Signs of desperation

Not even a week has passed since the PA and the UNP officially launched their election campaigns but the escalating violence and hysterical outbursts in the media, appear to be evidence of growing signs of desperation among some political leaders, political parties and their torch bearers in the media. We need not identify the personalities or parties because the public will be able to judge for themselves from the events that are unfolding.

Yesterday, we reported a late night shooting drama in the deep South, at Akuressa where the PA leader of the Matara District, Mr. Mangala Samaraweera was involved. Our report quoted Mr. Samaraweera saying that his convoy had been returning from Deniyaya to Matara when it was blocked with a bamboo laid across the road with a fire beside it. When the Ministerial Security Division personnel attempted to clear it they heard two gun shots fired from a van parked beside the road. They had given chase to the van and shot at it. The van had collided against a telephone post and stopped.

However, the police had not found any firearms in the van, our report said.

According to Mr. Sagala Ratnayake, UNP Matara District candidate, a convoy of Mr. Mangala Samaraweera returning from Deniyaya had given chase to a van and the van attempting to evade firing from the convoy of Mr. Samaraweera had gone out of control and crashed against a telephone post.

Eight UNP supporters had been seriously injured and are warded in hospitals in the Southern Province.

While our readers will try to fathom the causes for this 1930s Chicago-style shoot and chase episode, it is the duty of the Inspector General of Police to find out and bring to book the offenders. Are these so called Ministerial Security Division (MSD) officials who have been given guns by the police, permitted to use them against the public except in the defence of the persons whom they are guarding? It must be pointed out that this MSD has earned a very bad reputation for performances against the public, particularly the media.

The only way to stop this Chicago type gangsterism is for the IGP to immediately crack down on the miscreants and bring them to book. If such stern preventive action is not taken, we will be witnessing many such regrettable incidents in the coming days and innocents will be killed.

The IGP, Mr. Lakdasa Kodituwakku does not want the Elections Commissioner getting involved in police administrative matters such as transfers during election time. Thus, it is his sole responsibility to see that justice is done in incidents such as what was described and prevent either political goons or goons under cover of officialdom running wild.

A regrettable feature regarding violation of elections laws, and ordinary laws of the land during a run-up to the elections is that officials who are responsible for enforcing such laws but help to violate them or tend to look the other way, go unscathed after an election is over. This may be because there has been a change of government only once during the past 25 years and political parties who return to power do not bite the hand that helped them. The opposition parties, now in the fray, should give a solemn pledge that whether they win the elections or not, miscreant officials who helped violate election laws and rigging of elections will be hounded even after elections.

The other signs of desperation are evident in the hysteria displayed by certain sections of the media, particularly the state media. Those who posed off as bearded patriarchs of the free media just seven years ago have cast away all fig leaves of professional independence and are exhibiting a kind of servility unsurpassed in the field of journalism. Opposition political parties should clearly tell these persons who call themselves journalists that while freedom of expression will be tolerated, those who deliberately distort facts to mislead the public will have to face the consequences.

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