by Gamini WeerakoonBullets not ballots prevailed over the recent local government elections. After the dust settled over the elections in the municipalities the people are not talking of the sweeping victories of the government party or the UNP’s victory in Colombo against all odds but of bullets that killed a well known politician and his supporters and some bullets lodged in the head of a politician now lying in hospital.
There have been knee-jerk political reactions in all political quarters moved by the public revulsion to the gun culture that has infiltrated Sri Lankan society.
Call in the army, seize the hundreds if not thousands of illegal weapons now with criminals, round up underworld criminals, bring in security guards provided by the government to politicians under control of the police etc. Are some proposals made to bring the situation under control? But are these not all ineffective devices thought of in the heat of the moment ignoring the deeper malaise that is infecting the body-politic of the country?
Indeed the widespread proliferation of arms including automatic weapons needs immediate attention. But even if a near clean sweep of illegal arms is made – almost an impossible task – there would be still some arms retained by criminals and others who would want to use them for their illegal purposes such as bumping off political opponents.
Rounding up dangerous criminals who have proliferated in recent times too is urgently required but criminals will keep sprouting up particularly in impoverished societies with rampant unemployment.
Cart before the horse
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was reported in an English language morning daily last week saying that in view of the increased activities by thugs with the backing of politicians, he would introduce a monitoring system where army personnel would keep a tab on such activities.
The most obvious flaw in the thinking of the Defence Secretary is that he is putting the cart before the horse. Thugs, he had said, are being backed by politicians. But if politicians are not backing or patronizing thugs, then thugs would be redundant. Thus, thugs and their criminal activities, are all products of political criminals who should be singled out for punishment. Politicians, it is apparent, are the source of criminality of thugs.
That thugs have received political patronage of most political parties down the years is well known. The numbers have increased exponentially and now it appears that the critical point for political implosion is being reached
VIPs under army?
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has in the report referred to earlier claimed that personal feuds have led to political rivalries which had led to jeopardizing law and order. He has added: The tragic events in Mulleriyawa have underlined the need to get tough with certain VIPs. All VIPs will be given new guidelines on the number of security personnel and vehicles that will comprise their security detail and the number of weapons to be carried.
The report said that the army will be deployed to check whether these guidelines are being followed by VIPs and those who fail to do so will be duly dealt with irrespective of their status.
The Defence Secretary’s statements leave us somewhat confused with the status of so called VIPs – Very Important Persons. Should they be continuously treated as VIPs, if they are patronising thugs? Secondly, can the army order the so called VIPs around? And last of all who are the VIPs – cabinet ministers, other varieties of ministers, MPs, provincial councilors, Pradeshiya Sabha members or any individual hob-nobbing with leaders of the Rajapaksa regime? Will they cow down to the army?
Is the Public responsible for political thugs?
The final paragraphs of the report referred to, takes our breath away. ‘Mr.Rajapaksa said the tendency to re-elect politicians who patronized criminals hampered efforts to maintain law and order’.
Indeed some despicable characters who openly flout law and order have managed to be re-elected through mysterious ways. But are not the political parties and their leaders who continue to nominate them as representatives of their parties, to blame as well? And what of a well known thug whose antics have been recorded on TV time and again; not only has he been chosen as a party representative but also appointed a minister who attempts to enforce extra ordinary powers of a tin-pot dictator in his electorate?
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is justified in his great faith in the army and other security services for the military victory over separatist terrorism. Now he appears to believe that the armed services are a panacea – kokatath thailaya – for many other matters. He has tried to militarise the Colombo Town Hall and Urban Development activities which the people appear not to have appreciated much.
He is also attempting to militarise universities to some extent and this is being stiffly resisted by both academics and university students. Any person even with a nodding acquaintance of a university campus will advise the Defense Secretary to keep off the grass.
Fount of all evil
The main reason for the rise of the political thug and the breakdown of law and order is the fount of all evil – the executive presidency. The political thug flourishes, he performs his disgusting antics on TV which infuriates the public but goes unpunished and is even promoted because it is only the Executive President who can stop him but appears to be incapable of doing so. Political thuggery is spreading in even more vicious forms as was evident at Mulleriyawa.
Politicians, even those not yet elevated into the realms of criminality develop a tremendous hubris – Pakkum – as Sri Lankans say. They are not the humble servants of the people but think and act as if they are the lords on earth. The convoys of armed vehicles given to them, the large security details that are still available to some and the invisible flow of funds which enable the hiring of criminals as extra security add up their Pakkum. The executive president has been unable to curb this.
Not only VIP thuggery but every important issue of governance it appears has now to be resolved by the Executive President because scared bureaucrats are gladly passing the buck.
Clearly the abandonment of the 17th Amendment which would have channeled police, public service, judicial and powers of the Election Commissioner to independent commissions would have eliminated the political thug. The concentration of all these powers under 18th Amendment in the Executive President has given rise to the legislative thug acting with brazen impunity. courtesy: The Sunday Leader