I mean by it the President or Prime Minister, the Cabinet of Ministers, the armedforces, the police, the bureaucracy, and the Judiciary. In other words, by "State" I meanthe ensemble of institutions through which coercive power is exercised over thepeople. The important point for the purposes of my argument is that that coercivepower could be deployed not just by the Government but by others as well, by personswho for one reason or another are especially privileged and powerful, and who can gettheir hands on to the levers of State power, or who can prevent the legitimate use ofState power. I have in mind persons such as family members of powerful leaders,politicians who are not necessarily Cabinet Ministers, members of the armed forces, ofthe Police, and others who are within the network of State power.Perhaps we should include also some who are outside that network, such as thugsand crooks of outstanding ability, without whom some nefarious jobs of the Statecannot be carried through. When such persons are racists with a racist program to beput into effect, and are given a free or fairly free hand, we get the phenomenon of whatI call State racism.
Bodu Bala Sena
The anti-Muslim campaign of recent times provides a very convincing example, in myview, of State racism in action. A protracted hate campaign went on for about twoyears, with something like nineteen web-sites going at it full blast. There was noadverse reaction from the Government. It is arguable that the Government did not wantto take any counter-action because it would then be instantly pilloried for trying todestroy media freedom. It could however have made official statements deploring thehate campaign, but it chose not to do so. That was typical because none of ourGovernments have been really serious about forging national unity. There suddenlyerupted the Bodu Bala Sena, which was quickly identified by the public as a racist anti-Muslim group. But it was given space in a Government-owned building for itsheadquarters, and the Defense Secretary made a statement warmly endorsing itsobjectives.There followed a series of anti-Muslim demonstrations, about which I will not go intodetails as they are quite well-known. Instead I will focus on just one point: the policeplayed the role of passive spectators during those demonstrations. Commonsense tellsus that there had to be very powerful persons at the level of the State who couldcommand that police inaction. There was no evidence of mass Sinhalese hatredagainst the Muslims, and certainly there was no Government decision commandingthat police inaction. It was a clear case of State racism in the sense that I haveexplained above.