Beach horror posers

Very understandably, the more conscience-filled sections of this country are yet to recover from the shock they suffered on seeing a human being brutally beaten to death by other humans in the shallow waters off Bambalapitiya, a few days back. The bloody drama which unfolded before their eyes on TV screens drove home the truth that brutality is very much part of life in Sri Lanka.

The majority of Lankans probably did not have a sound gauge of the degree to which this country has been brutalized over the decades until they saw mentally-ill Balavarnam Sivakumar being savagely clubbed to death by persons who have been described as the ‘guardians of the law’. In a way, it was fortunate that some TV personnel got to the scene of the crime in time, although they and some onlookers apparently could do nothing to help the hapless human who pleaded for mercy from his assailants. We say this because now the truth is out about the extent to which our society has been relentlessly brutalized and criminalized over time. Now we have the evidence of our eyes that sanity and conscience among some sections has indeed ‘fled to beasts’.

We hope these beach horror posers would be faced squarely by both the rulers as well as the ruled of this country. We begin to realize that the mind and heart of a human could be perverted to such a degree that very soon brute force would become second nature. This process of degeneration usually sets in with the continued exposure of the human to violence and the gradual internalization by him or her of the ways of the blood-thirsty criminal.

That some sections in this country have begun to internalize criminality and inhumanity should not come as a surprise to the more discerning when the staggering toll from 30 years of war and destruction is taken into account. The problem has been compounded by the fact that some sections of the laws enforcement machinery have taken upon themselves the right to use brutal inhuman violence with impunity. In other words, for far too long have they been free of the obligation of being accountable for their conduct.

It is this culture of impunity that emboldens elements among the law enforcers to take the law into their hands and do a human to death who is not really accountable for his actions on account of the deranged state of his mind. Put simply, they seemed to think they could spill the blood of the hapless victim and get away with it.

The continued summary killing of persons described as criminals by some law enforcers, proves our point. The abandonment of the due process in these incidents only helps to further erode the Rule of Law. The result could be unbounded coercion and violence.

The rulers of the land need to sit up and take notice. Would they prefer to see Sri Lanka wilting and withering in these throes of manic insanity and lawlessness? Is this the country they intend bequeathing to future generations?

We call on the government to exercise its authority even at this late hour to strengthen and nourish the Rule of Law. The ‘war on terror’ served an important but limited purpose. The state cannot allow the violent ways which the war bred to be carried over into Sri Lanka of the future.

Ending the culture of impunity which the war generated is central to the task of restoring the Rule of Law. Accordingly, we call on the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators of the brutality on the beach are swiftly brought to justice.

It is also apposite to focus on another incident of lawlessness which was telecast recently which impinges closely on the subject discussed here. This relates to a mob attack on the headquarters of those who recently organized what was called a ``healing service’’ at the Viharamahadevi Park. It has been reported that two of those who went there to get healed died. That apart, what was disquieting was that a number of policemen were shown looking on impassively while the attack was on. We wonder whether the presence of some persons in yellow robes acted as a disincentive for remedial action by the policemen?

If this is so, the law has been helpless, silent and partial in the face of an act of lawlessness whatever the rights and wrongs of the so-called ``healers.’’ That is a separate issue. Whatever may be said for or against such ‘healing services’, the law should have been applied impartially by the law-enforcers present. The police apathy in this instance was disquieting.

Apparently, the dire consequences of turning a blind eye on violence and brute coercion are still not being taken cognizance of by the rulers and the ruled. The stark truth is that violence could eventually deaden the conscience or inner voice of the human. This could account for the relative indifference with which the murder on the beach was greeted by some sections.

The onlookers at Bambalapitiya were perhaps paralyzed by fear of the killers and this could account for their reluctance to go to the rescue of the victim. One could not be too condemnatory of this seeming passivity on account of the ruthlessness which has grown among those sections which wield coercive power today.

But this seeming indifference to brutality among the general citizenry is in itself troubling and a subject worthy of further scrutiny and study. Violence is so deeply entrenched in the life of the people that it deadens the conscience on the one hand and erodes the will to be virtuous and conscientious, on the other. The end result could be an alarmingly dehumanized people.

This tragic trend needs to be arrested immediately. It is a matter over which all need to agonize. What compounds our sense of disquiet is the seeming religiosity of our people. Is religion also impotent in the face of this crisis?

It is best that all in this country recognize the profound truth that when evil abounds, goodness ‘superabounds’. This is the reason why amid all the gathering gloom there are still women, men and children who stand-up to evil and fight the mightiest odds for the sake of their fellow men. A story we run in this issue about a man who gave up his job as a chef in a five-star hotel to feed the mentally ill on the streets of a South Indian city is testimony of this fact. There are such people in Sri Lanka too, caring for animals and waifs. We need more of them.

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