Anarchy: Creation of political leaders

The bloodied body of a Southern provincial council minister spread-eagled on the tarmac of York Street in the shadows of Colombo’s posh business establishments and less than a hundred yards from Police Headquarters is symbolic of the anarchic times. Last week it was the gunning down of a notorious underworld character Moratu Saman in a crowded street in Moratuwa and before that the gruesome killing of an entire family that was asleep in their home at Dehiwela-father, son and daughter. Immediately before that was the killing of a soldier in Batticaloa described as an army informant but denied by the army.

Such gruesome killings with intermittent breaks can be traced for almost three decades. The enraged but impotent public will be calling out for drastic measures to be taken but our political leaders will remain silent and maintain the demeanour of inscrutability of the Sphinx. There is nothing very much political leaders can do immediately to stop this carnage other than to order the police to go after the killers. But arresting the killers, trying them in courts and even hanging them may only be a slight deterrent. The basic reasons for this rising crime are bad governance or non-governance and the inability of an ordinary person to get justice done in almost every conceivable level.

The killings of Moratu Saman, the gangster and ‘Chandi Malli’ the provincial council minister itself reveals the state of affairs of this country. Moratu Saman was a suspect of many gruesome killings including the killings of Tamil Congress leader Kumar Ponnambalam and a journalist, He had political patronage at very high levels. ‘ Chandi Malli’ was a politician reputed for strong-arm tactics who too had powerful political patrons. ‘Chandi Malli" had been charged for illegal possession of arms, released, on bail and was reporting to Police Headquarters as directed by the courts when he was gunned down.

We have been commenting quite often on the criminalisation of politics and politicisation of criminals. This regrettably is now accepted as a fact of Sri Lankan political life. When political parties patronise gangsters and even choose them to be elected to political office, it implies that leaders give them their stamp of approval. They are even provided protection after crimes are committed with the connivance of a corrupt police. What remedies will victims, particularly when they themselves are of the same category do? Quite obviously, resort to the same tactics! Today, in legal circles it is said that a killer could be hired for Rs 10,000 or even less.

This deplorable state of affairs has come about due to bad governance or non-governance in every sphere of public life. Whether it is jobs, promotions and transfers in public service, award of tenders, use of public funds and resources, allocation of state vehicles or even entering a child to school, there is blatant corruption and nepotism.

Two new examples of gross injustice about to be committed are the acquisition of lands for the two proposed highways: Colombo-Matara and Colombo-Airport. People are being informed that the road will run through their homes and gardens and there is no other way out. While the public is willing to move out provided they are paid market values for the homes and lands, they are objecting to strange practices that have been adopted. The trace lines of these two highways drawn by international consultants, it is alleged had been shifted to avoid the road going through lands of those with political clout and in one instance the land of the father- in- law of an engineer on the project!

In heartrending situations such as when one’s home is to be destroyed, it is natural to demand for justice to be done and for that to happen residents need not go bootlicking of politicians. It shouldn’t be a matter of surprise in such situations if some resident goes berserk and commits an awful crime. How much more can a person be enraged than where the state commits such grave injustice and there is no remedy?

President Kumaratunga has quite correctly come down hard on Prime Minister Wickremasinghe’s government for the present situation. But his reflex action will be to refer to her time when things were no better and she can then point out at the regimes of Presidents Premadasa and Jayewardene while the UNPers will go back to the days of the 1970 insurrection. All this is true but are we a helpless society in which any criminal is entitled to kill us in our beds and the state can’t do anything about it?

That is a question which both President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe should answer. They have the solution: work together and make the newly constituted Constitutional Council, Police Commission, Public Service Commission and Elections Commission work. Their stupid, petty animosities have to come to a halt and good government resorted to. The newly appointed Police Commission is at sixes and sevens as revealed in a report of a seminar of ex- police officers, which was published in The Island recently.

This namby- pamby approach adopted so far to combat this horrendous crime wave will not do. The police under strong leadership with the backing of the President and Prime Minister have to move out against the underworld, criminals, and political criminals and seize their armouries.

The public should demand this action from these two political leaders and to spare them from their political inanities.

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