Sri Lankan hospital staff carry an injured person following a shootout on the outskirts of Colombo on Saturday – AP, via Deccan Chronicle
An advisor to the President is dead and a Member of Parliament is critically injured. Also amongst the dead and injured are supporters of the Presidential advisor and the parliamentarian.
This incident, where the politicians and their henchmen openly resorted to a shoot-out in broad day light, only proves a common known fact; that Sri Lanka’s politics has, for the past several decades been taken over by thugs, criminals and drug dealers.
What is interesting though, is that in this incident the two opponents belong to the governing alliance. Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra a long time UPFA member and former Member of Parliament was the Presidential Advisor for Trade Unions while relative newcomer to the UPFA, Duminda Silva, is the monitoring MP for the Defense Ministry.
It also is evidence that some of the closest advisors to the President and those holding high office are after all men such as these. For far too long have many politicians and leading businessman acted as godfathers to underworld criminals and treated the electorate as their personal fiefdoms. Are members of the government security forces so incompetent that these individuals deem it essential to surround themselves with gangsters and drug dealers for protection?
The number of civilian killings, assaults and abductions has been quite high under this regime.
Yet, there has been no genuine endevour by the regime to arrest this trend. Each incident has resulted in the launch of sham investigations by the police and the appointment of presidential commissions with no tangible results. We are still awaiting the outcome of investigations into the Lasantha Wickramatunga murder and the assault on Poddala Jayantha to name just two. Mervyn Silva who has been captured on camera on numerous occasions, intimidating journalists and even tying up a Samurdhi employee, continues to roam free and carry out his thuggery. Alleged suspects held in police custody have died and there is also the death of Roshen Chanaka who was protesting the government’s pension plan, as well as the mysterious serial killing of beggars as reported by Asian Human Rights Watch. All these incidents continue to be met with indifference or lack luster investigations which have resulted in a frustrated people.
It would appear that in these incidents of violence perpetrated against the perceived opponents of the government the Police did not seek to prosecute the perpetrators.
This latest clash was between two men who have used their powers to eliminate each other and gain the upper hand in the same electorate. It seems that Premachandra was close to President Rajapaksa while de Silva also known as “kudu Duminda” has the ear of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Both factions would no doubt seek answers and justice.
In the past several weeks there have been many incidents where an erosion of confidence in law enforcement has resulted in the people taking matters into their hands to seek justice. Non-mainstream media has reported that even as the two factions fought and fell victim to the shooting, members of the police force simply looked on. As has been in previous cases where the law enforcement authorities have been slow to act, this time too, public property came under attack by an angry crowd.
While media quoted police spokesperson Maxi Proctor as saying initially that they were unaware of the background for the incident, he now claims that 37 statements have been recorded. A search operation has resulted in the arrest of one individual, and the discovery of 12 pistols, 2 revolvers and 2 T-56 weapons. Will the government tell us how, in country where until August this year Emergency Rule prevailed and the Prevention of Terrorism Act is still in force, such weapons are in circulation amongst civilians?
Non mainstream media also reports that the old guard of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party is disgruntled with the Rajapaksa’s obvious favoritism of relative newcomers or UNP deserters.
So how would the Rajapaksa’s extricate themselves this time? They thump their noses at any one who calls for accountability on human rights abuses, and whip up the “conspiracy against sovereignty” bogey amongst the public each time their repressive actions are questioned.
The Rajapaksa’s have watched askance while innocent civilians have been murdered and those who raise a voice against injustice have been assaulted and termed traitors. They have taken no action to allay the fears of villagers over the “grease yaka’s”. Rather, the country has been witness to the steady decay of law and order, an impotent police force and an equally ineffective judiciary.
But this time around they will not be able to hide behind a presidential commission, the report of which may never see the light of day, as those before, to inquire into the matter. The police cannot remain inactive. After all, the leader of one faction as well as several of those involved in the bloody incident are hospitalized. They would not be going anywhere for a long while. The police would not be able to tout their usual excuse that the investigations are continuing or that they cannot locate the culprits. Witness statements would not be all that difficult to obtain in this instance.
Two members of the regime were involved. One is dead, the other injured. The dead man’s supporters are baying for blood and the government will not be able to hide behind lame excuses, unless of course it would prefer that the two factions continue with the killing spree and hasten the country into anarchy.