02 April 2012

Kahawatta is our country

The gruesome murder of a 52 year old woman and her 18 year old daughter in Kahawatta shocked the entire country.  A lot has happened since that tragic night of January 31, 2012. The story of drug dealing, political patronage, abuse of trust and innocence, revenge intended and exacted etc has all come out.  

When the story unfolded and the culprits apprehended, a community divested itself of rage by burning four houses, including those of the main suspect and his politician brother.  This is how Kahawatta became a synonym for lawlessness and one hopes that arrest, detention and indictment will cool these unholy fevers, sooner rather than later. 

What is most disturbing is that certain elements of the Kahawatta tragedy are common to other parts of the country as well, in particular the nexus between criminality and politics, criminal and politician.  At all levels. 

The main suspect, Raju is the brother of Pradeshiya Sabha member who was, until a few days ago, the Coordinating Secretary of a Minister.  The story validates the commonly held view that politics and drugs are closely related. 

The suspects in this case had been apprehended on four occasions by the Police but on each occasion, it is reported, they had to be released before they could be properly questioned.  It took a special CID team to finally interrogate and obtain a confession.  In other words, for 34 days, that unfortunate community was forced to have in their midst a set of murderers.

Sadly, all this comes under ‘business as usual’ in this country.  Almost everyone knows of a story where known wrongdoers get off scot free or with (at worst) a light reprimand courtesy the invariable ‘call from the top’, the ‘top’ being some local political bigwig.  Interference is the name of the game and it has been virtually a national sport for way too long now. 

The crux of the matter is that law enforcement officers simply do not have the independence to do their jobs.  Their efficiency is therefore compromised while their errors are magnified.  This country simply does not have an overall institutional arrangement that can stop politicians (and the wealthy, who are wont to heavily fund politicians in return for all manner of favours including immunity from investigation) from taking a bite off the justice system. 

Non-compliance can result in punishment transfers and severely denting chances of career advancement.  When powerful politicians bear upon senior police officers to look the other way, their juniors take note. They learn and they put into practice the knowledge gained.  They learn to let big fish slip away.  In this context it is indeed to the credit of the CID that the suspects were actually taken in.  It implies that somewhere close to the top there are people who are actually interested in justice.  To be fair, there have been instances where police officers have shown exemplary courage and integrity, but such individuals are heavily outnumbered by the servile, many of whom double up as takers. 

When law enforcement is influenced by politicians it is to that very extent compromised.  We have seen how police officers have refused point black to investigate acts of thuggery that have been reported as-it-is-happening on television.  When a man ties up another man, that’s not ‘consensual’ or some kinky sexual ritual.  The man who did the tying was in fact giving the finger to law enforcement and the law.  The police took the finger, as it were, without shame. So too the AG’s Department. So too his parliamentary colleagues. So too his political party.  So too every single person who chose to look the other way. 

We know that the 17th Amendment offered an outside chance to correcting the institutional flaws pertaining to policing.  We know that the 18th took away that chance.  Be that as it may, in the end what is important is not who appoints who but what the appointed does with his/her appointment and office.  That’s where integrity is tested.

  In this situation there can be no talk of devolving police powers unless one believes there is something substantial in the matter of devolving thuggery or giving free rein to thugs. 

Kahawatta is our country and not a small geographical entity located in some district far away from the high seats of power.  Kahawatta is a tragedy and a defining symbol of ‘things as they are’, top to bottom, left to right. 

No one wants to live in Kahawatta.  Period.  Kahawatta needs to be erased from the political map and that erasing must begin with constitution.  The truth is the beneficiaries of ‘Kahawattization’ will not fiddle with the constitution (why discard a ‘good thing’?).  Who then will do the erasing and when?  The latter is hard to predict.  As for the former, the answer is clear: good people, courageous people, patriots.  If terrorism could have been eradicated, this is not impossible.  If politicians won’t lift a finger, the people must make them lift it. 

There’s a fight to recover a decent map.  It’s not about parties, colour and ideologies. It is about patriotism.  Whose side are you on and what are you going to do about it?  

[See 'Editor's Blog' in THE NATION]


Gaya said...

Good stuff !

Thusha F said...

Great writing... hope they are reading with a conscience and love for the country!

Anonymous said...

This thuggery and lawlessness defeats the country and its people at so many levels. Propaganda for anti-SL elements, reduced tourism, reduced investment, people taking the law into their hands, young people thinking that the only way to get ahead is to be a bigger thug are just a few I can think of. One of the most prominent excuses for the lethargy by intelligent, educated SL patriots to defend the country vigorously is "why should we defend the government so thugs and criminals can live in luxury and harrass ordinary people". It simply crushes the soul of a nation leaving it to be exploited by various groups with sinister agendas.

sandika said...

'Kahawatte' is not our entire country but truly a part of our country. sometimes it is little difficult to 'generalize' or 'compare' things with a the situation in Kahawatte' but you have provided us fairly a good and correct picture.

i don't like when people taking action or 'law' in to their hands especially when it comes to handling some important matters related to country law but i have something different to say here ....

i think burning the houses of the 'murderers' or the houses of the 'suspicious' tell us a different story .... 'people need to see immediate actions taken against every single 'terror and horror' or against what ever the thuggery things.

people of this country are not weak ... they are strong .... i think that it is good to go back to history and see how our people have reacted to certain situations of our country in the past for certain matters related socio - political matters of the country..... 'power' is useful but it is not given for forever. every particular thing has 'a certain period allocated' like our 'life'

i believe there is no need to erase 'Kahawatte' from the political map what is important here is to erase all the visible and invisible signs of 'Kahawattization' because we can not be fully politically isolated .when we are planning to re design the map we should not forget to include all the important things that were there previously but certainly should erase all the unnecessary 'territories' of all kinds of terror