Dr. Mark Amerasinghe’s letter in the last edition of the Sunday Times, published in response to the reply reportedly given by the Defence Secretary to a particular question at a recent interview needs to be analyzed and responded as it concerns the basic interests and rights of the majority of the Sri Lankan society. As an apolitical neutral person myself, I need to admit that certain privileged groups and vested interests get shaken when issues benefitting the majority, the poor and the under-privileged are given priority over the rest.
His letter as a whole deals mainly with the kind of systems used in developed countries to check on what some may call their private and personal prerogatives, and with the possibility of such systems being introduced here in Sri Lanka in future. As the writer seems to feign ignorance of the developed countries where such systems are in use, it simply suffices to refer to the very illustrative article, “Jihad Jane, etc” appearing on page 6 of the same day’s Sunday Times.
The article is on how the FBI did manage to catch up with the intrigues of a white woman whom the Al Qaeda had successfully indoctrinated into carrying out missions aimed at destroying the American identity. With one lead after another, the FBI operatives hacked her email account to gather enough evidence to have her arrested and indicted, if not for which America could possibly have suffered another 9/11.
As for the CCTV’s and hidden cameras widely used in the developed countries, it is time that we, Sri Lankans, learn to appreciate their usefulness in protecting the basic rights of law-abiding citizens. Traffic lights at junctions and pedestrian crossings over there, for instance, are equipped with CCTV’s in order to track down and fine errant drivers.
For a moment, let’s imagine what a nightmare walking down a pedestrian crossing in the heart of Colombo could turn out to be if we happen to trust the motorists to honour our right of way. Sometimes it is much safer to cross our roads by jaywalking using our own judgment to guide ourselves. On the contrary, if the country could afford CCTV’s fitted at strategic points such as selected crossings and of course at traffic lights, we also could have disciplined motorists too, who need not drive tooting horns all the time.
Many airports now use scanning equipment which enables operators to see the most private parts of passengers before they board planes bound for certain countries, especially the USA. It is now a matter of Hobson’s choice for those passengers. One consolation for them is the promise that the images will not be saved unless they happen to be prospective skyjackers.
Finally, we should learn to accept the fact that we can no longer insist on the sanctity of so-called private rights when interests of the society at large are far more important.