Political Violence in Sri Lanka
By Lakshman I Keerthisinghe
“Non-violence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“The function of a leader is to make his people free of fear” – Pundit Nehru in Discovery of India
In bygone days it has been a common occurrence in our country to observe political violence erupting in the aftermath of an Election when victorious party supporters attack the defeated party supporters even to the extent of destruction of their property in some instances. Fortunately, after the recent Presidential Elections there were very few such instances due to the foresight of the political leaders: Political Violence and fear psychosis in the people must be avoided at all costs as Sri Lankan society aspires to live in a fear free environment. Sri Lankans have to be grateful to our war heroes for saving the Nation from three decades of fear psychosis created by the barbaric activities of the ruthless LTTE.
It was recently reported that a former parliamentarian and two others were sentenced to death by the Ratnapura High Court after being found guilty of multiple indictments of causing the death of one person by shooting including causing damage to an Election rally during the run up to the 2015 Presidential Election. The presence of a large number of unlicensed weapons in the hands of the strongmen or unofficial bodyguards engaged by Parliamentarians poses a grave threat to the peace and tranquility of our society. The Inspector General of Police under the guidance of the Secretary of the Ministry of Defence had taken the necessary action to remove such illegal weapons and prosecute the possessors under the law. The Police officers providing security to Parliamentarians should confine themselves to their assigned lawful functions and refrain from carrying out illegal orders given by such parliamentarians, which would result in the eradication or reduction of political violence.
The supreme law of Sri Lanka is the Constitution, under which powers are granted to make all other laws. The second paragraph of the Preamble to the Constitution incorporates a pledge given by the Parliamentarians to the People of Sri Lanka thus: ‘We, the freely elected representatives of the People of Sri Lanka in pursuance of such Mandate, humbly acknowledging our obligation to our People and gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain and preserve their rights and privileges so that the Dignity and Freedom of the Individual may be assured, Just, Social, Economic and Cultural Order attained, the Unity of the Country restored, and Concord established with other Nations, do hereby adopt and enact this Constitution the Supreme Law of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.’ Article 3 confers inalienable sovereignty on the People and Article 4 confers such sovereignty to legislate to the Parliament, executive power to the President and judicial power to the Courts, tribunals and other institutions created, established or recognised by the Constitution. Thus it is seen that the Doctrine of Separation of Powers advocated by Albert Dicey has been incorporated in our Constitution through the wisdom of its makers.
Thus a politician cannot purport to assume judicial powers and hear, pass summary judgement and deliver instant punishment without even a right of appeal on any individual citizen of this country. Such an action constitutes a criminal offence and the Police who are the law enforcement officers should not permit such actions to take place in their presence making a mockery of our legal system resulting in the erosion of public confidence in the supremacy of the law, which is detrimental to the maintenance of the pristine principle of the Rule of Law enshrined in our Constitution. The final result of such actions would be anarchy or the law of the jungle where the public would retaliate by attacking the Police as seen in the recent spate of attacks on the Police stations in Angulana, caused due to Police brutality and indiscipline. Although our President has done away with the excess security contingents, most politicians use a galaxy of security officers or armed bodyguards for their security.
In conclusion, the pre-election period has been relatively peaceful as hardly any such incidents of violence have been reported and ideally such peace and tranquility should continue in the aftermath too as violence is the preserve of uneducated, uncivilised people and abhorred by all right thinking civilised people. All the great personages in the world including the Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King quoted at the outset hereof advocated the virtues of non-violence.
About the Writer:
Lakshman I Keerthisinghe is an Attorney-at-Law with LLB, LLM, MPhil.(Colombo)[email protected]