Polls and arrests
Posted on November 27th, 2017

Editorial Courtesy The Island

An electoral contest is the last thing the present government wants. If the National Election Commission (NEC) makes good on its promise to hold elections at least to some of the local councils which have been in the bardo for more than two years, the government will go to any extent to weaken the Joint Opposition (JO); it may even resort to mass arrests in a bid to cover up its failure to substantiate damning allegations they have been levelling against their opponents.

It must be left entirely to the judiciary and the police to decide, without any political interference, whether anyone should be arrested or not. But, thanks to a video footage of IGP Pujith Jayasundera’s telephone conversation with a minister in Ratnapura last year it is now public knowledge that government politicians can order or prevent arrests.

Many thought the rule of law would be restored following the 2015 regime change. Under the Rajapaksa government, numerous were the instances where the judiciary and the police were bent to the will of the UPFA rulers. When the then Minister Mervyn Silva got into trouble for ‘check kiting’, the Attorney General manipulated the judicial process at the behest of his political masters and Silva got away. An ordinary person would have been jailed for that serious criminal offence. The tradition continues under the new dispensation; pro-government abductors receive suspended jail terms and the perpetrators of the biggest ever financial crime in the country—the bond scams—are moving about freely and even seen in the exalted company of some government leaders. Bribery and corruption allegations against government politicians are not investigated. Luckily, Justitia is blind-folded and cannot see how the course of justice is perverted. Otherwise, she would have used the sword in her hand to commit hara-kiri!

Curiously, a prominent civil society activist has, in a brief interview with this newspaper, said that President Maithripala Sirisena told a group of yahapalana campaigners over the weekend he had decided that no arrests would be made while the Prime Minister was overseas. We are told that the President said so when he was asked whether he had promised a group of Buddhist monks that former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa wouldn’t be arrested.

We are intrigued. If the aforesaid statement, attributed to the President is true then it is tantamount to an admission that it is the yahapalana leaders who decide whom to arrest and/or when to make arrests. Are we to gather that the government leaders have also prevented the arrest of those responsible for the bond scams in spite of the incriminating evidence which emerged before the bond probe commission against them?

Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera has, at a recent pro-government demonstration, complained that the law does not get properly enforced in respect of the members of the former ruling family. Demanding that legal action against them be expedited, he has said only a fraction of slain Libyan dictator Gaddafi’s ill-gotten wealth had been traced. Investigating allegations against the Rajapaksas is a tedious task as investigators have to travel overseas to ascertain information about the stolen funds, Samaraweera has claimed. He once told the media that the former rulers had amassed wealth to the tune of USD 18.5 billion illegally and stashed it away overseas. The incumbent government claims to be the darling of the omniscient western bloc. It is puzzling why the US, the UK and the EU have failed to trace the alleged offshore accounts of the big guns of the former regime.

It may be true that Gaddafi helped himself to Libya’s oil money and all his wealth cannot be traced. But, the Libyans did not wait till information about his offshore accounts was revealed to rise against him and oust him; they believed he was guilty as charged. The same befell, mutatis mutandis, the Rajapaksas who lost power due to allegations of bribery and corruption against them. Public perception is what matters in politics more than anything else. The incumbent administration ought to take cognizance of this fact. It may try to cover up bond scams and other criminal offences its leaders and their cronies have committed, claiming that none of the allegations have been proved in courts of law, but people are the best judges. Their judgment will be delivered at the next election.

If anyone has stolen from the public purse or abused power or state property he or she has to be brought to justice regardless of his status. But, arrests must not be carried out according to political timetables or the whims and fancies of the ruling party grandees. Such action is antithetical to good governance.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2020 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress