By Tassie Seneviratne –
As usual the Government blames its political rivals for inciting violence. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who was also the Minister in charge of Law and Order gave a full description in Parliament about the violence that had taken place and put the blame on the Government’s ‘saboteurs’ and added that the law enforcement authorities had erred.
It was also reported that Police investigations have confirmed that the violence had been perpetrated by organized outside groups who caused mayhem and disruption of the lives of the people. – Though movement of outside groups to these areas was observed by many and trouble was anticipated beforehand, the Police have had to call the CID to find out what was well known to others!
The Sunday Times editorial of March 11th had rounded up its comments stating, “There is no escaping the fact that those events must be taken in the context of the overall decline and breakdown in the law and order situation in the country……” Reasons for this decline and breakdown, not set out in the editorial, are given by me below.
It is also the view of many that the country’s intelligence services have failed miserably. This is so in spite of the fact that the number one priority in the duties of a Police officer is to “collect and communicate intelligence affecting the public peace.” Be that as it may, in the case of the recent violence under review, that trouble was brewing was quite clear to many and it did not need a sophisticated intelligence apparatus to analyze the information. In fact incidents of violence have become the order of the day and activities leading to violence have been quite predictable. All that the government has done has been to accuse its political rivals for the surge in violence notwithstanding its own incompetence.
The Police, as usual, are the bashing boys of everyone when things go wrong. Even the Prime Minister who was the Minister in charge of Law and Order was quick to pass the buck on the Police. What most people don’t realize, and those in authority over the Police gloss it over, is the fact that powers for all enlistments, promotions, transfers, and punishments are vested with the Minister (now with the Police Commission) but the Police are continued to be held accountable. It is a universally accepted fact that responsibility goes with authority. It is therefore the Police Commission that the Prime Minister should have called to question.
I have written several letters to the Police Commission that holds authority over the police, seeking to know who is responsible for Police action and/or non- action and followed up with reminders, but other than the automatic acknowledgement of the letters, no reply has been forthcoming.
Due to the militarization of the Police during the 30 years of war, most Police officers do not know their proper functions. Respective Governments have preferred to use the Police as an instrument to instil fear in the people and to suppress people’s agitations. Community policing as should be its proper function is forgotten and unknown to the present day Police officers.
Taking a cue from the allegations about lack of intelligence in regard to developing violent situations, I had earlier conceived an idea of forming a group with a few former police colleagues, in order to collect intelligence for the government. The first colleague I contacted, confronted me with the question, “Why should we prop up a government that has usurped the power of the sovereign people?” This struck me as a valid point.
About this time, by a strange coincidence, I read about the 81 leaders in the 1818 Uva rebellion being declared as national heroes: “President Maithripala Sirisena, in a special gazette notification, has declared 81 more leaders and rebels of the 1818 Uva rebellion as patriotic national heroes. Earlier on December 7th last year, the President annulled the Gazette issued in 1818 and declared as national heroes 19 persons including Monarawila Keppetipola who had been named as traitors for leading and participating the 1818 Uva- Wellassaa rebellion against the British Colonial Rule.
The Gazette issued on Monday includes 49 people sentenced to death and another 32 declared as traitors and expelled to Mauritius consequent to their involvement in the uprising.”
The Uva Rebellion was against the British Colonial Government that was in forcible occupation of our country. I am inclined to draw a parallel between the British Colonial Government of 1818 and the present Government that has usurped the Sovereign power of the people and is functioning illegitimately.
Lawlessness and the violent incidents triggered with ease by political opponents of the government with a view to toppling the government, are taking place unabated, due to the unpopularity of the usurping government that has lost its legitimacy. A rebellion to overthrow the illegitimate Government appears to be the only way forward and worth the take.
While the majority of people are woefully unable to make ends meet, it is a normal sight that politicians and their henchmen make matters worse by raping the forests for timber, illicitly excavating sand from rivers and irrigation tanks, excavating and transporting earth without permits and rival marauders shooting and killing each other and terrorizing the peace loving people, has also become a daily occurrence. Wetlands are given for luxury housing. How long are the frustrated and angry people expected to tolerate these burdens cast on them by the very government that promised impressive economic growth, but instead doing a lot of damage to the economy of the country. It is blatantly clear that, “Everything is done just to accommodate the government in power and to ensure their political longevity rather than the long term interests of the nation”, as aptly commented in another editorial of the Sunday Times.
Unleashing a witch hunt on those of the previous government is also a normal feature, though nothing has been proved yet.
The worst scenario is that the President and Prime Minister are fiddling in rival politics against each other while the burning problems of the nation in regard to the economy, law & order and all that can be called good governance, are aggravating daily.
That a defeat of the Government will pave the way for a comeback of the dreaded ‘Rajapaksa Bogey’ is the Government’s strongest catchword in its political campaign for continued existence. But this should not be the case. Fossilized senior politicians who have been repeatedly going back on their promises should be hounded out from the political scene.
Youth to the fore. Since of late I have been toying with the idea that the youth of this country be encouraged to play an active role in governing the country. By a divine quirk of events as it were, I read an article in the Daily Mirror of 2nd February 2018, on ‘The Road to Rights’ under the title “70th Independence and Youth”.
It is heartening to note that the Youth are organizing themselves aiming at ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ and ‘Human Rights Education’. All encouragement must be given to this organization to participate in governance of the country eventually. Civil Society organizations and the media could help to harness people-power for youth participation with a view to make rule of law and competent governance a reality, replacing both bogeys, ‘Rajapaksa’ as well as ‘Yahapalanaya’.
*The writer is a Rtd. Senior Supdt. of Police and a Human Rights activist