do every day, partly because we are just ‘too busy’. For example, when we do not allow time to listen to, and value, a child’s thoughts and feelings, the child learns to not listen to themSelf thus destroying their internal communication system. When we do not let a child say what they want (or ignore them when they do), the child develops communication and behavioral dysfunctionalities as they keep trying to meet their own needs (which, as a basic survival strategy, they are genetically programmed to do).

When we blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie to, bribe, blackmail, moralize with and/or judge a child, we both undermine their sense of Self-worth and teach them to blame, condemn, insult, mock, embarrass, shame, humiliate, taunt, goad, guilt-trip, deceive, lie, bribe, blackmail, moralize and/or judge.

The fundamental outcome of being bombarded throughout their childhood by this ‘invisible’ violence is that the child is utterly overwhelmed by feelings of fear, pain, anger and sadness (among many others). However, mothers, fathers, teachers, religious figures and other adults also actively interfere with the expression of these feelings and the behavioral responses that are naturally generated by them and it is this ‘utterly invisible’ violence that explains why the dysfunctional behavioral outcomes actually occur.

For example, by ignoring a child when they express their feelings, by comforting, reassuring or distracting a child when they express their feelings, by laughing at or ridiculing their feelings, by terrorizing a child into not expressing their feelings (for example, by screaming at them when they cry or get angry), and/or by violently controlling a behavior that is generated by their feelings (for example, by hitting them, restraining them or locking them into a room), the child has no choice but to unconsciously suppress their awareness of these feelings.

However, once a child has been terrorized into suppressing their awareness of their feelings (rather than being allowed to have their feelings and to act on them) the child has also unconsciously suppressed their awareness of the reality that caused these feelings. This has many outcomes that are disastrous for the individual, for society and for nature because the individual will now easily suppress their awareness of the feelings that would tell them how to act most functionally in any given circumstance and they will progressively acquire a phenomenal variety of dysfunctional behaviors, including some that are violent towards themself, others and/or the Earth.

From the above, it should also now be apparent that punishment should never be used. ‘Punishment’, of course, is one of the words we use to obscure our awareness of the fact that we are using violence. Violence, even when we label it ‘punishment’, scares children and adults alike and cannot elicit a functional behavioural response. See ‘Punishment is Violent and Counterproductive’.

If someone behaves dysfunctionally, they need to be listened to, deeply, so that they can start to become consciously aware of the feelings (which will always include fear and, often, terror) that drove the dysfunctional behaviour in the first place. They then need to feel and express these feelings (including any anger) in a safe way. Only then will behavioural change in the direction of functionality be possible. See ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’.

‘But these adult behaviors you have described don’t seem that bad. Can the outcome be as disastrous as you claim?’ you might ask. The problem is that there are hundreds of these ‘ordinary’, everyday behaviors that destroy the Selfhood of the child. It is ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and most children simply do not survive as Self-aware individuals. And why do we do this? As mentioned above, we do it so that each child will fit into our model of ‘the perfect citizen’: that is, obedient and hardworking student, reliable and pliant employee/soldier, and submissive law-abiding citizen (that is, one who pays their taxes and votes and/or lobbies politicians).

Moreover, once we destroy the Selfhood of a child, it has many flow-on effects. For example, once you terrorize a child into accepting certain information about themself, other people or the state of the world, the child becomes unconsciously fearful of dealing with new information, especially if this information is contradictory to what they have been terrorized into believing. As a result, the child will unconsciously dismiss new information out of hand.

In short, the child has been terrorized in such a way that they are no longer capable of learning (or their learning capacity is seriously diminished by excluding any information that is not a simple extension of what they already ‘know’). If you imagine any of the bigots you know, you are imagining someone who is utterly terrified. But it’s not just the bigots; virtually all people are affected in this manner making them incapable of responding adequately to new (or even important) information. This is one explanation why some people are ‘climate deniers’, most people do nothing in response to the climate catastrophe and even those people who do take action usually do so ineffectively. See ‘The Global Climate Movement is Failing: Why?’

But the same can be said for those working to end war – see ‘The War to End War 100 Years On: An Evaluation and Reorientation of our Resistance to War’ – end the nuclear weapons race or engage in other struggles, including liberation struggles, that are vital parts of the global struggle to create a culture of peace. See ‘Why Activists Fail’.

