Mass L. Usuf
LL.B (Hons) UK and is an Attorney-at-Law and former Legal and Corporate Advisor
The Tamil people experienced what they term as, ‘State terrorism’ during the thirty-year war. The Sinhalese lived through two insurrections marked by total lawlessness and carnage. The Muslims who were living in the North and East and, in the South were also affected by these events. The Easter Sunday attack, zoomed in on the Muslim community with vehemence. Many may recollect, the precursor to the attack was a period of incessant Muslim hate campaign by racist monks and their hoodlums backed by anti-Muslim riots in Aluthgama, Digana, Minuwangoda etc. All three communities and, the people of this country, as a whole have witnessed enough bloodshed, killings, turmoil, arson, destruction of properties and everything that is vicious, cruel, heartless and inhuman.
Are we at the threshold of another cycle of violence? People are on the streets wanting the entire Rajapakse clan out of politics, to prosecute them for multiple crimes and to recover the allegedly stolen assets. Finally, to effect a complete overhaul of the system of governance. They are not prepared to settle for anything less.
The continuous assault on the mental state of the people exacerbating their agony and anxiety cannot be endured by everyone without limitation. The worsening economic situation each day provides not even a distant flicker of faint hope. The disparity between income and expenditure keeps widening as each day dawns. The bare essentials of life are beyond the reach of the average person. The stress keeps accumulating and people are left with nothing except staring into space with no hope in tomorrow.
Winston Churchill once said, “History is a great teacher. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”.
Anarchy means an, “Absence of government; A state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority” Merriam Webster.
In real life situation, we are seeing the gradual emergence of vigilantism coupled with hooliganism. Sabotaging the flow of normal life is increasingly seen in many parts of the island. This signals the beginning of open defiance of the law ultimately leading to chaos. Social media reported, a desperate father pleading from the saboteurs, who had barricaded the road, to permit them pass through the roadblock, to take his son to the examination centre. An anxious and worried young mother pleading for mercy from those who deny her passage. She begs that her five-year-old daughter is waiting for mum to pick her up. One can imagine the powerlessness of that father and mother and the relative emotional state of their children. Remember the way people reacted island wide to the attack at ‘MinaGoGama’ and ‘GotaGoGama’ taking the law into their hands and dispensing summary justice.
Such demeanour initially is spontaneous and later matures into a mob driven calamity. Most of the time participation is voluntary and the mob evolves based on a common grievance.
Indications are that the country will gradually inch towards anarchy. The people living in exasperation and suffering are being driven towards resentment, apathy, revulsion and hostility. When people are distressed, they tend to become desperate. When someone is desperate, there is a tendency to respond to situations very irrationally, illogically and aggressively. The essence of law, civility, morality and social values which guide people during normal living is erased off the mind. Therefore, even a decent person possessing these qualities may act harshly in a given situation. Not that he does it purposefully but circumstances push him to react in that manner. Individuals get transformed into a state of ruthless self-seeking opportunists.
Diyawanna And Medamulana
There is this inevitable group discussion while standing in the queue for long hours. Or, in solitude, at an overwhelming moment of despondency. Why am I in this state? What wrong have I committed to suffer like this? Who is responsible for this suffering? Some of the refrains often heard in the media also. They now know that the fountainheads of evil are the ‘Diyawanna’, a reference to the 225 Members in Parliament and ‘Medamulana’, a reference to the ancestral home of the Rajapakse dynasty. The cause is the unholy alliance between the irresponsible and callous politicians and, a deeply corrupt Rajapakse family with a two thirds majority in Parliament.
This brings people to a state of helplessness and hopelessness. This is recipe for full scale anarchy in the country. There will riots in various parts of the country. There will be looting. There will be bloodshed caused by the various types of violence that can take place consequent to the state in which the society has been push into.
Right now, we are sitting on a powder keg. A very serious situation. As responsible citizens, it is our duty to take whatever necessary precautions, measures, steps in order to avoid a state of full anarchy in the country. If not, you and I will not be able to safely walk on the road or peacefully sleep at home because what could transpire the next moment will not be known.
Law Ends, Tyranny Begins
Anarchy means lawlessness and no effective Policing. The multitude of agitated people are not interested in legal wrangling. When deprived of the basic essentials to life, it becomes a matter of survival for them. They would come out with vengeance. Protests can be peaceful at the beginning and turn violent any moment. It can be unintended and spontaneous or, preplanned and organized. The violence that took place on 9th May had all the hallmarks of the latter. Public reprisal was seen across the country in support of the protestors. The several incidents of arson, wanton destruction of properties, grievous harm inflicted on people, vigilantism etc. bears testimony. The victims of public anger were government politicians and their cohorts.
In an anarchic situation, no person will be respected. Whatever the circumstances, no one will empathise. Kindness, concern, love, compassion, morals are all strange words then. The language of anarchy is violence, bloodshed, aggressiveness, harshness, hostility and being utterly selfish and opportunistic. We need to question ourselves, are we going to keep quiet now and permit this riotous situation to happen tomorrow? Are we going to expose ourselves, our families, our children, our loved ones to danger both to life and property? In an anarchic situation it finally boils down to this. John Locke in his ‘Two Treatises of Government’ wrote, “Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins”.
While finding solutions for the economic crisis which is very important, the political stalemate has to be simultaneously addressed. There are several matters to be dealt with in this regard. The priorities, however, at the present moment are:
(1) For President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign, per Article 38(1)(b) of the Constitution.
(2) For Parliament to appoint an outsider who is independent, respected and a dignified person, as the President through the Parliament. A national list Member of Parliament may offer to give his place. Former Speaker Mr. Karu Jayasuriya would be an ideal candidate, in my view. Any person so succeeding to the office of President shall hold office only for the unexpired period of the term of office of the President vacating office. Article 40.
(3) Bring in one Bill as the 21st amendment incorporating the:
(a) reversal to the 19th amendment with further substantive enhancements strengthening its independence and meaningful provisions to ensure the effective functioning of the independent commissions.
(b) abolition of the Executive Presidency and adopt the Westminster model of governance.
(c) drastically reduce the executive powers of the President and to continue as a ceremonial President, with the Westminster model in place.
The people have been, unceasingly and consistently, calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They want a clean government and a clean system of governance. If anarchy takes over tomorrow, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will have to singularly take the entire blame for the death, destruction, bloodshed and carnage that would ensue.