”A simple lesson of the Mulleriyawa incident is that the ideology of arbitrariness and violence of which Duminda Silva and Gotabaya Rajapaksha have become symbols, needs to be defeated if the Sri Lankan nation is to survive.”
This statement is a comment on the negative impact of the political ideas of Duminda Silva and Gotabaya Rajapaksha on the rule of law system of Sri Lanka.
A Statement Issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission
“The core of the existing principle (of Rule of Law) is, I suggest, that all persons and authorities within the state, whether public or private, should be bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws publicly made, taking effect (generally) in the future and publicly administered in the courts.” – Lord Tom Bingham, ‘The Rule of Law’ (Penguin Books 2011), p. 8.
Baratha Lakshman’s assassination brought home one simple fact very clearly to all Sri Lankans: the close link between Duminda Silva and Gotabaya Rajapaksha. The link of course was no secret; even the president himself has been quoted in the media as saying, “Duminda is not my man but Gotabaya’s”. Baratha Lakshman in his last recorded speech quite poignantly pointed out that it worried and pained him to see this link between Gotabaya and the organizer of the Kolonnawa electorate (Duminda), who was promoting ‘Kudukarayas’ (drug dealers). What concerns this statement is not the two personalities but the common idea held by both. They both believe in arbitrariness as against the law and the direct use of violence to achieve their ends. It is these ideological premises being put into practice drastically that have now brought about the kind of insecurity and instability that no one seems to be able to resolve.
Duminda Silva became a victim of his own designs. The serious brain injuries he suffers are not only the product of friendly fire by his own gang, but also a consequence of the orders that he himself gave for the shooting and killing of his opponent, Baratha Lakshman. Baratha had bitterly criticized Duminda just the prior evening when he delivered the final speech for the local elections on behalf of the candidate he supported in his electorate.
Baratha Lakshman was quick to point out that the nation is now facing danger that cannot even be imagined and that he wanted this election to be the beginning of an attempt to rescue the “Rajapakshas themselves”. Though the wording sounds like mere rhetoric, he as a longstanding politician seems to have grasped something terrible in the making that needed to be stopped. Perhaps he did not yet predict that the danger was so great as to cause his own death the next day.
Let’s get back to the idea represented by these two persons, Gotabaya Rajapaksha and Duminda Silva. That law can be dispensed with and that the use of pure and naked power is the way forward. Gotabaya misuses his position as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense and is attempting to turn this ministry into a superpower. Even the head of the CID while conducting investigations into serious crimes can be called before Gotabaya with all the case files and be instructed on what actions to take in a criminal investigation. No one in a country that respects the law has such power. Not even the president. The very essence of the rule of law is that even the highest officer is bound by the law and that what even he does must be done according to the law. If the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense is to call any officer and give instructions, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense should have such a power granted to him by legislation. No legislature that respects the law would give power to anyone to interfere with criminal investigations.
However, the interference with criminal investigations is a small matter compared to the use of firearms to kill opponents. No law would give any officer the power to kill, except to a hangman who has to do that act in the terms given by court orders. Duminda Silva, an MP, himself gave himself the right to barricade the roads through his subordinates and thereafter to shoot his opponent in broad daylight on the road. Where does such power come from? According to Prasanna Gunasinghe Solangaarachchi, quoted in the media, this is because of the open support given to Duminda Silva by Gotabaya Rajapaksha. When a gang leader commanding underground forces is supported openly by the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, that this leads to enormous violence is no secret to anyone who has the slightest understanding of the control of violence. Does not that patronage to a gang leader by a person holding high political power mean disaster?
Again what is more important than the details of the Mulleriyawa incident is the very idea that is represented by Duminda Silva as well as Gotabaya Rajapaksha: That idea is that the law does not matter and that naked use of force is legitimate. Even the president himself seems to have no power to insist that the law needs to be obeyed by everyone, all the time. When this kind of defense of the law is no longer possible then what might happen next is simply unpredictable.
As dangerous as the Mulleriyawa incident was, is the news that security in universities has been handed over to a private firm. When the law is abandoned as the fundamental norm, so-called security firms can be dangerous associations that organize kidnappings and other kinds of violence. That such firms are brought into universities at a time when some Ministers in the governments are waging war against some university professors and students is a clear indication that the kind of abduction and disappearances that became the order of the day not so long ago, could become a permanent part of the universities. No intellectual life can flourish under such circumstances of terror.
It is also not a coincidence that Dr. N J Nonis, a registrar of Sri Lanka Medical Council, was also attacked while engaging in his duty to maintain the standards requires for medical examinations. Even the attempt to maintain educational standards has become a thing that needs to be punished with brutal violence.
For persons concerned for the future of Sri Lanka the important issue is as to whether anyone should be allowed to act except within the framework of the law. Every official should have only as much power as given by the country’s laws. This is the normal rule that is followed in every country with a legal framework. In Sri Lanka too this was the norm till the 1978 Constitution. During last 33 years this basic notion has been trivialized and the doors have been opened for arbitrary behavior. This is causing catastrophes in every part of the country and in every sphere of life.
A simple lesson of the Mulleriyawa incident is that the ideology of arbitrariness and violence of which Duminda Silva and Gotabaya Rajapaksha have become symbols, needs to be defeated if the Sri Lankan nation is to survive.