Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle has burnt a gasket over what is being described as police harassment. A policeman escorting a VIP, a furious Fernandopulle has said, stopped his vehicle and threateningly banged on it, ordering him to stop and make way for the VIP concerned, on Tuesday. Sri Lankan ministers being an omnipotent breed, over whose heads not even a crow is supposed to fly, Mr. Fernandopulle`s consternation is understandable. `Who on earth dares block my path?` he may have thought.
In a way, it is good that politicians, too, are made to undergo, at least occasionally, the difficulties and hardships that the ordinary people are made to face everyday. In this land where there are governments of politicians, by politicians for politicians, all politicians?from the sublime to the ridiculous?get armed escorts. Some of them use their security personnel as bogeymen to harass their opponents. And when those worthies use public roads, their guards behave savagely. They wave menacingly and shove all others off their path almost at gunpoint. Why they move at breakneck speed, causing so many difficulties to the public is the question. If only they had the same urgency to honour their promises to the people!
Most politicians are trying to have us believe that their lives are in danger. Yes, the LTTE is zeroing in on some of them and they need to be protected at any cost. But, even the confirmed jokers in politics are behaving as if they were being pursued by the terrorists. They need not fear the enemies of the state, whose purpose they are serving by ruining the country through political means. The whole caboodle of such ignoramuses is an asset to the LTTE, which, instead of killing them, might want to protect them. With them active in politics, the LTTE need not expend its energy and explosives to blow up economic targets. Politicians have been doing it far more effectively in a different way. Over the years they have brought this country to such a pass that today it has to seek permission of aid donors before defending itself! We make no bones about our aversion to the Tigers but on no grounds can we bring ourselves to think that they are so stupid as to slay those southern politicos who are of great help to them.
Apart from the leaders who have the courage to take on the LTTE without squeaking gobbledygook and dithering on the question of dealing with terrorism, the real endangered species is not the politicians but the ordinary citizenry. They are the ones who run the risk of being blown to smithereens in public places, as has happened in bomb blasts at Pettah, Maradana, Dehiwela, Kebithigollwewa etc. over the past so many years. It is from the resilience of those heroes and heroines that whatever campaign to protect the country derives strength and sustenance.
The best way to end a war, it is said, is to send generals to the front. Similarly, politicians who are making only a half-hearted effort to deal with terrorism must be stripped of their security and made to live like the ordinary people. Then only will they realise the real danger and the need to ensure public safety.
The extraordinary security measures that are being adopted to protect VIPs much to the inconvenience of the people have failed to be effective, if the successful terror strikes in the past are any indication. If the Army Commander is not safe inside the well fortified Army Headquarters, it is doubtful whether those on the terror hit lit could be protected on public roads with the help of escort vehicles, which are as fragile as cardboard boxes against powerful bombs. Threats to political leaders and the people are only the effect, the cause being the conflict, which has spilled over into all parts of the country. So long as the cause remains intact and terrorism manifests itself in various forms?now we hear of `Sinhala Tigers` working for the LTTE for a fee?neither politicians nor the ordinary masses are going to be safe. Prabhakaran`s Murder Inc. seems to be outsourcing terror attacks with a view to unleashing anarchy in the southern parts of the country through its hirelings. Some trade unionist are alleged to have discarded the strike weapon and taken up assault rifles and grenades to boot by courtesy of the LTTE. The day may not be far off when trade unionists will begin to talk through the barrel of the gun!
It is time politicians stopped worrying about policemen banging on their bonnets, took cognisance of the real danger of terror and did something to root out the scourge.
The policeman who made a powerful minister feel like an ordinary citizen, at least temporarily, deserves plaudits. Three cheers!