22 June, 2021

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Neither Principle Nor Law In Our Politics: A Plea To The Police & The AG

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Threat to Law and Order

Note: Constitution, §104B(2):”It shall be the duty of the [Election] Commission to secure the enforcement of all laws relating to the holding of [Elections].” This article is an attempt to secure that enforcement.

The reputation of the police is at a low ebb – with viral videos of the IGP assaulting a person, an SSP convicted of murder, a former DIG implicated in the Jaffna school girl’s rape and widespread testimony of bribery on the highways. Election officials on duty who were assaulted at the 2015 elections are yet to receive justice because the AG refused to charge the assailants.

Yet, the ongoing elections are regarded as relatively problem free. That gain needs consolidation and reflects well on our people. However there are signs aplenty that prosecutions are rarely pursued with the intention of punishing violators because our big fishes are above the law. A stunning unpunished example is the PM’s National Sasundoya Program launched on 5 Dec. building 1000 Temples using state funds. Because this involves waving religious symbols at elections to buy or influence the vote of one community, and because it was done at a religious ceremony (with the PM bowing before monks and the photo circulated widely), this covers a multiplicity of sins – what the law calls “undue influence,” “corrupt practice,” “treating” and “bribery” –  making the PM liable to up to 6 or 12 months of RI (depending on the offence) or a trivial fine up to Rs. 500. The real bite, however, is that if he is convicted with even a 1 cent fine, for 7 years from the date of conviction he cannot vote or be a candidate; and if he has already been elected at the time of the offence, he shall be unseated. That would certainly send a loud message.

However, in Sri Lanka where politicians and high officials can speed without tickets, everyone, including the AG, will look the other way. Only small fry are punished to put on a show.

Fearful Police

We have come far after a long period of darkness with neither law nor order. The police are therefore fearful of victimization if they uphold the law. On the 11th morning I dropped my son off at the airport and saw two huge posters at the exit on the parking lot fence – one promoted political heavyweight, Hon. Siripala de Silva, and the other some UNP candidates. I reported it and the Commission ordered its immediate removal. I was told it would have been done. Come nightfall, returning to Jaffna and curious, I detoured to see the two displays still up. I went to the Katunayake Police. They wanted an order in writing, which I issued and the OIC committed to removing it. I asked when. He said immediately.

Since when do the police need a written order to stop an illegal activity? It shows fear and wanting someone else to take the responsibility.

Religion in Politics

Recall that the prohibition on buying “undue influence” using religion is a part of our proud democratic heritage. Thus it was that Gamini Dissanayake was unseated by an Election Judge for holding a public election meeting at a temple in  Scrubbs Estate, Nuwara Eliya around 24.05.1970; and at the Mariamma Kovil of Ward No. 3, Hawa-Eliya, Nuwara Eliya around 16.05.1970; and for the offence of  corrupt practice by making false statements during the election against the SLFP candidate Tantalage William Fernando in relation to his personal character and conduct. Dissanayake’s appeal was rejected in 1971 by the Supreme Court. Fitting the times, his worshippers rewrite history that the vacation was only for the third offence.

This heritage against bringing religion into politics, has been quietly forgotten since the time Buddhism was elevated to an effective state religion in 1972. However, the law prohibiting undue influence remains, but unused to our detriment. For, enforcement would involve challenging important folk and the 1972 constitution.

Maviddapuram Pooja: Only the poor Kurukkal charged

Some Tamil wags ask “If the PM can get away with it, why not we?”  So it was that on 30.12.2017 that the Tamil National Forum had a pooja at the Maviddapuram Temple, the oldest in Jaffna. The Priest, Maha Rajasri Ratnasabapathy Kurukkal, is from a liberal tradition where his late brother, Maha Rajasri Shanmuganatha Kurukkal, incumbent in 2011, rose from his death-bed to issue a statement welcoming me, a great grandson of one-time temple mudalali Viswanathamudaliar Sangarapillai,  as a candidate for VC Jaffna. This he did although we are now Christians, to counter virulent sentiments expressed by Dr. Yogalakshmi Ponnambalam and Lawyer Kandiah Neelakandan (who “promotes”  national unity and  reconciliation as Governor at ONUR). They campaigned that Jaffna University should be headed by a Hindu.

As priests always do, blessing one and all, Ratnasabapathy Kurukkal blessed the tray with a yellow sheaf of the party’s policy statement under a bowl. This was followed by a public meeting on temple premises.  Five lawyers participated: Gajendrakumar, Viswalingam Manivannan, Kandeepan, Jeyaruban, and Thirukumaran, besides a sixth woman-lawyer. They surely knew the law.

