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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Before turning prisons into rehabilitation centres, the government ought to ensure that the criminals in the garb of UPFA politicians are sent to jail.

Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu! Editorial, The Island

The blame for facilitating the entry of rapists, killers, cattle rustlers, drug dealers, fraudsters and robbers into politics should be apportioned to the SLFP and the UNP. Out of power, the UNP has behaved for quite some time, but the SLFP continues to nominate criminals of all sorts to contest elections. Nothing explains this situation better than the pithy local saying, bale thiyanakota mole ne; mole thiyanakota bale ne—’when one has power, one has no brains and when one has brains, one has no power’.

JHU leader Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera, addressing a party convention the other day took a swipe at the government for having anti-social elements within its ranks. He said the situation had become so bad that the ruling party Pradeshiya Sabha Chairmen were taking bribes even from their counterparts in other areas. The JHU, a constituent of the ruling UPFA coalition, is running with the hapless masses and hunting with the UPFA hounds, but that doesn’t render Ven. Sobitha’s criticism invalid. He has said his party does not nominate criminals. The same is true of the JVP, the TNA, the SLMC, the old left etc. They, too, exercise caution in selecting candidates. It behoves the government to emulate their example.

Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, who is in charge of the Ministry of Truth (in the Orwellian sense), has said that the government does not defend rogues within its ranks as evident from the fact that several UPFA politicians have been hauled up before courts for various offences. But, it has refrained from intervening to secure their release for a different reason; they have become too embarrassing for it to defend. It has sacrificed some of its lawbreakers to assuage public resentment. There are many others of their ilk who have gone scot free by virtue of being in power and they, too, must be made to pay for their crimes. How would Minister Rambukwella explain the government’s refusal to act on very serious allegations the UPFA members of the Kelaniya PS have levelled against Minister Mervyn Silva? The deplorable manner in which the government is handling the Christmas Day murder case against its Tangalle PS chairman and several others has brought the entire country into disrepute.

But for the keen interest the British government has evinced in that case because the victim was a British citizen, the government would have hushed up investigations. It is a crying shame that the case has had to be shifted to Colombo from Tangalle owing to threats to witnesses. Silencing witnesses is half the battle in taking criminals off the hook as is common knowledge. There’s more than one way to shoe a horse!

As a UNP MP very eloquently put it the other day, of animals such as the wild pig, the horse, the bull and the dog, one fears only tusks, hind legs, horns and fangs respectively, but one was scared of all parts of a government politician’s anatomy.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has recently indicated his government’s desire to modernise penitentiaries with a view to rehabilitating convicted lawbreakers. The government may go ahead with its project to improve the appalling conditions in prisons. But, what does it propose to do with those who should be behind bars but are going places in politics because of their ruling party connections. Before turning prisons into rehabilitation centres, the government ought to ensure that the criminals in the garb of UPFA politicians are sent to jail.

Ven. Sobitha Thera’s campaign to cleanse Sri Lankan politics deserves praise and public support. While saying, Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu wholeheartedly, we venture to suggest that, since the JHU has a deep antipathy towards the kind of candidates the SLFP nominates, it desist from contesting elections on the UPFA ticket and go it alone in protest.


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