By Farweez Imamudeen –
The holy site was apparently unmarked. No signs indicating an ancient religious site, were to be seen in the vicinity. In addition, people had in the past taken pictures standing on it. Yet, when it was brought to the attention of the Horowopathana police that seven South Eastern University students had taken pictures, while standing on the Kiralagala sthupa they were apprehended and remanded with a sensational news story to supplement the whole drama.
Fair enough. Those who intentionally revile a religious site need to make amends by going through the systematic process of law and order, for treating such an act with indifference may have grave consequences for the society at large.
However, justice is not to apprehend civilians for merely climbing atop an ancient ruin, which is claimed to be an ancient religious site; justice is not to remand a group of students for standing on an ancient sacred site, which apparently bore no signs or indications of its sacredness; justice in fact is to consider the context of the incident before randomly throwing people behind bars.
To find out whether it was justice that was truly served we need to assess the site in which the so called abominable act took place. Was there any indication to say that it is an ancient religious site? Apparently NO! There are hundreds of ruins all over the island, but how many of them are religious and thus holy? How is anyone to know if there is nothing to indicate to distinguish the sacredness of the site? If there’s nothing to indicate that the site is sacred, and therefore ought to be treated with respect, what is the logic behind apprehending someone for reviling it by standing on it?
After all every ruin are merely remains of building materials. Thus in the absence of a sign to distinguish a sacred location, the general and lay public will merely and naturally regard it as another ancient building. It is the responsibility of the archeological department to label the sacred sites. Why did they not take measures to inform the public? Do they expect the citizens to carry a manual of all the archeological ruins wherever they go, or to have knowledge of the sacredness and non-sacredness of every single archeological ruin in Sri Lanka?
Does the innocent and ignorant public have to pay for the negligence of the archeological department?
Isn’t the archeological department the real perpetrator here?
Had they stood on the ruins of Kiralagala sthupa knowing it was a religious site these students deserve to be apprehended, but how could they have known if there was no indication of any sort? If an offensive act needs to be proved beyond reasonable doubt for the suspects to be accused, then the fact that there was no sign to indicate the holiness of the site should be sufficient to prove their innocence. This is basic logic! But logic is one ingredient that is perpetually lacking in the enforcement of Sri Lankan law; justice in Sri Lanka has turned out to be a mirage in a desert.
Sri Lanka has become a land where law is only for the weak, vulnerable and the oppressed; the masters write the law and choose the victim to serve their purpose. Justice therefore, is not in the agenda of rule-making and law-making. Rather, justice is what the authorities in power craft by twisting the law that is made for the survival of the greedy masters.
On the other hand, these Muslim students are not the first ones to stand on Kiralagala Sthupa. As seen in the picture even people from other cultures have done the same. I’m not as illogical as the Sri Lankan police to ask why the law is biased in this case, for I strongly believe that this cannot be regarded as reviling since the site is unmarked. But my question is, despite this photo making its rounds in the media (Lanka True News) for the last couple of weeks, why hasn’t any other media published this at least as a means of creating awareness of the subtle racism that is in play behind this fiasco? Why did not Daily Mirror, Ada Derana, Daily News and Sunday Times, which responded at lightening pace to publish the photo of the seven Muslim boys, to sensationalize the issue and to accumulate cheap readership, never did the same with the photo with the non-Muslims? This is a blatant demonstration of the kind of bubble media ethics practiced by our biased media supermarkets.
How many of us knew that this photo with the seven boys from the South Eastern University was published on the Facebook page of the students concerned over a year ago? Why did it then take over a year for the police to apprehend them? It is noteworthy that this drama took place soon after their final exam was over. Friends of these students have posted on their Facebook pages claiming that this was a planned revenge against a couple of boys who were bound to be top scorers.
Regardless of whether this is a planned or unplanned act, the apprehension and remanding of the boys remains truly and absolutely a mockery of justice.
But we live in a gone to dogs land where Karuna Amman who played an active role in massacring Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims in thousands has earned state protection, while a man who yawned inside courts premises is remanded for three months.
With men and women whose rationality has been severely crippled, not even God can save Sri Lanka.