Vasudeva Nanayakkara was, for many years, known and looked upon as a ‘paper revolutionary’ who was ever willing to join in any ‘verbal’ attack on a Government in power. He is, today, an ‘acolyte’/‘hanger on’ of the Rajapaksa family and hence comfortably ensconced in office [at great expense to our long suffering people] as one of that unbelievably large assembly of invertebrate incompetents known as the Cabinet of Ministers. Even he, however, could not deny the ever-growing scourge of thuggery that is rapidly and inexorably enveloping the country. His purported ‘solution’ to this problem, believe it or not, is to enact legislation to ban what he terms ‘extremist’ parties and prohibit what he terms ‘hate speech’.
The fact that we already have legislation on our Statute Book which, if implemented fairly and with a will to do so, would probably achieve or serve to achieve the object of eliminating the scourge of ‘thuggery’ and that of ‘hate speech’ from our land has evidently not occurred to this one time ‘paper revolutionary’ turned ‘ineffective Minister’.
a) Article 12(1) of the Constitution which is to be found in the Chapter dealing with Fundamental Rights provides that:-
“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to the equal protection of the law”; while,
b) Section 120 of the Penal Code provides that:-
“Whoever by words, either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, or otherwise …attempts to …promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of such people, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.”
[It is evident from the context in which the term “such people” is used that it refers to “the People of Sri Lanka”.]
Can even Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara allege that Article 12(1) of the Constitution is being implemented and/or that a determined effort is being made to implement it ??? Obviously he cannot. The myriad examples of his ministerial colleagues, such as the synthetic ‘Doctor’ Mervin Silva; ‘Ministerial Brats’; political supporters of the President and other Ministers committing the gravest of offences with the greatest of impunity and getting away with it prevent him from doing so. It is tragic but true that even some Buddhist Monks have been members of belligerent mobs of civilian thugs trespassing upon and committing, mischief upon places used by Christians and Muslims as places of worship. These facts are undeniable, particularly because some of the transgressions of such persons are made patently evident from video tapes containing photographic evidence of such acts of blatant thuggery committed by them with impunity in the presence of police personnel who were, as was to be expected in this day and age, doing nothing to prevent or restrain those thugs from committing criminal acts.
It need hardly be added that the pathetic conduct of these apologies for police officers was quite as bad as that of their contemptible counterparts at the infamous Provincial Council ‘election’ for Wayamba held in or around 1999. One does wonder whether the superior officers of such police officers will get or have got promotions as did those who were in charge of that Wayamba Provincial Council ‘election’.
The conduct of police officers, in particular, in looking the other way when highly politically connected persons or those with affiliations to the ruling party commit offences is not of region origin. One would recall how in the immediate aftermath of the 1970 elections, a group of Members of Parliament of the newly-elected ruling party, the United Front, who were purported to be ‘Marxist’ in political orientation, took part in a physical attack on Lake House and were not arrested or even restrained though the crime was committed in broad day light in full view of many a Police Officer. It is also significant in this regard that none of those miscreants ever dared to attack that institution while they were out of power. Another good example of this kind impunity of those in power and the failure or refusal of the Government to implement article 12(1) of the Constitution is to be found in the infamous referendum of 1983, and the thuggery that followed upon the victory of the United National Party at the general election of 1977. [Although the Constitution containing Article 12(1) had not been enacted then, it must be remembered that Article 12(1) reproduced a basic tenet of the Rule of Law which every Government since ‘Independence’ purported to (but did not) hold sacrosanct]. Quite apart from these horrific events are the events of a smaller but of a like contemptible nature such as the conduct of ministerial brats who ran amok committing acts of thuggery at night clubs etc without any or with only minimum intervention by the Police. It is also significant that these ministerial brats so misbehaved only when their parents held ministerial office and not when they were out of office. Clearly they too knew that political ‘connections’ caused the Police to look the other way when acts of blatant thuggery were committed.
Thus, the answer to the wave of thuggery that is fast enveloping our Country is not to pass new laws which will doubtless, hit the headlines and give publicity to the relevant Minister, but contribute nothing in actual fact to the elimination of this scourge, but in implementing the laws that are already there. In short, a Minister or a son of a minister or even the son or kith and kin of the President must be treated in the same way as an unemployed and indigent individual or his children or his kith or kin. This is what is mandated by Article 12(1) of the Constitution and the ‘Rule of Law’ which all Governments have purported to hold sacrosanct but only honoured in the breach.
Similarly, Article 35 of the Constitution which confers immunity on the President from the legal process must be repealed forthwith. However, since finding a Minister to propose such a measure will be more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack, thoughts of such repeal must remain a distant and unattainable ‘dream’
As I see it, the search for a ‘political solution’ for the so-called ‘ethnic conflict’ in the Country misses the wood for the trees. If Article 12(1) of the Constitution is implemented, then there will never ever be a need for the devolution of power, or another ‘circus’ like an ‘All Party Conference’ and other such time wasting exercises.
