Aug 25

Like the vast majority of decent people, members of the Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) were horrified by recent newspaper reports and TV news describing and showing the public humiliation to which a Samurdhi worker was subjected because he had been unable, on account of his child’s illness, to attend a meeting called by Deputy Minister Mervyn Silva (DM) to discuss a dengue eradication initiative. The TV briefing given later in this connection by Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, as Cabinet spokesman, was just as shocking because this inhuman episode was referred to by him and at least one of his colleagues with much laughter, particularly when it was stated that action cannot be taken against the DM as there had not been a formal complaint from the victim, ignoring the fact that there were police officers present throughout at the scene of the crime! By way of comparison, would it be acceptable for police officers witnessing a bank robbery not to do anything to stop it, and to claim that they were waiting for the victimised bank to make a complaint at the nearest police station?

The inaction of the Police officers who watched passively while the hapless victim was being tied to a tree has been severely denounced though there is little doubt that, if these officers had intervened to stop the said DM from behaving as he did, they would have suffered the most adverse consequences to their careers. What is really depressing to note is why the powerful Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the even more powerful Attorney General (AG) have not moved in the matter to have the miscreant charged for violating grossly a number of constitutional and legal rights of this public servant. Surely, these two luminaries have more than enough authority to take immediate action on their own without waiting for the victim or members of the public to take the certain risk of making a complaint against this DM?

The degree of fear instilled in the victim himself was plainly such that he is said to have gone into hiding – supposedly after giving a letter to the DM stating that he had himself agreed to being punished in this degrading manner! What compelled him to write such a letter does not need an Einsteinian brain to deduce. How stupid do politicians think the citizens of this country are that this kind of puerile and dishonest explanation is given to justify their failure to protect our people from terrorist justice and punishment by rogue elements in the establishment?

It was a partially fortunate circumstance for the Country that the affected Samurdhi worker belongs to an organisation of which the members are believed to have secured their positions by virtue of services rendered by them to the parties who are presently associated with the government. The possibility that many of these workers might drop their grass-roots party support in future unless action is taken against the offending DM would certainly have been a factor in the decision taken by President Rajapakse to remove the miscreant from his position, as well as the step taken by the SLFP disciplinary committee to initiate an inquiry into the matter. As for the party inquiry itself, we are not inclined to hold our breath, because we recollect how strongly Minister Maitripala Sirisena spoke at the time of the Rupavahini incident against this ill-behaved DM and how nothing significant ensued. There is widespread suspicion that an attempt will be made to deceive the people of this country yet again by the administration of a gentle slap this time on the delinquent’s wrist whereas the offence committed is one that should attract strong punitive action in accordance with the laws of the land.

This malefactor’s removal from his earlier position of power over the media and his subsequent appointment to a similar position does not engender in the public any confidence that he will not be appointed to some other important post once the immediate outcry dies down. Considering the disinclination of the authorities to inquire into and enforce the law in respect of the earlier misdeeds committed by this DM, the public remain highly skeptical as to whether any meaningful corrective action will actually be taken in this instance either.

The source of the immunity enjoyed by this ex-DM has been commented upon by several contributors to our national newspapers and other media over several years. One of them has recently said: “If given another chance, he might have stripped the uniforms of the law officers flanking him and given them also a similar punishment. Like the Samurdhi officer, these disloyal men in police uniform too are public servants. MS could even produce letters from these puppets, having publicly disgraced the Police department, that they voluntarily consented to be stripped of their uniform to be tied to a tree. MS can then wave these letters in Parliament. … There is no mystery as to why the powers that be are lenient towards the atrocities committed by MS. It looks as if MS has a trump card or several trump cards to blackmail them. …” Furthermore, as one editorial put it: “It is too dangerous to allow political Neanderthals to act as the police, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner. … When an arachchi’s dog harms others, it is the owner more than the animal that the people hold responsible for their plight. … So, President Mahinda Rajapakse, who mollycoddles Mervyn, cannot avoid the blame for the latter’s unspeakable action being laid at his doorstep”. By attracting criticism of the nature, the high regard earned by President Rajapakse for giving strong leadership to defeat the LTTE can be seen to suffer significant erosion from time to time by the reprehensible behavior of MP Mervyn Silva and a few others of his ilk. In view of the many remarks of this nature which have appeared each time that MS has breached the laws of this Country, we are amazed that President Rajapakse has not made any effort to safeguard his own good name by taking appropriate remedial action, without leaving room for the public to continue to speculate unfavorably regarding the reasons for this vile politician’s inviolability.

Last, but not least, how can one possibly compensate the children of the persecuted Samurdhi worker for the mental pain caused to them by the taunts that inconsiderate bystanders and fellow students would be directing at them, as often happens in this type of situation, on account of the indignities to which their father was exposed?

CIMOGG considers it essential that four further steps ought to be taken to bring closure to this egregious episode. One is to have the IGP and the AG take sound legal steps to apply the full force of the law in dealing with this deplorable attack on a defenseless public officer. It would be their duty to see that, whatever pressure is applied or inducement is offered, those who are put in charge of these legal steps will be of such a caliber as not to leave convenient loopholes for this exercise to fail. The second is for the President to reward the brave woman who had protested against what was being done by the DM so that citizens who find themselves in a similar situation in the future will be encouraged to act just as bravely on account of the appreciation shown by the President. Third, the victim and his family must obviously be paid compensation, both from public funds and from the MP’s assets, for having been subjected to jungle justice. Fourth, without waiting for action by the authorities (which have so far not displayed much interest in this case), the All Ceylon Samurdhi Workers’ Association must, before it is too late, initiate legal action as they have already indicated that they would do.

It should be noted that the DM had no authority to punish or ill-treat a public officer and that the heinous punishment inflicted on the Samurdhi worker is a clear violation of a fundamental right as set out in Article 11 of the Constitution, which reads: “No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.