By Malinda Seneviratne –
Julampitiye Amare is not an anomaly. And that is the definitive statement of the culture of immunity that describes thugs and thuggery, assassins and assassination in Sri Lanka over the past several decades.
The court observed that the man had not been arrested despite dozens of warrants being issued. That’s not news. What’s news is that the Police had the gumption to say ‘Only five warrants were issued’, as though the smaller number somehow explain inability to arrest the man. It is clearly not only a case of the police lacking skills to track him down; it is about the police having its hands tied. That’s a political reality. And that’s not something peculiar to this government. However, the crimes of omission and commission of previous governments do not confer license to follow suit.
Where did Julampitiye Amare get the guts? To answer that we could consider the harassment meted out to Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Devasiri, President, Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA). Dr. Devasiri has complained to the IGP that some strange men, claiming to be from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had made unwarranted inquiries from his neighbours.
It is not uncommon for academics, journalists and NGO activists to concoct such stories as part of political strategy to demonize governments and open up avenues to ‘flee’ to greener pastures. Dr. Devasiri, even his most ardent ideological and political opponents will agree, does not belong to that despicable tribe. A simple man, with simple needs, he conducts himself in line with the decorum and decency one associates with civilized, democratic practice. His complaint has to be taken seriously.
What of the ‘MoD’, though? It is a claim, yes let us repeat, a claim, made by some shady characters. Does this mean the MoD is somehow implicated? No. What it means, however, is that a situation has been created where things are said and done in the name of the MoD and in all probability without the MoD having any inkling of what’s happening and what’s being done in its name.
Turning claim into fact is big business and bigger politics. This too is known. What’s most disturbing is the fact that the Government is doing little to help its case in these and related matters. Time and again, we’ve seen thuggery go unpunished. Time and again persons directly associated with the government or close to high ranking ministers have acted as though they were above the law, and indeed the law, in its breach, has helped confirm that they were. Investigations into acts that could cause embarrassment to the Government have been painfully slow with little or no results to show for effort.
It is in this context that some two-bit thug can legitimately reason thus: ‘The bosses apparently don’t mind.’ Others could reason, ‘It’s in the best interest of the boss, so it has to be considered a moral obligation’. But what if it’s not a minion’s do-good ethic that’s at work? What if the thug was under contract? When nothing is done and when nothing has been done for years, to stop the rot it would be silly for the Government to imagine that people will give it the benefit of the doubt. Make no mistake, the people, whether or not they’ll howl in protest, will conclude: The government is behind this!
What’s the signal, then, that Julampitiye Amare gives the radical youth of this country? He tells them, ‘Look, democracy is old hat; it’s gun-talk and nothing else!’ Remember the 80’s, when the then UNP regimes operated as though its sole intent was to give that very same message to the youth of the country? Remember what happened? A revolution? No! We had a bloodbath, the regime emerged bruised but unbowed, and the country walked a couple of decades backwards. We cannot afford a repeat, but a repeat is what is looming ahead of us.
The MoD, common sense tells, is not stupid to go around intimidating Dr. Devasiri. Someone was bold enough though and that someone was smart enough to pass the buck to the MoD. There are many ‘someones’ and much passing of buck, to the MoD and, more seriously, to the President.
The longer the Government is silent, the more apparent the foot-dragging in bringing to book these thugs, the more the Government will incriminate itself. It is this political sloth perhaps more than anything else that will convince people that the likes of Julampitiye Amare are but following orders.
As for the police and the lame excuses that are being trotted out, it clearly shows that the general public as well as law and order have suffered and continue to suffer on account of the absence of a truly independent Police Commission. People don’t trust the police and when that Police-Public connect is gone, it is open season for thuggery, theft, murder and indeed all manner of crimes. The finger will point towards the Government and umbrage will in the end be addressed to the President. Undeservedly, perhaps, at this point, but most certainly not without cause if nothing is done.