Sri Lanka: A real debate on restoring security is diverted to suit the political ends

Asia Human Rights
May 23, 2019
Reproduced with Permission
Asian Human Rights Commission

Late Mr. Tarzie Vittachithe winner of many prestigious awards for journalism had a favourite saying that "Everything is about something else". The way Parliamentary discussion on two no-confidence motions are being discussed also shows that the debate is no longer about the brutal carnage that took place on Easter Sunday and the causes thereof. Instead, while the government look on these motions as to prevent their fall-off from power, the opposition looks on the same with the view to topple the government from the power with the hope that it will pave the way for them to come to power. But no one is debating is about the factors that led to the dysfunctional nature of the Sri Lankan state which has made any kind of attack against the people possible; no one is bothered about the manner in which the protection of the people became matter of no consequences in Sri Lanka.

The Easter Sunday carnage gave rise to some expectations that at least now a serious review of what is wrong with the state of Sri Lanka would be a primary theme of parliamentary and societal discourse with the hope to find a genuine solution to prevent the chaotic situation the country is in. It is anarchy that is prevalent in the country that made these most brutal attacks possible. How the country got into this anarchy and how to get out of it seems to be no one's concern?

It is of course an important concern of the people. Parents throughout the country are worried about their children becoming victims of acts of violence. The direct victims of this attacks who have lost their loved ones are bewildered and are looking for a possible explanation about an assurance given by way of development of policies and tangible implementation as at least an compensation for their losses. A common cry that can be heard over and over again is that "What happened to us should not happen to anyone else again".

The failure of the security system been as dysfunctional as to be not able to use the information of a serious danger it got well in time is not the cause of Sri Lanka's tragic situation. That is only a symptom. The dysfunctionality spread into the entire body of the political system and entire manner in which political authority is exercised "In fact not exercised" in Sri Lanka.

It is therefore opportune to go into the basic ingredient of functional state that is able to generate and preserve an effective security system, which is the entire time alert and which is able to coordinate its counter attacks competently and speedily.

Sri Lanka, like every other country, lives in modern circumstances. In such circumstances, the most important institution for people's security as well as state security is effectively functioning policing system. That policing in Sri Lanka has become a lost cause is not a matter of controversy. That is something the whole nation knows about and so often laments about.

Question is how did that come to be? The long progress that came to be has to be well documented and publicised. However, the policy makers of all the governments in the recent times have ignored such valuable analysis. Instead, they have tried to exploit the collapsed policing system to their own advantage. To practice wild form of corruption, it is also necessary to make the policing system equally corrupt and ineffective.

The policing system is a monotonic system. It can operate on the basis of command responsibility exercise through top to the bottom. The pathetic situation in Sri Lanka is that several DIG's and high ranking officers themselves are in Jail and awaiting trials for serious crimes. This has not disturbed anybody. And no real review and policy development to correct the situation has ever been taken. Thus, the law enforcement mechanism in the country has broken from the very top. Even the top ranking officers do not enjoy social prestige and confidence. It is also well-known that politicians and other powerful persons manipulated the policing systems for their own ends.

When such a critical situation exist in terms of the country's premier law enforcement agency, how could there exist an effective security arrangements to protect the people. If anything needs parliamentary and public debate with the view to create a foundation for a strong security strategy, it is the question of the policing factor that requires it. However, this is not likely to come from any of the political parties. To bring the policing system to the frame of the law is the disadvantage of the interest represented by these political parties.

Thus, there exists a contradiction between the development and effective security strategy and the nature of the policing that is wanted by the politicians and other powerful persons. It is who the responsible for the violence that take place in the country. That is which continue to build in one form or another.

Equally important are politically impartial Prosecutors Department (AG Department). Once again there is a national conscience that this institution is also hindered from acting within the framework of law only. Ambiguous prosecutors seeking higher positions in the judiciary go behind those who hold political power. It was not long ago President Maithripala Sirisena himself revealed regarding the two prosecutors who were coming behind him to get a higher position in the Supreme Court.

In the modern security system, prosecutor's role is a vital one. The criminals should fear the prosecutors because the prosecutors will not allow the lawbreakers to live without being brought before court. The fear of conviction and certainty of the punishment are the proven mythologies to deter the crime and to control violence. It is also the prosecutor that creates the confidence among the people that they are assured of living under the system that is able to protect them. Therefore, the huge outcry about the insecurity that is taking place in the country is also the condemnation of the way the role of the prosecutor's office played in Sri Lanka.

The other most important institution is security and protection of the people is the courts, particularly the effect of the court. Before such courts, citizens can challenge the neglect of the executive to protect them. If the courts impartially and competently handles the peoples complains, much of the possibilities of large scale violence can be effectively reduced and even eliminated. Unfortunately, there is also the national consensus that due to long years of neglect this function of protection has suffered a great deal. For a criminal, such a situation is festival time. What they could do under such circumstances was demonstrated at the Easter Sunday situation. According to the information, the damage and the destruction of lives and property could have been much worst. The extreme environment for such a cruel game exists in Sri Lanka.

When these institutions fail due to the neglect of those who are supposed to finance and maintain them, then there is a classic case of security failure. That is what has been happening and will continue to happen in Sri Lanka unless societal forces now woken up force this disclose as the most important national disclose in the country.

When parliamentary debates are conducted within the framework of a dysfunctional state, these debates only manifest the absurdities of the situation. The actors who take part in this debate do not even realize how ridicules they are.

It is necessary to identify where the security crisis lies and what the solutions are. The military can help when things are gone so bad and they could do that only. However, bringing the security to the people is much larger and deeper issue. Those in the nation who are sober-minded need to ensure that this debate should take place as soon as possible if the life of women, child and old people is to enjoy a period of peace and security.