To briefly reiterate this vital point (that each child has been terrorized in such a way that they are no longer capable of learning or their learning capacity is seriously diminished): The multifaceted violence inflicted throughout childhood and adolescence ensures that the adult who emerges is suppressing awareness of an enormous amount of fear, pain, sadness and anger (among many other feelings) and must live in delusion to remain unaware of these suppressed feelings. This ensures that, as part of their delusion, the individual develops a strong sense that what they are doing already is functional and working (no matter how dysfunctional and ineffective it may actually be) while unconsciously suppressing awareness of any evidence that contradicts their delusion. They do this because, unconsciously, people learn to identify obedience with ‘functional and working’ (because they do not get punished for being obedient). See Why Violence?Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice, ‘Do We Want School or Education?’ and ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’.

As an aside, if you want to read more evidence of humanity’s ‘love’ for our children and get a clearer sense of just how deeply violence is buried in human society, see ‘Humanity’s “Dirty Little Secret”: Starving, Enslaving, Raping, Torturing and Killing our Children’.

Just one horrific outcome of this violence against children is that our planet is run by a global elite that is completely insane. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane Revisited’. And this elite plays a key role in driving many of the more obvious manifestations of violence in our world.

Responding to Violence Strategically to Create a World Culture of Peace

However we define the many positive elements of a culture of peace – which will presumably include an inclusive philosophy of society, a cooperative set of social relations, nonviolent methods for dealing with conflict and sustainable patterns of matter-energy use while allowing universal human access to the resources necessary to maintain health and well-being, opportunities for meaningful political and economic engagement as well as cultural opportunities in art, literature and music among its many other forms, while engaging sustainably with the biosphere to enhance life-opportunities for all other species – this culture of peace can only be achieved if we respond strategically to the violence in our world.

And this means that we must address the fundamental cause of human violence because this drives violence in each and all of its other dimensions. For those adults powerful enough to do this, there is an explanation in ‘Putting Feelings First’. And for those adults committed to facilitating children’s efforts to realize their potential and become self-aware (rather than delusional), see ‘My Promise to Children’.

Creating a culture of peace, therefore, relies fundamentally on understanding the critical role of suppressed feelings (emotions) in shaping deep culture and generating conflicts, including violent conflicts, and then taking action that addresses this cause.

This includes the need to understand and deal effectively with those emotions that are being acted out dysfunctionally and/or being projected – see ‘The Psychology of Projection in Conflict’ – in a particular context, which is standard human behaviour in many situations. See ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’. Otherwise, that most fundamental of emotions – fear – will continue to drive most cultural predispositions and conflicts in all contexts and make genuine resolution of conflicts virtually impossible. This is because it is only if people are not afraid that discussions about ideas in relation to making culture evolve as we plan (rather than unconsciously or as elites direct) and to resolve conflict nonviolently, become easily possible.

Fundamentally, our parenting and education models fail utterly to produce people of conscience, people who are emotionally functional, people who are capable of critical analysis, people who care and people who can plan and respond to violence strategically. As Professor Galtung noted just recently, ‘While we are busy exploring whether there is intelligent life on other planets, we might spend more time – and intelligence – exploring whether there is [intelligent life] on ours.’ See ‘United States vs Moby Dick’. The problem is that once we terrorize a child, the terrified adult who emerges from childhood behaves as guided by their (unconscious) fear, not by any intelligence they may possess. Again, this is routinely illustrated by the failure of even those who self-label as ‘activists’ to think, plan and act strategically. See ‘Why Activists Fail’.

Of course, we do not need to work on ending violence against children in isolation. We can campaign to end other manifestations of violence – such as war, nuclear weapons and power, economic exploitation, ecological violence in its many forms including geoengineering and the deployment of 5G, violence against women and indigenous peoples, occupations and dictatorships – at the same time. See Nonviolent Campaign Strategy and Nonviolent Defense/Liberation Strategy.

But if we work to end the many manifestations of violence while failing to address the fundamental cause then, ultimately, we must fail, even if we elongate our timeframe a little. See ‘Human Extinction by 2026? A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival’.

If you are also interested in working locally to reduce your consumption and become more self-reliant, in order to reduce your ecological violence, consider participating in The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth.

Alternatively, if you want something simpler, consider committing to:

The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

1. I will listen deeply to children (see explanation above)
2. I will not travel by plane
3. I will not travel by car
4. I will not eat meat and fish
5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
7. I will not buy rainforest timber
8. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
9. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
10. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
11. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
12. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
13. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

And you might wish to join the worldwide movement of people working to end all violence by signing the online pledge of The Peoples Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.