We in this Country do not, in practice, have the right which we ought to have to expect the law enforcement officers to enforce the law and the judiciary to deal with the offenders strictly according to their merits and not according to whether they are politically connected or not. It must here be remembered that many a criminal case is ‘won’ or ‘lost’ at the investigation stage when evidence is gathered and statements are recorded, so that a Court, which has no inquisitorial role to play is often ‘hamstrung’ in doing justice by the nature of that which is served up to it in the form of ‘evidence’.
Tragically, the Police Service which was once the Police Service of the Country has now been ‘bribed’ and ‘bludgeoned’ into being the Police Service of the ‘Ruling Party’. Apart from the contemptible politicians who did the ‘bribing’ and ‘bludgeoning’, the blame for this pathetic state of affairs must rest on the shoulders of those senior police officers who submitted to such ‘bribing’ and ‘bludgeoning’ and willingly ‘sold’ their ‘honour’ for 30 pieces of Silver. If Senior Police Officers such as those who received and accepted promotions for acting in dereliction of their duty acted like officers and gentlemen, did their duty, refused such promotions and set an example in rectitude to their subordinates, we would not be in our present pathetic plight.
The gross inequality in treatment of citizens and people of this Country transcends differences in ethnicity, religion etc. The hyperbole utilised by the likes of Sampanthan and others when alleging ill-treatment of Tamils by the Government notwithstanding, no Tamil who is close to the Government has any cause to complain or make a complaint about purported victimization for being a Tamil. Indeed, such a Tamil would have, in practice, “rights” over and above those enjoyed by a Sinhalese or a Muslim. The quantum of rights a person enjoys today is dependent very largely on his personal wealth and/or his connections or attachments to the Government in power – the situation is the same in this regard whether the person concerned is a Sinhalese, a Tamil, a Moor or any other. This regrettably is not something that is peculiar to the incumbent Government but a practice that has gone on from government to government – as I had occasion to say repeatedly the transgressions of one Government are increased by the next in geometrical progression, whose members/supporters cite the conduct of the previous Government to justify their own wrong-doing.
The implementation of Article 12(1) of the Constitution and the laws of the land with fairness and firmness must necessarily bring to a halt the scourge of thuggery that is fast enveloping in our land – but that is something which those within the corridors of power must have the guts, the commitment to the Country and the political will to implement.
Before parting the subject of thuggery within Sri Lanka I must leave behind one thought. Today whether one is a supporter of the Government or not, one cannot be blind to the fact that the Government has under its patronage a vast array of thugs who are always ready, able and willing to jump to do its bidding in return for the rewards they expect to get for such sycophancy. This apart the Government depends largely on the armed might of the Armed Forces and the Police to control the people and remain in power. The obvious danger to which those cocooned in power seem oblivious is this – what will happen when those thugs and sycophants in uniform and out of uniform realise this fact and decide that they have committed enough crimes on behalf of others and seek to take control of the Government for themselves. That this is a very real possibility is a sobering thought to which a considerable degree of consideration must be given and action taken accordingly. However it is regrettably something that appears to have evaded the minds and thoughts of those in the corridors of power. They are doubtless too busy enjoying their ill-gotten gains to ponder upon such unpleasant realities.
What I have said above relates to internal thuggery – i.e. thuggery by people and bands of people within the Country. Today however we are faced with thuggery from external forces. We have seen this happening particularly at the last session of the UNHRC and the various statements that are being made by various so-called dignitaries of foreign countries. Everyone of them appears to have or to express even if they don’t have any, ideas about how this Country should be run. It matters not if they merely express such views in a purely theoretical sense. However, they back up the expression of these views with the flexing of muscles and the rattling of chains. Thus we find the Foreign Minister of United States, John Kerry, threatening an aid cut of 20%. Similarly we find various foreign governments led by Canada (our supposed friend!!!) calling for a boycott of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting that is scheduled to be held in Colombo or a change of venue and/or the expulsion of Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth because we do not conduct ourselves in the way in which they want us to. However, not one of them has, to this date, made similar noises about United States of America and the thuggery they practise in all parts of the world; about the violation of the human rights of detenues at the Guantanamo Bay torture facility etc. Not one of them has yet sought the expulsion of Britain from the Commonwealth for behaving like America’s lapdog which it is, and having been particeps criminis in the foul invasion of Iraq on the fraudulent pretext that there were in that Country, `Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Not one of them has called for the expulsion of the once ‘Great’ Britain from the Commonwealth or from Councils of the Commonwealth for its part in the murders of hundred of thousands or millions of Iraqi civilians on Iraqi soil pursuant to their invasion. Not one of them took any steps against India for training, arming & equipping terrorists to commit murder & mischief in Sri Lanka. Not one of them took any steps to cause an international awareness of the thuggery of the LTTE and to rein in assistance being given to them either morally or materially even when it was a known fact that they were regularly committing mass murders and kidnapping children and abducting adults on a daily basis either for slave labour in their terrorist cadres or for ransom. However, these hypocrites now purport to sit in judgment over us, and we regrettably, have no option but to accept the situation because today both within and without Sri Lanka ‘might is right’.
Until such time as this situation is changed and ‘right’ becomes once more that which is ‘right’ by objective standards, and not that which is supported by ‘might’, the gross inequality among countries and the peoples of countries that are affluent and powerful on the one hand and the people of countries such as ours will not be remedied and will remain in the contemptible state in which it is.