Militarisation, Sinhala-Buddhist Supremacy and Absence of Rule of Law
Compiled and edited by Sunanda Deshapriya, Sri Lanka Brief, July 2020
Sri Lanka is slowly emerging from the lockdown
imposed to contain the COVID-19 outbreak and
heading towards the General Elections that is
scheduled to be held on the 2nd August. At this
moment, three factors dominate Sri Lanka’s
social and political landscape.
The first is the militarization of government and
governance. The second is the Sinhala Buddhist
supremacy. The third is the non-complacence
with the Constitution and the absence of rule of
law. All these three factors are inter-connected
and inter-dependent, national security being the
underlying theme of all these factors.
Within the first 6 months of his presidency,
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed two
dozen high-ranking serving and retired military
officers to civilian or police positions. He also
appointed a military-police Presidential Task
Force (PTF) with a broad mandate and nearly
President Rajapaksa has begun to meet the
Buddhist Advisory Council, which consists of
leading Buddhist monks, on a monthly basis.
This is the only religious body from which he
regularly seeks advice. He has appointed
another Presidential Task Force that is entirely
made up of Sinhalese Buddhists for
archaeological heritage management in the
multi-ethnic and multi-religious Eastern
Province. Amidst all these changes, hate speech
against minorities goes scot-free even in
President Rajapaksa has not appointed a
Minister of Defence. Currently, the Ministry is
run by the Secretary to the Ministry– Major
General (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne. In order to
control the COVID-19 pandemic, the President
used unconstitutional police curfew for months.
More than 60,000 people and 10,000 vehicles
were taken into custody for violating the curfew.
Dissenting voices and actions were suppressed
while pro-Rajapaksa forces were given free
This Briefing Note presents opinions and analysis
by prominent Sri Lankans as well as civil society
organizations on these recent developments…
CONCLUDING NOTE: End of Transitional Justice Process
Sri Lanka will be voting to elect its 16th Parliament on the 5th August 2020. The political coalition
headed by Rajapaksa family is the most likely winner. As described in this issue of Sri Lanka Briefing
Note, militarisation, Sinhala Buddhist supremacy, and the absence of rule of law will be the norm
in the coming years. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in a public address reiterated their intention
to do away with the transitional justice process:
“The main pledges given by the Yahapalana conspirators [2015 -2019 government] to their
foreign masters were contained in Resolution 30/1 which the Yahapalana government cosponsored in the UN Human Rights Council in October 2015… The intent behind all this was
to demoralise and render ineffective the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka.
In August 2016, the Office of Missing Persons Act was rammed through Parliament without
leaving room for any debate. Though it’s described as an ‘Office’, this is actually an inquisitorial
body that can issue summons, examine witnesses, and collect evidence… All state bodies
including the Intelligence Agencies and the Armed Forces are legally bound to cooperate with
the OMP even in contravention of the provisions of the State Secrets Act.
In March 2018, the Yahapalana Government passed Act No: 5 of 2018 in order to make the
provisions of the International Convention Against Enforced Disappearances applicable in Sri
Lanka. The purpose of this was not to facilitate the location of disappeared persons, but to
persecute members of the Armed Forces.
In August 2018 the Yahapalana Government passed an Amendment to the Mutual Assistance
in Criminal Matters Act which will enable a foreign country or the International Criminal Court
to locate suspects or witnesses in Sri Lanka or to obtain evidence they need from Sri Lanka.
The UN Human Rights Commissioner has already requested Western countries to institute
legal action in their respective countries against members of the Sri Lankan Armed Forces
suspected of war crimes under the concept of universal jurisdiction.
If the Yahapalana cabal had won the 2019 Presidential Election, they would have implemented
all this and finished off Sri Lanka. We need a very strong mandate at this election to
conclusively defeat these conspiracies”.
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa made this statement on 28th June 2020.
See the full statement: http://www.dailynews.lk/2020/06/29/features/221773/defeatingdomestic-and-foreign-conspiracies-against-sri-lanka