Sri Lanka Police Department’s common practice of ‘closing the stable door after the horse has bolted’ and their inaction to blatant violations of the law when committed by the ‘darlings’ of the Rajapaksa regime has been heavily criticized in yesterday’s editorial of Sri Lanka’s daily English newspaper, The Island.
The editorial states that despite the Police Spokesman’s recent announcement of the ban of public gatherings that incite racial hatred, regulations that prohibited such rallies or processions have been in place for many years. It points out however, that their implementation so far has only been selective, with the Police resorting to obtain court order after another to prevent only students’ and workers’ protests.
The writer has also recalled several other instances where the police failed to promptly intervene and enforce the law when it came to dealing with the Rajapaksa regime’s ‘unruly pets’ that acted outside the confines of the law.
The editorial recalls how the laws were not effectively enforced in the case of the Public relations Minister Mervyn Silva and his mob invading the Badrakali temple in Chilaw. “One has a right to oppose animal slaughter, but one’s protests should be within the confines of the law,” the writer adds.
The editorial further refers to the recent violent mobs led by the BBS as well as other hardline, extremist Buddhist groups that have attacked prayer houses of many other faiths.
“In almost all cases, attackers including BBS activists went scot free thanks to deplorable leniency on the part of the police. It is this culture of impunity which helped the BBS become a law unto itself,” the editorial asserts.
It further notes that the proposed ban must be implemented strictly without any space left for bigots to indulge in violence and that it should be ensured that the ban is not exploited to suppress political dissent.
We publish below the editorial in full;
The police now tell us that Ven. Watareka Vijitha Thera’s claim that he was abducted and assaulted by a group of persons in robes recently is false and his injuries are self-inflicted. Legal action will be instituted against him when he leaves hospital, Police Spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana has told the media.
The onus is on the police to prove their allegations against the injured monk. What is of greater interest than the Police Spokesman’s claim, in our view, is a statement attributed to a lawyer retained by Ven. Vijitha Thera that he will not defend the monk if the allegations levelled by the police are true.
One is intrigued. How will lawyers appearing for the monk know the veracity or otherwise of the Police Spokesman’s claim until the court makes a decision thereon? Until such time, they will have to defend their client because he should be presumed innocent until proved guilty. They cannot desert him even thereafter if he wants to appeal to a higher court in case of his conviction.
Lawyers commit no offence when they defend offenders including dangerous criminals such as mass murderers and drug barons. In most cases, they are fully aware that their clients have really committed the crimes they are indicted for, aren’t they? Clients usually confide everything about their offences to their lawyers. In fact, it is to make lawyers utter falsehoods in courts in their defence that criminals part with hefty sums of dosh. One is reminded of a cynical observation Dickens makes about lawyers through Brass, in The Old Curiosity Shop: “It is a pleasant world we live in, Sir, a very pleasant world. There are bad people in it, Mr. Richard, but if there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.”
Never mind much-maligned Ven. Vijitha Thera, his injuries and his lawyers! The police cannot claim that the eye injury UNP MP Palitha Thewarapperuma’s suffered in Aluthgama while trying to help the victims of violence is self-inflicted. He has accused the police of having allowed thugs to attack him and some Muslims he was trying to remove to safety. This is a very serious allegation made by an Opposition parliamentarian.
MP Thewarapperuma has called upon the IGP to take the responsibility for the incident and resign. That will never happen. IGPs resign in this country only to be posted as ambassadors! (We don’t know whether the incumbent police chief has any ‘ambassadorial ambitions’.)
What action will the police take as regards MP Thewarapperuma’s complaint?
After letting horse bolt
The police are, true to form, busy closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. They have decided to ban rallies and processions aimed at inciting communal hatred. Laws prohibiting such events have been there all these years and they have also been enforced selectively to scuttle anti-government rallies. The police go running to courts and obtain orders to prevent students’ and workers’ protests. The question the police must be made to answer is why they did not resort to legal action to stop the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) rally which triggered recent communal clashes in Alutgama.
It is not only the BBS which has taken the law into its own hands; there have been instances where the ruling party politicians and their goons stormed kovils purportedly to stop animal sacrifices. Minister Mervyn Silva with a mob invaded the Badrakali temple in Chilaw on two occasions. One has a right to oppose animal slaughter, but one’s protests should be within the confines of the law. Minister Silva got away with his offence as usual.
Two years ago, a violent mob descended on the residence of a person who claimed to have attained Buddhahood. There have been many such attacks on prayer houses of other faiths as well. In almost all cases, attackers including BBS activists went scot free thanks to deplorable leniency on the part of the police. It is this culture of impunity which helped the BBS become a law unto itself.