By Malinda Seneviratne –
In a society where there is justice and it is reflected in the entire gamut of activities and processes that come under ‘law and order’ two things can be expected. First, the crime rate will be low. Secondly, those guilty of wrongdoing will be brought to book. We don’t live in such a society. While it is fashionable to blast the Government or, if it’s a new Government, the previous one, for crimes of omission and commission, we’ve certainly come a long way from the days of proxy arrests, illegal detention, routine and policy-directed torture and summary execution.
‘Better,’ however is not coterminous with ‘okay’ and that’s a point I’ve made often enough. Foot dragging, we have pointed out editorially, naturally prompts suspicion of concealment and implies sanction from ‘the top’. I have also treated with suspicion the numbers trotted out by dubious NGO racketeers regarding journalists and others supposedly ‘disappeared’ by state agencies. For two reasons. First ‘journalist’ is not license to do wrong and get away with it. Secondly, such inflation only detracts from the investigation into authentic cases, for example that of Lasantha Wickrematunge. Put simply, when the accusers and the accusations are corrupt and fairytale-like respectively it allows those in authority to play with these factors and not the fact of murder. Even in Lasantha’s case, whether or not his ‘journalism’ figured in the plot that led to his murder is unclear. Colombo Telegraph has covered that aspect of the issue. Prageeth Ekneligoda was no journalist. He did come up with interesting illustrations, but to call him a ‘journalist’ is an insult to the tribe. His involvement with the LTTE is coming out only now. All that is irrelevant to the matter of investigating his disappearance. If, as alleged, he was killed, the truth must be sought relentlessly because he is a citizen. If he was murdered, the murderers should be brought to book. If, in the process, it turns out (as some have alleged) that he was not the journalistic or rights advocacy guru he’s been made out to be, it can’t be helped. His so-called friends may get egg on their faces. Can’t be helped.
The important thing is to investigate to conclusion. And that’s not just about Prageeth Ekneligoda but every citizen of this country who, if the law is inefficient, inadequate or prone to interference ‘from above’, is another Prageeth waiting to be disappeared.
Prageeth’s case has from Day One been politicized. The silence and inaction on the part of the state only helped the usual suspects from the whining brigade of the NGO community that unabashedly acts in cahoots with the LTTE rump overseas. Now that there’s ‘regime change’ (of sorts) such impediments as may have existed are gone. Today it’s a different political game and one that has nothing to do with machinations against the Sri Lankan state (and consequently the people of Sri Lanka).
If Prageeth’s dubious past helped discolor investigations the current exercise is being blurred by what has to be identified as professional jealousies. The war is between military intelligence units and the Police. Since the entire case is framed by security issues this is unfortunate and even repulsive.
Wrongdoers must be brought to book. In the proper manner. Just as the vilification of Ekneligoda does not serve the cause of seeing justice done, oneupmanship when it comes to the pursuit and arrest of suspects does not help either.
Every suspect has to be considered innocent unless and until proven guilty. Making a song and dance about operations where the military intelligence units are concerned can only be detrimental to national security. We cannot overemphasize the terrible lessons learnt from the equally despicable Millennium City operations during the short-lived UNP Government of 2001-2004.
If any intelligence operative is found guilty the law should be applied. But neither ‘intelligence’ nor ‘national security’ are subjects that deserve to be treated as items in a circus. The nation is bigger than gung-ho police officers and revenge-seeking politicians.
It’s a simple enough brief: you are paid to do a job, so do it, self-aggrandizement is neither rewarded nor applauded. Investigate, find the truth and if there’s wrongdoing punish the culprits. Keep it clean. Keep theatrics out of it.