by Namini Wijedasa
This week, let us talk about ironies.
Standing outside Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra’s house last week, Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said the senior politician’s death was a result of the preferential system.
To blame coldblooded murder on a particular system of voting is ironic. The preferential system is not ideal. It breeds infighting. Campaigns become ugly. Politicians quarrel. Their supporters bicker. But not all politicians kill each other. If that were so, we would be burying a few after every poll. Besides, neither Duminda Silva nor Premachandra was contesting. They were merely backing candidates of their choice.
Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella went a step further. He said the preferential voting system and past governments were responsible for increased violence in the country. That’s ironic. The only government in power today is the present one. We have no business with or expectations of past governments. If, every time there is a problem, we are told that past governments are to blame, we have no use for the present one.
Rambukwella’s government must eradicate illicit weapons; sack MPs or politicians who maintain links with the underworld; get MPs and politicians to respect and obey the rule of law; arrest and prosecute the real perpetrators of crime; stop protecting MPs and politicians who rely on thugs, weapons, violence, intimidation and murder; publicly condemn and denounce all criminal behaviour; and encourage goodwill among politicians. You don’t need a time-travel machine for that.
Sixteen weapons were recovered during investigations into Premachandra’s killing. All were issued to bodyguards of Premachandra and Duminda Silva by the Ministry of Defence. Two more T-56 weapons were seized later. They belonged to the “underworld.”
In Sri Lanka, death by shooting has become as common as the dereliction of duty by politicians. On Thursday, two children and two adults were shot dead inside their Udawalawe home by an “unidentified gang.” And that is only the most recent incident. Ordinary people die like this every month, killed with weapons that appear out of nowhere.
It is ironic that a government which defeated one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world has alternatively tolerated, ignored, allowed, encouraged and perhaps profited from this situation. Hundreds of thousands of illicit small arms are in circulation. A government that finds this to be a problem would have done something about it.
A government that does not find this to be a problem would do nothing about it. And it will continue to do nothing, other than offer platitudes, despite the many options available to it. After Premachandra died, ministers spoke wonderingly about the spread of weapons like they had heard about it for the first time. Rather belatedly, they discussed it in cabinet. They acted suitably horrified, adequately concerned and properly subdued. They feigned helplessness. In the end, the government said it will start retrieving weapons and arresting those that hold them. What was it doing all this time?
Keheliya Rambukwella was questioned at a press conference last week whether Duminda Silva was a presidential advisor. The minister replied that he was not an advisor but a “monitoring MP” for the Ministry of Defence. On August 12, 2011, Chief Government Whip Dinesh Gunewardena categorically told parliament that nobody has been appointed as ‘monitoring MPs.’ Ironically, one of our elected representatives is lying. Is Gunewardena lying to parliament? Or is Rambukwella lying to the media?
The irony does not end there. Duminda Silva was grievously injured in an incident during which weapons issued by the same Ministry of Defence that he is apparently “monitoring” were angrily, irresponsibly, indiscriminately and revengefully fired. It remains unclear what precisely he was “monitoring” at the Ministry of Defence but nothing good has come out of it. The Defence Secretary says categorically that he was monitoring UDA housing projects, nothing to do with defence.
Ironically, Silva was under government protection. So was Premachandra. Not that it worked for either of them. The rulebook doesn’t say what to do when two government protégés turn their guns on each other.
Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra was a Sri Lanka Freedom Party stalwart who supported his side through thick and thin. There were no questions about where his loyalties lay. He did not switch ranks, he worked faithfully to ensure that presidential candidates the party endorsed won elections and he was wholly and utterly dependable. And yet, there was no official SLFP statement condemning his murder.
A few ministers sniffled on TV, expressing muted regret at the passing of a dear friend and colleague. But most were too cowardly to take a stand. What the devil are they afraid of losing? If they are murdered, it would be the same for them. If the SLFP does not speak up for Bharatha, the SLFP will not speak up for anybody else. That grand old party is today a party of wimps. That’s ironic.
The murder of Premachandra and the wounding of Silva took place at a popular junction in broad daylight and in view of many people. Yet not one person can tell what happened! That’s ironic. A large number of persons were embroiled in the incident proper. But Premachandra’s supporters still say Silva’s men shot first while Silva’s supporters say Premachandra’s men shot first. And on it goes.
From our limited knowledge of the incident, we know one thing: There were witnesses. The perpetrator of the crime did not sneak into Premachandra’s house at midnight and shoot him dead while he and the rest of his household slept. Neither did this happen to Silva. This was the firing of guns in a public place.
The sooner the police solves this crime the better for what abysmal little is left of law and order in this country. Several suspects have been detained, two of them in India. Did they all fire their guns, then?
Or were they arrested in an attempt to show that something is being done? And even with all these people in police custody, do we still not know what transpired?
Under ordinary circumstances, the police would have beaten the truth out of the detainees. This time, though, too many are watching. Or perhaps there is vested interest in suppressing the truth? Now that would not be ironic.
Meanwhile, the Elections Department has instructed all newly elected members of local government bodies to submit their assets declarations to the commissioner of elections before October 15. That’s a fine thing.
How many members of parliament have submitted their assets declarations to the commissioner of elections in keeping with the same law?
Has the president declared his assets? And will we now see Milinda Moragoda – the cleanest, most disciplined, straightforward and honest mayoral candidate this side of the universe taking a lead?
Will he declare his assets first? Come on, put your money where your mouth is (or your tongue where your Freedom of Information Bill is) and answer the question.
All kinds of thugs and goons are walking about the country with weapons in hand. They have no legitimate business to conduct with these guns. This hardware is used to threaten and intimidate the public during elections, as was clearly observed in the North during recent local government polls. It is used in the conduct of armed robberies, abductions, extortion, kidnapping and murder, among other crimes.
Sri Lanka is today awash with illicit and licensed firearms and it is dangerous. But the priority of the Defence Ministry is the beautification of Colombo and the provision of unsolicited security to universities around the country. That’s ironic.
And the most supreme irony of all is that we will forget all this before the sun goes down tomorrow. courtesy: LakbimaNews