When I was a child, the famous Sri Lankan artist Victor Rathnayaka held a series of musical shows called “Sa”. I joined my family to experience this show in Galle Town Hall, where all important public events were held at that time. Perhaps that was my first experience in a public event. Apart from the memorable artistic experience, I can never forget how people crowded at the entrance and tried to push each other to get in. As a child I stood no chance, because even the well built up adults found it hard to make their way through that perilous fight to get in. None seemed to realize that everyone of them could have moved much faster with much more comfort if everybody lined up and showed their tickets, following a fair system.
Growing up to be an adult, I could notice that the failure to nurture and protect fair systems worked against Sri Lankans in many fronts. Mass victimization due to this failure range from a higher rate of road accidents, environmental pollution due to industries by-passing regulations, disappointment in school entrances, bribery in government services, to losing their own constitutional right to the rule of law.
The Weliweriya incident is a stark reminder of this victimization process. People, at some point was too obsessed with the promise of a wonder of Asia. They were mesmerized by the rising buildings, expanding harbors, and clustering factories. They neglected the fact that a family and their friends and relatives should not have a separate law than the rest of us. They neglected the fact that economic development is not sustainable if it’s priority comes above respect for rule of law, human rights, and constitutional Government. For me, this is quite analogous to what happened at the entrance to Victor Ratnayaka’s “Sa” musical show back when I was a child. What is more worrying is that even some of my educated friends argued that economic prosperity as a priority comes above Western concepts like human rights, rule of law, etc, in Sri Lanka right now. My attempts to explain that the latter list is not mere Western concepts, but can be found even in Lord Buddha’s teachings were not as effective as what is being propagated by State Media.
Reflecting on the rule of law issue in the Waliweriya incident, I question defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa as to whether he mobilized the police anti-riot units before ordering the army to shoot live bullets at civilian protestors. Now his ardent supporters may ask me what right I have to ask that question from London. I remind Gotabaya that as a Sri Lankan citizen holding a Sri Lankan passport, I have a constitutional right to ask that question even from the Moon. This is not the first time the army was ordered to shoot live bullets at civilian protestors in the recent past.
Reflecting on the human rights issue, the people have complained about the water issue for a long time. Why did the authorities neglect the basic right to have access to clean drinking water till people decide to take to the street? Why was the Urban development authority which comes under Gotabaya Rajapaksa neglect to conduct a scientific investigation to identify the cause of the pollution till things developed to this level? Is it correct to cover up this failure by ordering the army to use lethal force against the victims?
Finally, I wish to remind Gotabaya that your extreme arrogance and desperate attitude to use the army to suppress any protest against your brother’s rule is taking too much of a toll of human lives. Do not, I repeat do not think that Sri Lanka belongs to your family and that you can kill people as you wish. Sri Lanka is a republic if you didn’t know. In a republic, people sit above the highest authority. This note is to remind that we continue to exercise of that power vested upon us, the people.