Posted on February 27th, 2016

By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando

The latest malady in Sri Lanka appears to be a viral spreading thick and fast among the elites of this society that can be said even worse than the ‘Zika’ virus in Latin America and South America, which threatens the wellbeing of the whole world! In Sri Lanka it is a syndrome developed suddenly by politicians at the very moment they become exposed with their degrading acts and/or get court orders to be remanded in a prison cell.

Hilarious indeed is to watch these so-called peoples’ representatives, who have been elected to office by the voters after promising the public the sun, moon and the earth, begin to feel shivers down their spine with a custodial sentence. Even for a couple days they seem to manage, by hook or by crook, to smuggle out either by obtaining bail order concessions or get confined to the Merchant Ward or a private hospital room claiming a medical condition whereby they are able to invite the whole family and friends and have a complete social intercourse rather than undergoing  a detention order.

Privileged and Undeterred

Oh No!  They are such a privileged lot that they can’t possibly afford to get bitten by mosquitoes, bed bugs or scream hell and jump up in fright, after spotting a cockroach or a running mouse in a confined cell or dare even share a cell with other inmates! So what do they do? These VIPs who face TV cameras when they approach the courtyard initially and walk bravely with beaming smiles and looking healthy and fit as a fiddle instantaneously become weaklings at the very moment they hear prison sentences; so their next move becomes getting admitted to a hospital on medical grounds! In the eyes of the ordinary voter in the street/village such activity is certainly not a punishment to a culprit as what the rulers preached and continue to preach as, no one is above the Law”!

To this category of privileged belong not only politicians ranging from provincial councilors, members of parliament and some of the senior ministers too who once have held responsible portfolios in the affairs of running the country, but does include some of the cream of the elite of the society who have enjoyed life in the lap of luxury.

Admittance of Sicille Kotelawala, a few days ago, to Durdens Hospital after the Fort’s Magistrate’ order to be remanded against pending court cases on B499/2009 and B107/09 is the latest of the criteria adopted by the rich and the affluent after committing the verse type of crimes according to the Law of this country.

Some of the other cases in the recent past had been the former Minister Basil Rajapaksa, remanded by Kaduwela Magistrate in April 2015 on alleged charges of defrauding Divi Neguma funds, Minister Johnston Fernando in May 2015 and Vas Gunawardena, a former powerful minister in the previous government and once the CEO of Mihin Air, for misappropriation of airline funds.  All of these privileged had been admitted to a hospital by their ‘ sudden ill-health’ conditions within few hours of condemning them to a prison cell! What is bizarre in such a scenario is the fact that only in Sri Lanka our politicians and their families and the rich alike, always end up in a luxury hospital room by taking the piss out the country’s law, let alone the authorities appearing as main culprits in playing deaf and dumb games!

Public Displeasure

What is more infuriating to the public eye is even during Yahapalanaya era many alleged politicians and high ranking officials have paraded in front of the FCID offices and Magistrate Courts with cheerful grins while entering the Black Maria, appeared quite unconcerned of the punishment they just received. Displaying their cuffed hands bravely to TV cameras, through the iron grills of the prison vehicle ( Black Maria)  in which they are taken out of courts, they do not seem to display any change of countenance as opposed to an ordinary lawbreaker sentenced to a prison sentence. Such behaviour certainly gives the impression that they are ‘least bothered’ about their sentence! To the ordinary citizen it becomes a conundrum to comprehend whether these ‘‘alleged’ wrong doers have already made arrangements, prior to visiting the courts, by using their supremacy and influence to engage strategic manipulations not to go through such prison sentences or to avoid spending even one night on dirty hard floors like any other  ordinary convict.

Fair & Square dilemma

 By the same token, to be fair and square in an objective criticism, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s case needs highlighting in this scenario as a rare VIP. He was the former Army Commander who became a target for a LTTE suicide bomb in Colombo where he escaped death narrowly in a miraculous manner. After the war victory he was hailed as a gallant officer and a hero, but was subjected to a prison sentence immediately after the LTTE was crushed to smithereens, which the critics claim was due to ‘ political skullduggery’! Due to heavy internal injuries following the bomb blast he was not one hundred percent healthy, yet during his prison sentence he was a treated not as a VIP but  ‘worse than a criminal,’ critics claim, by confining him to a dirty cell and a hard floor to sleep on.

The public criticism is rife on this unashamed practice of `prison hospital narrative’. The general consensus appears to be that it is high time the practice of offenders of any crime entering hospitals should be abolished unless proved and approved by a panel of specially appointed medical experts to eliminate cowards from the genuinely ill.


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