Towards a police state?
Posted on January 17th, 2017

Editorial The Island

The Rajapaksa government stood accused of militarising society. Intoxicated with power it went so far as to order a military crackdown on a civilian protest against the contamination of groundwater by a factory in Rathupaswala in 2013. It looks as if the yahapalana administration, which came to power promising to demilitarise society, were trying to create a police state. It blatantly abuses the judicial process and the long arm of the law to suppress democratic dissent. Now, it is planning to restrict public protests to some designated areas in the city, we are told.

True, protests in busy urban areas are a public nuisance. Undergraduates and trade unionists often overstep their limits and make life miserable for commuters and other road users. Protesters don’t consider their struggles complete unless roads are blocked and massive traffic jams created. Some action is, therefore, called for to make protesters act with some restraint and consideration towards fellow citizens. But, by no stretch of the imagination can the proposed government move be considered pro-people. It is trying to suppress political dissent.

The last regime did not give two hoots about public opinion. It did not tolerate dissent and crushed Opposition protests openly. It unleashed criminal elements within its ranks and their confederates on protesters. The situation has somewhat changed under the incumbent dispensation. During the Rajapaksa government police operated alongside goons to disrupt demonstrations against it. Today, goons operate alongside the police as we saw in Hambantota the other day! None of the stone throwing thugs caught on camera during the recent Mirijjawila protest have been brought to justice. The police have, true to form, acted against only the Opposition activists.

The yahapalana government has no need for the likes of Mervyn and Eraj to lead attacks on the Opposition and the media. The police and Navy chiefs are doing a much better job! No sooner had the navy commander roughed up a journalist in Hambantota in full view of the media than the police chief swung into action in the same district, directing as he did a police crackdown on those who opposed the sale of national assets; he succeeded in his endeavour. Both of them are likely to be rewarded for services rendered.

Police bigwigs have never been independent under successive governments. But, never have they made a public display of their servility to politicians in this shameless manner! Senior university don turned Chairman of the National Police Commission (NPC), Prof. Siri Hettige, has resigned. Had he continued to hold that office he would have ruined his reputation further. It was a wise move on his part as the NPC has become a mere appendage of the ruling coalition.

The government is apparently busy devising ways and means of countering street protests which are likely to erupt when it has to resort to highly unpopular moves like setting up war crimes courts and signing agreements like the ETCA and the one to hand over national assets like the Hambantota Port.

The yahapalana grandees seem to think they can confine protests to some godforsaken areas and ratchet up pressure on the media to black them out. They are already issuing not-so-veiled threats to cancel the licences issued to television stations which refuse to toe their line. Government leaders frequently launch into tirades against independent newspapers in a bid to frighten them into submission. Moves are also underway to muzzle the web-based media.

Let the government pundits be warned that what they are doing is akin to trying to control dysentery with a loincloth. Ill-conceived moves to contain public resentment without letting it find expression in protests will only cause it to well up and burst forth. They are playing with a time bomb.

3 Responses to “Towards a police state?”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    The Rathupaswala rioting incident ought to be examined for what it was.

    Questions to ask :

    – How did the wells get contaminated so suddenly ?
    No report has yet been put out to the public how these particular wells got contaminated, whether it was done purposely or through agro-chemicals in the soil getting washed in.

    – Why didn’t the people who had complaints re well contamination approach the PC and other authorities concerned without resorting to rioting ? After all, the PCs are there to sort out such problems, is it not ?

    – Why did some 5,000 people join the rioting after dusk set in. The additional people were brought in by vans etc from outside. These people started throwing petrol bombs at the Police at which point the Army was called in. The Army put a stop to the rioting.

    Note: Let us not forget that it was organised RIOTING that brought the UNP to its knees in 1983. These Riots of 1983 enabled Tamil people to go west as REFUGEES – nearly one Million Tamil emigrants went west. They could go west, ONLY as Refugees.
    This was followed by the illegal 13-A imposed on the JR govt by INDIA.

    Note also :
    * Organised Rioting on a large scale in Lanka is for larger purposes, certainly not re well water contamination !
    * Also note the Rioting at H’thota recently. It was said in the Press that outsiders were brought in to turn the peaceful protest into riots.

    All Rioting should be stopped before it spreads and used for ugly politics to sell Lanka and bring disrepute to the country and the People of Lanka.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    Funnily enough this goes against GSP and GSP Plus requirements.

    The government is in a quandary. It cannot move left or right. The chaos that seems to increase with time is causing more economic problems. However, the government has done well to avoid deaths so far. It should keep it that way without ending up like the last government.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Yahap trying to please all and sundry abroad, but not the local citizens of Lanka ?

    Lease out the Ports and there may be some Peace ?

    Keep the Land for the People of Lanka, not for foreign take over.
    Have a number of Free Trade Zones without selling off Lanka.

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