President in hanging mode
Posted on September 6th, 2018

Editorial Courtesy The Island

President Maithripala Sirisena’s much-advertised promise to hang convicted drug dealers responsible for carrying out criminal operations via mobile phones, from their cells, made quite a stir a few weeks ago. The President received both praise and flak for his pledge. We argued, in this space, that the convicts concerned did not have to worry and human rights groups were protesting in vain because the government rarely fulfilled its pledges. Nobody has been hanged so far.

Now, President Sirisena says the misuse of public property should be made an offence punishable by death. He seems to be in the hanging mode, so to speak. If a law to that effect had been introduced immediately after Independence and implemented properly, over the last several decades, the vast majority of corrupt politicians we are burdened with would not have been around to trouble us; the country would have had enough funds in its coffers and there would have been no need for it to seek foreign aid. We are where we are because we elect, as our representatives, those who deserve to be hanged or at least incarcerated.

What would happen if all those who abuse public property were to be hanged in keeping with the President’s wish? The government and the Opposition would be left without most of its top guns, including those who protested yesterday in Colombo and their counterparts in the yahapalana camp.

Ironically, President Sirisena’s contention that death should be the punishment for abusing public property has been made close on the heels of a media report that a whopping sum of Rs. 21 million continues to be paid for the building which houses the Ministry of Agriculture; a committee, appointed to probe that questionable deal, has met only once, so far. It was only the other day that 104 chairs, costing Rs. 650, 000 each, were ordered, from Europe, for the Western Provincial Council members. Rs. 8.4 million is to be spent on cleaning the Colombo Mayor’s official residence annually.

The Deyata Kirula exhibition, under the previous government, cost the public an arm and a leg, and those behind the project stood to gain. The current leaders, who were in the Opposition then, condemned that annual event, claiming the then rulers were misusing public funds to gain political mileage. But, today, they have launched a similar project under a different name. Politicians in power and their lackeys in the state service spend colossal amounts of public funds so that they get kickbacks.

The reimplementation of the death penalty may not be within the realms of possibility owing to Sri Lanka’s commitments to international covenants and stiff resistance from foreign human rights groups, the European Union etc. Trying to resume judicial hangings is, therefore, akin to flogging a dead horse. So, President Sirisena may not be able to hang anyone for misusing public property. He cannot be unaware that the chances of his hanging project reaching fruition are remote. Perhaps, he is advocating death for misusing public property so as to project himself as a crusader on a mission to cleanse politics. However, if he really wants to punish the thieves of public property, there are other ways available for him to achieve that objective.

Now that legal action has been instituted against some of the rogues of the previous regime, President Sirisena ought to ensure that the crooks in the current administration are also hauled up before courts. Allegations of bribery and corruption against government politicians have gone unproved; they must be investigated forthwith. First of all, former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, who fled to Singapore, should be brought here to stand trial over the bond scams. Mere rhetoric won’t do.

One Response to “President in hanging mode”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    As with all (no exceptions) his other efforts, this too will not happen. Just another distraction trick to cover up incompetence of the regime.

    Misuse of public property should be made an offence punishable by death. But this too will never happen.

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