Unenthusiastic Police Prosecution

At the Commission I raised (Chief ITAK Candidate for Vali-North) K. Suhirthan’s complaint in writing of 04.01.2018. The Commission had the pictures shown here. Its Deputy Commissioner in Jaffna too had them, which he got independently and said he would show the police if they came. He had visited the temple and agreed that the meeting was clearly on temple premises. Suhirthan gave them to the KKS OIC with another 8 photos. I told Senior DIG (Elections and Administration), C.D. Wickramarathne, about the need to prosecute persons because the current practice of asking violators merely not to repeat it, leads to repetitions. He promised to implement the law.

However, the police charged only gentle Ratnasabapathy Kurukkal whom no judge would convict, whereas the complaint was against the politicians. This  was before the judge, Hon.  T. Karunakaran, at the Malakam Court, where nearly all the named lawyers practised regularly and must have been friends with the police prosecutors through regular contact.

Worse, Jaffna ACTC Mayoral candidate Manivannan, also a regular at court, appeared for the priest, despite the conflict of interest. The priest’s interest was to say who was responsible. Manivannan’s was to hide his and his party’s involvement. The Police B-Report did not have the incriminating photos due to police sloppiness. Reports say, the judge told the priest it is a serious offence and he should not repeat it. Big deal!

A new follow-up complaint by Suhirthan asks why the police neither produced nor named the party and people responsible for the meeting. There must be a new case against those responsible directly under Senior DIG Wickramarathne’s oversight. Will the AG give his required consent?

The Broad Malaise

A few parties are taking our laxity for granted, and spoiling the elections for all of us. For example, the Tamil Makkal Peravai (Tamil People’s Council, TPC) led largely by doctors and university dons is set up as an alternative to the TNA. They have an office at the university  where meetings have been held under the cover of partnering with a union. A photo shows Gajendrakuar working there at night with Thinakkural’e media man Yathendra. The same office was used by the two and Suresh Premachandran to make voice cuts for the media. Emboldened, they have announced a political seminar at the university under their own auspices for 16.01.2018. Council members appointed by the UGC and on the TPC are said to have arm-twisted the VC into agreeing. The Commission has ordered not to hold it there and not to involve students and administrators.

In the same trend of ignoring laws, the STF and CID are, in a chilling move, gathering candidate data despite prohibition by the Commission. Likewise, the President (Daily Mirror 17.01.2018) “had ordered the Department of Samurdhi Development to halt the recovery of loans issued for housing renovation of low income families” – just hand out state funds as “treats” during elections without the approval of Parliament for cheap popularity!

A Bright Spot for the Police, Judiciary

I will end on a positive story for the police and judiciary from the Point Pedro government hospital, Manthihai. Instead of in the dirty brown sachets in which medicine is dispensed, a bright blue SLFP-colour envelope was used with the wording “A Gift from Angajan Ramanathan’s Youth Front.” A complaint was filed by a citizen with the Chief Returning Officer and the Divisional Health Service. The CRO, GA/Jaffna Vethanayagam,  spoke to the hospital authorities and stopped it.

Without punishment, however, the practice naturally resumed last week. This time another citizen, bypassing the Commission, complained directly to the police with far better results. The Police  surrounded the hospital and recovered some 500 such envelopes. The Point Pedro Magistrate, Ms. Nalini Subaskaran a great example to other judges, policemen, the AG and men –  ordered the police to burn all envelopes keeping a few for evidence, investigate further and produce the person in charge. It transpires now that Krishnamoorthy Jehanaathan, the one mixing medicines in the dispensary, is Hon. Angajan’s SLFP candidate for the Thunnalai North Karaveddy Pradeshiya Sabai!

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Latest comments

  • 6
    0

    Neither principle nor law in our politics: Then why wait. make it a challenge and do something to change politics: JVP has been telling this for years Now. For 70 years, UNP and SLFP have been making huge damages to Sri Lankan politics. All sort of corruptions. It is a duty of Each person to support JVP Now. Why wait for any longer : Sinhalese, Tamil , Malay, Burger, Muslim, Kafeer community, Up country Tamils and all should support JVP now to make a difference:
    It is a duty of each Intellectual people of Sri Lanka to study, examine and gauge the policies, principles, and doctrines of JVP : JVP of today is totally different from JVP of 80’s and JVP is a local politics with national agenda: JVP is only party that save Sri Lanka from calamities and corruption.
    No point in talking but take action and vote for JVP Now:

    Any reader can challenge me on this point: People who looted public money will never vote JVP: People who benefited FROM M& R OR M&S OR RANIL will never vote for JVP.
    but people will pure heart and corruption free minds will vote for JVP.

    • 1
      1

      sinahaasle punditi

      “No point in talking but take action and vote for JVP Now”

      Could you find out from JVP where have its cadres hidden their collection of surplus unused arms?
      Have they sold the entire collection to underground Mafia, LTTE, ………. or still keeping and dreaming another attempt at terrorism?

  • 2
    1

    “The Priest, Maha Rajasri Ratnasabapathy Kurukkal, is ……… a great grandson of one-time temple mudalali Viswanathamudaliar Sangarapillai, as a candidate for VC Jaffna.”

    What is this????

  • 2
    0

    Anpu.

    Perhaps, Dr.Ratnajeevan Hoole should have broken the sentences for clarity.
    What he sought to say was that he is the Great Grand son of Viswanatha Mudaliyar Sangarapillai the Temple owner[original].
    Of-course the Hoole family converted to christianity later on. I must hasten to add that i do not see anything improper!

    Whilst on the subject, my late Mother-in -Laws father who happened to be a somebody @ Maviddapuram signed the Election forms for the late SJV[ Kankesanthurai] in 1952. When invited to address a meeting in the Temple Premises Thanthai Chelva had refused saying that he did not want to mix politics with Religion.and he did not want to cheat a predominantly Hindu village.So much for his integrity! He lost in 1952, but Kakesanthurai returned him at every election thereafter.

    • 1
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      Mr. Sampanthar is now in Chevanayagam’s shoes. And in a similar position too. Admittedly, this government is not doing much for Tamils in terms of the promises made. But even minor gains like the Office of Missing Persons (with some 7 eminent people nominated), and the return of lands to their rightful owners (though not all of it) are huge, are huge compared to what we had under Rajapakse. A lot more remains to be done. Let’s not spoil it. So long as that possibility remains, we live in hope.

      On the other hand what CV Wigneswaran, Gajendrakumar, Guruparan et al. offer is sharp criticism of the government with no pathway. We will hear them (with their typical diatribes) on the 16th at Veerasingham Hall, the new venue after they were kicked out of the university. If they are returned, what will we get? Nothing. How will they get what we Tamils need? Go to war? They are so bankrupt that they cannot get candidates and have been putting in dummy names to make their lists seem right. Our only option is to talk to the government, however forked its tongue might be.

      How the TPC/ACTC is cheating as shown in this article indicates that they cannot be trusted. ITAK is playing it clean so far. That alone is a good reason to vote for it.

  • 2
    0

    ” theTamil Makkal Peravai (Tamil People’s Council, TPC) led largely by doctors and university dons is set up as an alternative to the TNA”

    NOT according to http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2015/dec/28/Tamil-Makkal-Peravai-Will-Be-A-Watchdog-of-Tamil-Politics-861448.html

    “The Chief Minister of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province, C V Wigneswaran, has clarified that the Tamil Makkal Peravai (TMP), which he has floated, is not a rival to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), but is a non-partisan, civil society watchdog meant to see that the basic interests of the Lankan Tamils are upheld by their leaders and not compromised for petty gains.

    Speaking at the second formal meeting of the TMP in Jana on Sunday, Wigneswaran said that given its broad-based, grassroots character, the TMP will help the TNA and other Tamil political parties take the right decisions and the right approach to the problems of the Tamils.

    He pointed that traditionally, the powers-that-be in Lanka have tried to co-opt and neutralise sections of the Tamil leadership to subvert the unity of the Tamils and render them incapable of fighting for their rights eectively. Individualistic leaders may fall prey to the blandishments of the Establishment. But theEstablishment will not dare trifle with leaders who have the backing of the people at large. The TMP, he said, is only meant to give the present Tamil leaders(including those of the TNA) the necessary broad-based backing so that governments are forced to turn their attention from trying to satisfy the needs of individual leaders to meeting the demands of the Tamils as a whole.

    The CM said that there is concentration of power in the hands of a few Tamil leaders, and warned that individual leaders or political brokers cannot win for Tamils, their legitimate rights.”

  • 2
    0

    No voter these days takes seriously the blessing of any candidate by a priest.
    Leading parties have had their election manifestos blessed by the Mahanayakas many times over.
    Even the JVP did it shortly after being enlightened that the Mahanayakes had better electoral clout than Marx or Che.
    Whether we like it or not, historically, religion has been political.
    How the politics of religion works depends on not just the style of work of religious establishments and members of the clergy but also how communities perceive a religion and the more mundane purposes for which people use religion.
    *
    The writer has complained about an offence for which only the Hindu priest— for whom he has much sympathy —was pulled up by the police; and he sounds regretful.
    Or is it a case where the intended target was missed and the wrong man was hit?

    • 2
      1

      Prof. Sivasegaram, Your old Hoole-baiting habit is showing through. Give it a rest.

  • 0
    2

    This author as usual showed how Tribal therefore how Racist he is. One politics officer working to Tamils were shot and killed. He never wrote on that. One DIG got into the police jail because he helped crooked Tamil politicians. HE showed that as a fault of Police. You are educated man. but, you showed how low your inside is. You are very good at promoting your christian Tamils and bashing sinhala and tamil.

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