by Thambu Kanagasabai – LLM [Lond] Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, December 9, 2019
A Failed state is one which is failing to function properly regarding its responsibilities, including an inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community. Ethnic conflicts and tension, violation of human rights and rule of law, abuses by the security system constitute other features which qualify a state to be described as failed. In this respect Sri Lanka’s political history since independence in 1948 is littered with political unrest, youth rebellions, pogroms against minority Tamils in 1956, 1958, 1971, 1977, 1981, 1983 and the genocidal war from 2006-2009 which took the lives of more than 200,000 Tamils. Discriminatory legislation like the “SINHALA ONLY ACT 1956”, discrimination in state employment, and above all a hidden genocidal agenda against the Tamils being let loose and executed covertly and overtly since 1948 by the state and its security forces are futher examples.
The agonising feature running through the course of all Sri Lankan Governments is the complicity of Government in engineering, encouraging and lending state assistance through its security forces to carry out the pogroms and genocidal killings, including structural genocide.
The following reasons justify for inclusion of Sri Lanka in the list of failed states like Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Libya.
 Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhala Buddhist Governments pursued a political program of discrimination and marginalization of minorities particularly the Tamils. Majoritarinism and Sinhala chauvinism prevailed over the concept with the consent of “Majority rule with the consent of minority”, which is the norm of democracy.
 Power hungry politicians netted the Sinhala language and exploited it to advance their political ambitions, in addition to the religion Buddhism proclaiming it as the first and foremost supreme religion, guaranteeing state protection and privileges. With religion intractably entwined in Sri Lankan politics, the Buddhist clergy seized the opportunity to dabble with politics, diluting their religious duties of preaching and purifying the minds of laymen. As the saying goes “Politics is the asylum of scoundrels”, factions, rivalries, forming of political parties and indulging in violence to advance their interests are now the order of the day. Sri Lanka is thus fast becoming a failed state by mixing religious extremism with political extremism, while passing its decision making power to MAHA SANGA AND Buddhist clergy who now guiding and dictating their final approval to major legislations affecting different communities particularly Tamils.
Sri Lankan Governments have thus failed to treat the minority communities equally, justly and democratically. The grievances of Tamils which began in 1956 still continue to grow with no light at the end of the tunnel. Likewise Muslims are also now at the receiving end by the Sinhala Buddhist extremists spearheaded by some Buddhist monks. It has now become a rule of Sinhala Buddhists, rule for Sinhala Buddhists, instead a rule for all citizens is what is needed. Sri Lanka has failed to protect its own citizens during the pogroms and genocidal war [2006-2009] against the Tamils and having committed the crime of genocide failed to listen to the victims of war, failed to provide suitable compensation and other remedial steps. It has also ignored the cries of grieving mothers who are still looking for answers to their disappeared, surrendered and arrested beloved ones. The mothers and wives of the disappeared are on the streets for more than 1000 days on a sit-in protest in hot sun, rain and dust demanding to know the whereabouts of their loved ones. Winning the hearts and minds of minorities is never in the agenda of Sri Lankan Governments. Sri Lanka also failed to honor and implement its own sponsored UNHRC 30/1 Resolution and its recommendations including the 40/1 Resolution. Instead, the Government has now openly declared its rejection and non-compliance of these Resolutions as well as any external investigations into war crimes, crimes against humanity even if initiated by UN or UNHRC or other organizations. State Minister Wickremanakaye in an interview to Sunday Observer on November 26, 2019 stated that “We cannot let UNHRC or any other Organization take us for a ride”.
PRESIDENT GOTABAYA RAJAPAKSHE at a news conference on November 15, 2019 stated that “I cannot recognize what they have signed. We have to move forward, we have to forget hanging on to old allegations and all that”. By this sweeping statement, President has simply buried the norms of accountability and justice while inflicting the war victims with more misery, agony and pain including denial of justice and relief.
Sri Lanka by choosing the path of rejection of UN and UNHRC organizations and all interactions with International Community is without any iota of doubt confirming its position as a failed and isolated state in the International Community.
Sri Lanka also ranks 126 out of 180 countries Freedom of Journalists Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders [RSF] in 2019, the first being Norway followed by Finland and Sweden.
Other factors which mark a state as a failed one are:-
[a] Extreme political corruption
[b] Judicial ineffectiveness [politicized judiciary]
[c] Culture of impunity, Sri Lanka’s failure to incorporate laws regarding to war crimes etc. confirms this.
[d] Sinhala Buddhist Military interference in civil life, politics and cultural events of Hindu/Christian Tamils in the North and East – [The traditional and historical homeland of the Tamils.]
[e] Inadequate security to all citizens especially for Tamils and Muslims.
[f] Promoting and/or encouraging communal conflicts.
[g] Building Buddhist Viharas and erecting huge Buddha statutes in Tamils civilians land by force [where there is no Buddhist live] due to the foremost place for Buddhism.
[h] The utterances of ruling elites – Example is the recent statement of President Gotabaya in an interview to Hindu Newspaper on December 02, 2019 when stated that “Minorities should not do certain things so as to create reaction of any Sinhalese”.
The present Government’s continuing purge of top Government officials who were involved in the investigation of corruption and financial fraud point to the cover-up of several allegations against the top rung of the past Rajapakshe’s Government.
Sri Lanka is now firmly in the hands of Rajapakshe’s Family with President Gotabaya Rajapakshe as President, his elder brother Mahinda Rajapakshe as Prime Minister and another elder brother Chmal Rajapakshe as a cabinet minister. It is a travesty of justice, that UN and UNHRC accused war criminals are in power and the alleged Military leaders who took part in the genocidal war are being promoted to top posts in Government and Overseas assignments. This situation is instilling fear and insecurity among the minority communities.
With Sri Lanka possessing all hallmarks of a failed state, it is opportune for the International Community to recognize it and take redeeming measures and reverse Sri Lanka’s credibility and democracy undermining steps to function as an eligible member maintaining a harmonious relationship with members of the International Community.
The cherished principle of “GOOD GOVERANCE’ required for a democratic country has never been in the minds of all past Sri Lankan ruling politicians.
It is relevant to quote Tamil National Alliance leader Sampanthan’s statement in Daily Mirror newspaper on December 02, 2019 when he expressed his fear of Sri Lanka becoming a “Failed State” by saying “If Sri Lanka continue to avoid international commitments it may soon be termed a ‘FAILED STATE’ and will soon lose its legitimacy.
With an institutionalized Sinhala – Buddhist chauvinism with Nationalism along with the culture of ingrained culture of impunity and entrenched ethnic divide being fed and natured by the Sinhala politicians, there cannot be any doubt or hesitation for the International Community to treat Sri Lanka as failed state.