Victims of democracy

A singularly disgusting feature that has emerged in Sri Lankan politics has been that responsible politicians of the day can utter any brazen lie, make solemn promises throughout the length and breadth of the country and get away with no public admonishment or reprisal that politicians in mature democracies are subjected to. Political leaders, particularly ministers, in most democracies are held accountable for their statements in the form of promises, attacks on opponents, implementation of functions of public office and their conduct in public.

Even an incident with which a politician such as a minister is not even remotely connected with such as a transport minister and a railway accident, necessitates the minister to offer his resignation as has happened on many occasions in India. If they are found violating the law and having committed serious offences, it means the end of their political careers. But our thick-skinned politicians seem to have developed a political and legal immunity to such disgusting violations.

During the recent general election, on election day we had the General Secretary of the Peoples Alliance, Mr. D. M. Jayaratne making very serious allegations of corrupt election practices and unleashing violence against two of his own ministerial colleagues. These allegations were repeated by Mr. Rauf Hakeem, who was the leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. Serious allegations were made against a very powerful minister in the Kandy District regarding the deployment of six underworld characters by another cabinet minister. Messrs Jayaratne and Hakeem vowed that they would object very strongly if a powerful ministerial portfolio was given to the particular politician concerned. It was at this point of time that President Kumaratunga made a public statement that if any person was found guilty of committing acts of violence (prachanda kriya) she, after due inquiry, if they are found guilty will take drastic action, irrespective of the status of the person and even deprive the person of his ministerial portfolio.

Two full moons have waxed and waned since president Kumaratunga made that pledge to the people. No inquiry has been held-at least to public knowledge. The person concerned has been given that vital portfolio. Messrs Jayaratne and Hakeem who vowed to raise Cain if that happened, are now cosily settled in ministerial chairs and the dust appears to have settled election battlefield.

The victims of the disgraceful incidents now appear to be Kandy policemen who probably depending on presidential assurances, acted in accordance with the law, irrespective of the high powered politicians concerned.

The first victim was Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sirisena Herath who was in charge of the Kandy District during the general election. He has been transferred to the Police Headquarters immediately after Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte was re-appointed Deputy Defence Minister, much after the ministerial and deputy ministerial appointments were made. Yesterday it was reported in The Island that three other police officers have been transferred out of Kandy - two to Jaffna and the other to Batticaloa. The transferred policemen are: Sub-Inspector I. M. Karunaratne, Public Relations Officer to Mr. Sirisena Herath (DIG), Officer in Charge Kandy Special Investigation Unit Mr. K. M. .S. Bowala and Sub-Inspector Amerasinghe of the Vice Branch. Why were these police officers transferred? This is the question that is being asked by the public of Kandy? Were they routine transfers or punishment transfers? If they had committed any offence, were official inquiries held? Transfers to operational areas in the North and East are certainly not considered promotion transfers!

It is open knowledge that DIG Herath and his police officers had fearlessly attempted to maintain law and order when criminals under the patronage of powerful politicians disgraced democracy and Sri Lanka in a blatant show of thuggery. They had dared even to take action against the kith and kin of the high and mighty and make them answerable to courts. Were they victims of their own misdeamenours or were they victims of democracy – attempting to up hold law and order and let the will of the people prevail.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga as president and commander-in-chief of the police force, has a special responsibility cast on her to inquire into the incidents that took place in Kandy on election day. The situation warrants a public inquiry. Let the people come out in the open and state what happened on that disgraceful day that shamed Kandy. She, should initiate this inquiry and punish those found guilty of thuggery as she promised to the public on election day.

Let not those who attempt to safeguard democracy on that shameful day become the victims of democracy.

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