28 September 2011

Police Commando Camp No 69 issues a statement on legal murder

There was a shooting last Sunday (September 25, 2011).  It occurred within the precincts of the Police Commando Camp No 69 in Maha Oya, Ampara.  The victim was Assistant Superintendent Sisira Kumara.  The gunman, B.A. Jayatilleka was the Chief Inspector of the same camp.  After shooting the ASP, Jayatilleka shot himself and later succumbed to his injuries. 

Got me thinking.

I don’t know what it was all about.  It was reported that there was an argument.  The trigger-puller may have acted on impulse or else had planned to pull trigger right along.  Whether the suicide decision came before he entered the room, during the argument or after committing murder we shall never know.  It is however reasonable to assume that given his rank, Jayatilleka must have had enough sense to figure out the possible fallout of his actions, both in the immediate aftermath or, if it came to that, in the legal procedures that would no doubt have ensued. 
Whether he shot himself out of horror at what he had done or being unable to live through what he must have known would follow we don’t know. My question is simple: if the argument took place in a country where the death penalty is implemented to the last letter of the law (in Sri Lanka this is yet to happen) would the outcome have been different? 
There are lots of factors that come into play. First, the psychological makeup of both victim and assailant has to be considered.  Then there is the what-went-before that fed emotion and thinking to the point of trigger-pulling.  There is also the context, both physical and interactive, pertaining to the incident.  Did these contribute? I am sure they would have, to a greater or lesser degree of course. 
Jayatilleka was a police officer. A senior officer.  It is unlikely that he was unaware of how the law works in such situations.  He would know that the death penalty exists and that even if it wasn’t implemented, that the punishments for transgression would be dire indeed.  He would have not been incapable of figuring out how all this would impact his family. 
My point is that being aware, being informed, being able to analyze enough of the relevant factors to imagine the aftermath-landscape of being and especially its probable contours and boundaries, both for himself and those near and dear to him, did not stop him from squeezing out one or more bullets in Sisira Kumara’s direction.  He aimed to kill and kill he did.  By killing himself thereafter, he was essentially stating that he could not live with what he had done and/or had decided to mete out the punishment he felt he deserved. 
Sisira Kumara didn’t come back to life though.
I draw one lesson: capital punishment does not stop people from committing crimes of passion or spur-of-the-moment murder.  The murderer, typically, absolves himself at the point of transgression.  It is, for him/her a ‘has-to-be-done’ thing.  Consequences are typically erased from the equation and images of an electric chair, a hangman’s noose or a syringe containing lethal substance which if injected would cause death hardly have any impact value on decision. 
Even if there is guilt, the necessity to take life overrides.  If guilt settles in later, as it may have in this instance, it would have arrived too late to save the victim. 
I think it is safe to say that capital punishment does not deter the would-be murderer, as I have been arguing in a series of articles on the subject.  It can have meaning only in terms of penalty exacted for transgression and this I believe is also indefensible (see ‘Legal Murder: the eye-for-an-eye argument’ in the Daily News of September 24, 2011). 
I have no words for those left behind by these twin deaths.  Words, anyway, will not be salve enough to alleviate grief and sense of loss.  My words, here, have been put together to show that the threat of barbarism (capital punishment) does not prevent the barbaric or the barbarian or whatever sanitized terms you might prefer to use on act and actor.  I hope that this tragedy makes for sobriety that goes beyond incident.  
[Courtesy, Daily News, September 28, 2011]
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