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Friday, June 14, 2024

A political chess game? ( re Katuwana double murder)

Editorial, The Island
Julampitiye Amare (JA), the suspected mastermind of last Friday’s attack on a JVP meeting in Katuwana, where two persons were gunned down, has given himself up. His surrender may be considered a sign of the government buckling under pressure.
For, he would not have done so unless his masters had asked him to. It is also a damning indictment on the police. There had been an arrest warrant out for him but he, by virtue of being a privileged government goon, carried out his illegal operations openly for years with the police looking the other way. The JVP claims that he even addressed the UPFA’s political rallies, making a mockery of the court order.

The IGP ought to ask his subordinates, especially those in charge of the southern range, to explain their failure to arrest JA. About two weeks ago, the police conducted a search operation of sorts to nab a UNP MP, who had bitten the nose of a businessman in a drunken brawl in Colombo. The culprit surrendered after being in hiding for a day or two. Why didn’t the guardians of the law make such an effort to arrest JA wanted for far worse offences including murder?

The government, intoxicated by power, may have thought that the sky was the limit in bulldozing others into submission; it, therefore, did not care to keep its pet goons on a tight leash. Nay, they were given free rein to unleash terror to their heart’s content with impunity. But, it has suffered a rude shock at the hands of the Opposition which got its act together––for once. If it is wise, it won’t fail to see that what it has just experienced is a foretaste of bigger trouble to come. All it takes, in some cases, to trigger a people power revolt and bring down a powerful government is a single killing. What befell the Premadasa government following the assassination of Lalith Athulathmudali in 1993 is a case in point.

The government’s confidence has taken a severe jolt following the Katuwana incident. But, it is hoped that the Opposition will know better than to be lulled into a false sense of complacency. JA’s surrender could be a ploy by the government to ease pressure being brought to bear on it. Following the murder of a Briton in Tangalle last year, it may be recalled, the government gave in to pressure and got the main suspect to give himself up. The judicial process in this country is notoriously slow as is common knowledge; it has the same pace as a snail. His case is sure to drag on for years, if not decades, and the government, therefore, does not have to worry about the political and diplomatic fallout of the foreigner’s death.

As for the Katuwana killings, it is not clear from the statements the JVP made to the media initially whether JA was sighted at the scene of crime. The gunmen responsible for the killings are still at large and the police investigations are very likely to draw a blank. It is only wishful thinking that the police will take the trouble of grilling JA and eliciting information from him to trace the killers. Instead, he will be given VIP treatment at police stations and in remand prison. Only lesser criminals sans political connections get bastinadoed and thrashed with pizzles until they rat on their confederates.

It looks as if the government were readying for a political chess game with its opponents over the Katuwana killings. JA’s surrender seems to be the first move. The only alternative the Opposition is apparently left with is to crank up pressure on the government to have the assailants who carried out the attack brought to justice.


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