The first killing in the run-up to Thursday`s parliamentary polls has been reported. A young supporter of the UPFA was shot dead at close range in Mawathagama on Sunday night, while he was returning from an election rally. There have been many other incidents of election related violence.
A collective of religious leaders has faulted the government and the police for their failure to implement election laws. Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera pointed out on Monday that the police had chosen to steer clear of unauthorised election propaganda materials of the government politicians displayed in public places in blatant violation of the law. One cannot but agree with the outspoken Thera, who calls a spade a spade. The ubiquitous presence of monstrous cut-outs of ruling party candidates makes one wonder whether we have a police department. Where have all the policemen gone?
The IGP is playing dumb or he really is.
The incumbent government and the police must take the full responsibility for this sorry state of affairs. But, it does not mean that others are saints. Given half a chance, the victims of today have the potential to become the perpetrators of tomorrow. We have seen them in action in the past. In 1977, the UNP declared a one-week holiday for the police following its mammoth victory at that year`s general election and let its goons unleash hell. They disported themselves in murder, robbery, arson, rape and wanton destruction of their opponents` property to their heart`s content. Mayhem and bloodshed lasted for over one week. There were repeat performances following elections in 1982, 1988 and 1989. By-elections in Mahara, Mulkirigala etc. were totally marred by brutal violence and widespread rigging. And those who were responsible for election violence at that time are now campaigning against the scourge!
The JVP went on a killing spree in the late 1980s to sabotage elections but in vain. It declared polls boycotts and those who dared defy that order and exercise their franchise were brutally harmed. Voters had their heads blown off, throats slit or faces slashed with razors at the hands of JVP death hit squads for simply casting their votes. That was how the JVP promoted and protected democracy during its second uprising!
The TNA owes its presence in Parliament to the LTTE, which terrorised the North and the East to ensure the election of its proxies. More information on how the LTTE engineered the election of TNA MPs could be obtained from the final report of the EU Monitoring Mission on the 2004 General Election, which is available on the Internet. It calls the situation that prevailed in the North and the East during the 2004 parliamentary polls the very `antithesis` of democracy.
The SLFP, which was at the receiving end of violence under the UNP, has become the perpetrator today. It has proved that it preached non-violence those days not because it believed in it as such but because it had no way of matching the UNP`s and the JVP`s violence. Now that it is in a position to do so, it is on the rampage. The killing of one of its supporters must not be used to project the SLFP-led UPFA as the underdog.
We must not make the mistake of entrusting one set of politicians, regardless of their political leanings, with the task of ridding the country of violence, election-related or otherwise. All of them must be put in straitjackets, if democracy is to be preserved. It is not only the wings of the executive president that need to be clipped but those of all other politicians who are either abusing power or seeking to do so. The 17th Amendment was passed as a panacea but it is riddled with gaping holes and some of its provisions even run counter to the supremacy of Parliament as some MPs argue. Let the next Parliament address this issue on a priority basis while civil organisations led by leaders like Ven. Sobhitha Thera ratchet up pressure on politicians.
The onus is certainly on the incumbent government to restore the rule of law, which has manifestly collapsed. That its opponents have blood on their hands cannot be claimed in extenuation of its culpability. The blame for the flagrant violations of the law and the sickening police inaction must be placed fairly and squarely at the doorstep of the government. It boasts of having won the war but it cannot conduct even an electoral contest free from violence and violations of election laws.
What a shame!