The foundation of our violent world is the unending visible, invisible and utterly invisible violence that human adults inflict on our children. For that reason, it does not matter what superstructure we build on top of this foundation. Whether we use capitalism (and ‘democracy’), socialism or any other political-economic-social model, tack on a New Green Deal or a Just Transition, while the violent foundation on which society is built – violence against children – remains unaddressed, a culture of peace cannot be created.

So we need to raise children in a culture that does not involve terrorizing them so that they end up perceiving violence as the primary way to address conflict because they are too scared to simply perceive the power of, and use, principled nonviolent options.

Hence, until our parenting and teaching models are radically altered, a culture of peace will remain an impossible dream. And human extinction in the near term is inevitable.

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of Why Violence? His email address is and his website is here.

Tamils should freely exercise their franchise at the upcoming Presidential Election

All eligible Tamil voters should cast their votes and be part of the democratic process of determining the country’s future political direction

The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) urges Tamil people from the North-East and throughout Sri Lanka to freely exercise their franchise at the November 16 Presidential Election, giving careful consideration to the political formations and agendas of the major contenders.

After playing a decisive role in the political change of 2015 and experiencing disappointments on the new government’s performance, a sense of cynicism has set in among the Tamil people. The refusal by all major Presidential contestants to engage with Tamil political leaders based on their collective positions is also disappointing.

All those negative sentiments however should not lead to political apathy and despondency. It is important that Tamil people take active part in this election, instead of giving into flawed thinking such as 'sending a message to the international community’ through ineffective voting strategies. Also important is that Tamil people should use their vote wisely for a candidate who has a realistic chance of winning. Any wasted vote could lead to the election of a candidate not to their liking.

The present government during its early years offered hope by initiating democratic reforms. There was also the promise to deal with wartime accountability and formulate a new constitution to accommodate Tamil political aspirations. However, progress on most fronts came to a halt during the last two years. There were even notable reversals, demonstrating the weaknesses of Sri Lanka’s reform processes and the vulnerability of its key institutions.

In this context, the upcoming Presidential Election raises genuine doubts about whether Sri Lanka will restart and broaden its reform and accommodative agenda or change course, perhaps for the worse.

Sajith Premadasa’s election manifesto is progressive on furthering democratic reforms, which includes key Tamil considerations such as: continuation of the constitutional reform process, power-sharing and reconciliation commitments, and respecting international treaties and resolutions. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s manifesto, on the other hand, has strong national security focus, but no serious commitment to expand the fledgling democratic space.

A more democratic Sri Lanka that is respectful of human rights is a worthy goal to achieve for all its citizens. Though on its own it does not allay the fears and apprehensions of the minority communities, particularly the Tamils, such democratic framework offers more space and opportunities for furthering their interests. All these considerations need to be in the Tamil people’s mind when making their choice at the upcoming election.

According to the statement by the GTF, "We are also conscious of the appalling human rights, governance and rule of law record when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the Defence Secretary – wanton violence and enforced disappearances, threats to media personnel, and intimidation and violence against Tamil, Muslim and Christian communities. Return to such an era, coupled with isolationist international policies, is the nightmarish scenario feared under a Rajapaksa Presidency."

Whether Sri Lanka should continue determinately to advance the stalled reform process, or follow a different political agenda, possibly losing recent democratic gains and perhaps even entering an era of authoritarianism, are matters the electorate must weigh carefully at this presidential election.

Most importantly, all eligible Tamil voters should cast their votes and be part of the democratic process of determining the country’s future political direction.

Myanmar: Fourth Anniversary of NCA- A lack lustre Affair

It is interesting to see how China which is a major stakeholder for stability and peace in its border is dealing with the Ethnic crisis in Myanmar.

by Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

The fourth Anniversary celebration of the National Cease Fire Agreement was observed at Nay Pyi Taw on the 29th of October 2019. It was not a surprise that the celebrations were in a low key though the function was attended both by Suu Kyi and the Army Chief.

Conspicuous by absence was that of former President Thein Sein at whose initiative, the National Ceasefire agreement was originally drafted and signed. Of the ten Ethnic Groups that had signed the agreement, Representatives of nine them attended the function. The RCSS (Restoration Council for Shan State) delegation was not allowed by the Eastern Command of the Army to proceed by road to Nay Pyi Taw and were asked to go by air at the last moment on the ostensible reasons of security concerns. It is said that the real purpose was that the Army did not want the Representatives of the RCSS to mix with the public on their way by road to the capital to attend the function! By not permitting one of the most relevant groups that had signed the cease fire agreement, the Army despite its pretensions to peace and stability had scant regard or respect for the peace process.

