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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

SRI LANKA: Seven-year-old Pushpakumara’s murder and the link between lawlessness and perversity

Basil Fernando
A seven-year-old child, Pushpakumara Wijekoon from Kegalle, went to school as usual and left around 1 pm.
He walked to the junction where his father usually picked him up on his cycle to bring him home. As the child did not see his father, he started walking back home. The distance was about a mile. His brother, who was sixteen years old, reported to his father at about two that Pushpakumara had not come home. The father rushed home and thereafter they started searching for the young child. As they could not find the child after much searching, they complained to the police. The police searched with their trained dogs. The dogs stopped at an abandoned house and the police entered. There, they found the dead body of the seven-year-old, strangled with his own school tie, and with his clothes removed. The police are now looking for suspects.

The incident has caused shockwaves in villages around Kegalle. The general suspicion is that the child had been sexually abused before he was strangled.
While the killing of a child after abuse may not be a frequent occurrence, the spread of child abuse is in epidemic proportions has led to many statements from child protection authorities, religious leaders and non-governmental organizations. However, the government has ignored all such expressions of concern as it, as a general rule, ignores every kind of protest. What the people of Kegalle have learned through the tragic death of seven-year-old Pushpakumara are the consequences of such defiance of protest by the government.
The government has entered into a course of action through the 18th amendment which has deprived it of the capacity to control crime and create a social milieu where criminals fear committing crime due to serious consequences that would follow. When the criminals have no fear of the consequences of breaking the law, anything is possible. That is exactly what has happened in this instance.
Recently, in an interview by the 24-year-old Russian girl Victoria Tkacheva, who was raped and seriously abused while her partner Khuram Shaikh was assassinated, she complained of the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of this heinous crime. She vowed to fight back. It would not be an easy fight. The chief suspect is Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana, the head of the local council in Tangalle. He, like Duminda Silva and very many others, enjoy the patronage of the Rajapaksha family, who, without any kind of embarrassment, protect “their” criminals. The overall policy of the government, entrenched by the 18th Amendment to the constitution itself, is to be crime-friendly.
A crime-friendly government is, in the normal understanding of governments, a contradiction in terms. Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679) observed that a government comes into being by way of agreement between people and the sovereign, where the sovereign takes over the obligation of protecting people from the crimes they commit against each other. Ever since, the development of the theory of the state has emphasized the primary obligation of the state as being to prevent crime and to ensure security for everyone within its jurisdiction. Thus, a government that is crime-friendly is an abnormality. It suffers from a malignant disease which is destroying itself.
When criminals perceive that the government is crime-friendly, they lose the fear of committing crimes. From this, daring comes. The heyday of the perverts. Lawlessness begets perversity. How far such perversity has gone in Sri Lanka is evidenced by this child’s tragedy. However, it is not confined to sexual perversity. What has been happening in the stock markets and in almost every sphere of life in Sri Lanka demonstrates how lawlessness and perversity join hands and reign in Sri Lanka while the government, as a matter of policy, sticks to the course of impunity.
Political implications of lawlessness and perversity
When the law is not a major concern for the government, democracy simply cannot exist. The essence of democracy is to make the government accountable and responsible for its citizens. The only mode within which the state could be held responsible to its citizens is through the law. In fact, the test of responsible citizenship is also the observance of the laws that hold a community together. When the state itself becomes crime-friendly, then the law has no place in that society and the result is disintegration.
In Sri Lanka, disintegration is often understood only in terms of ethnic relationships. A nation divided in terms of ethnicity is a common theme since the 1956 language policy and the racial riots that followed. However, what everyone has ignored is a far deeper disintegration of society that is taking place in Sri Lanka due to the failure of the state to uphold law.
This division disintegrates all communities, including even small village communities. What the people in Kegalle are experiencing in terms of the brutal murder of this seven-year-old child is the disintegration of morals and societal protection of each other, which has gone out of all bounds. When parents have to fear sending their child to school because of distrust of their own neighbors, it indicates a societal crisis in its worst forms.
In such a situation, what could democratic practices such as elections mean? Within a lawless society it is not possible to hold free and fair elections. All claims of such fairness are nothing more than hypocrisy. The government organizes such things as elections merely as a game to deceive the population and to create some semblance of legitimacy for itself. Lawlessness contaminates everything and acts like leukemia on the bloodcells of a human being. That is where we are.
The major issue on which public protests should emerge in the context of Sri Lanka is the issue of lawlessness. No family can be safe, as shown by this incident, until this great monster is defeated. However, as people like Victoria Tkacheva are learning, defeating this monster is not an easy task. A crime-friendly government uses crime itself in order to ensure its survival. However, if Sri Lanka is to cure itself of the depth of disintegration it has been facing for decades, then the people themselves have to find their own solutions to face this kind of situation. When mythology speaks of great monsters and the heroes who fought against them, what they symbolically show are the kind of situations that Sri Lanka is faced with now. The government, which should be the protector, has turned out to be the monster that deprives people of security.
When bodies of the children of Ambilipitiya were dug out of a grave inside an army camp, one of the mothers present was quoted saying,” this is worse than animals”, referring to the perpetrators. Pushpa Kumara parents will join, tens of thousands of others who would utter similar words. A Dutch journalist made a documentary which he entitled Murder Land referring to Sri Lanka in the late eighties. Title fits even now. It may remain so , as long as the government remains crime friendly.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.


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