In the function, Suu Kyi mentioned in detail the three steps her Government proposed to pursue on the peace process. The first was to lay down a process for continuing the 21st century Panglong Peace Conference which at the moment appears to have stalled. The second was to combine the 51 principles of a Federal Democratic Union already adopted by those who had signed the agreement and thirdly to seek agreement on implementing the provisions beyond 2020 General Elections.

Put together the three steps make no meaning in moving forward on the ceasefire process as the signatories who have signed the agreement are light weights who have neither the capacity nor potential to make an impact on the process. What is left unsaid is that the more important ones like the Wa, the Kachins or the other members of the Northern Alliance are in no mood to sign the cease fire agreement in the near future and in fact have an alternative narrative for the peace process that has nothing in common with the principles laid down in the National Cease Fire agreement.

The Army Chief while speaking called upon the leaders of the ten ethnic armed groups that have signed the agreement to work harder to build a more sustainable peace in the country. He should know that any amount of hard work by the ten ethnic armed groups that have signed the agreement will not bring peace or stability in the near or long term, unless they are able to get around the larger and the well-armed other groups to sign the agreement!

After having seen the peace process dragging on with meaningless issues, some analysts are justified in concluding that the peace process has reached a dead end. Indeed, it looks that it is so.

One of the main reasons given is that the ‘trust deficit’ between the Tatmadaw (the Army) and the ethnic armed groups continues to hobble the process. Take for example the five rounds of talks that had gone on between the Northern Alliance groups and the Peace mission in the midst of some heavy fighting between the Arakan Army and the Tatmadaw in Rakhine Province or the TNLA and the Tatmadaw. Both sides seem to agree that the first step before the signing of NCA or political dialogue would be a cease fire. But the insistence of the Tatmadaw that the ethnic armed outfits should first go back to their original places before any ceasefire could be agreed upon is standing in the way of any agreement for the fighting to stop.

The “inconvenient truth” as some media has described is that the Myanmar Army- the Tatmadaw has been unable to eliminate the ethnic armed groups where in some cases the fighting had continued ever since the independence of the country. Added to this is the perception of the Myanmar Army that the Ethnic Armed Groups cannot sustain themselves militarily for long and in due course a “military solution” is possible. This has been proved wrong as the Ethnic armed have survived and will continue to demonstrate their strength time and again. The recent incident on 26th October where a small group of Arakan Army militants seized two ferries carrying 168 people of whom 58 were Police and security personnel and subsequent deaths of the security personnel in the Army’s attempt to rescue the hostages should be an eyeopener for the planners in the Army.

Sometime ago, the Army Chief declared that it is only his army that represents the 45 million people of Myanmar and no one else. With the 2008 Constitution loaded heavily in their favour, the Myanmar Army appears to be under no pressure to make any change in the present policy of dealing with the conflict with the Ethnic Armed Organisations.

It is interesting to see how China which is a major stakeholder for stability and peace in its border is dealing with the Ethnic crisis in Myanmar.

So far, we see that China has limited its role to that of a Convenor for participation of ethnic groups and provide logistical facilities where necessary for the meetings. The focus one notices is more for a “cease fire” rather than pushing the two sides for any political agreement.

Despite its declared policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries, China is still an active participant and a moderator in the conflict between the warring groups that are mostly on China border and the Myanmar government represented by its Peace Mission or the Army.

It was the Chinese Representative Sun Guoxiang who forced the Northern Alliance ethnic groups to attend the 2nd 21st Century Panglong peace Conference in May 2017.

The Chinese strategy till recently has been to work for the continuation of the peace talks without any breakdown. It is significant to note that China has so far not forced both sides to accept any tactical/strategic/ political deal between the warring factions. It has also refrained from taking ownership of any move like drafting a peace agreement, working out a peace mechanism or even as mentioned in the Myanmar media set any agenda for political dialogue between the ethnic armed groups and the Myanmar Government and the Army. One cannot fail to compare China’s role with what India did in the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka where India set the agenda, took ownership and responsibility to implement an agreement that resulted in disastrous consequences.

Of late there appears to be another nuanced change in the Chinese approach to insurgency in Myanmar.

Having realised that a peace deal is not likely to be achieved in the near future, they are now looking for economic development using the Belt Road Initiative as a tool to get both the Government and the ethnic groups to go for resolution of the conflict. At the same time, strengthening of the armed ethnic groups appears to be a deliberate policy of the Chinese to force the Myanmar Army to realise that a military solution is impossible.