A jingle is now sung for law and order in our once Paradise Isle: Nidhos, nidahas – Dhos, Sadhos. Acquittal and discharge alongside charge and high charge – is the rough English translation. The Sinhala version is more expressive and effective than the terms in English. The Sinhala phrase sounds like a chant or mantra, [...]

Sunday Times 2

Jingles for law and order: Nidhos, Nidahas – Dhos, Sadhos


A jingle is now sung for law and order in our once Paradise Isle: Nidhos, nidahas – Dhos, Sadhos. Acquittal and discharge alongside charge and high charge – is the rough English translation. The Sinhala version is more expressive and effective than the terms in English. The Sinhala phrase sounds like a chant or mantra, as recited by a kattadiya (conjuror). The Sinhala term rings the right rhythm in toour ears. There is, however, no law involved in this Rule of Law jingle, sung by the conjurer.

Of late, however, there is disquiet expressed in regard to a breakdown of Rule of Law.  This breakdown is due to political and social developments. This was stated by Prof Eric Jensen of Stanford University at a memorial oration at our Open University in January 2019.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry appears to have a unique perception of this. He is portrayed as following the lines of thought of Cardinal Richelieu of France and Louis XIII.

Cardinal Richelieu is known to have practised deceit, intrigue and treachery, with finesse as a means to an end in diplomacy, and ‘disappeared’ his contenders for power. Mixing religion with politics, and churning out concoctions, he achieved two difficult goals in his career: establishing absolute monarchy in France and demolishing other political powers. He then had Louis XIII eating out of his hand.

It would be appropriate to discuss our own political and the social aspects separately.  Discussion here is brief due to constraints of space.

Political aspects

The kattadiya (conjuror) is the local equivalent of Cardinal Richelieu of France and Louis XIII. The latter’s role was to consolidate power and crush domestic factions. The urge of both was then the same though varied in the topical context. In that vein, the idea grew, that the law process was insufficient for law and order. Disillusion has set in, such that, recently, throwing all caution to the winds the Nidhos nidahas bell was peremptorily rung to clear the decks of the debris of court cases. Only a few weak voices were heard in opposition to the practice.

The Nidhos, nidahas -Dhos, Sadhos chant is thereby sung in a political tone. And this was for a particular purpose — political. Only Minister Sabry understands this. Meanwhile, much has happened, including the appointment of more judges and the courts. An old story related by late W. Dahanayake comes to mind. He said: ‘More judges; more courts; more police; more crime’.

Today, the unraveling political developments in this country have reduced the Rule of Law to just about nothing, in political terms. The basis of Rule of Law itself is badly undermined, and not even considered relevant. The ground is then ripe and ready for a kattadiya (conjuror) to avail of the situation. He has now only to burn the incense and take the offerings.

Religion and its values are unfortunately political and increasingly relegated to near irrelevance. Religious leaders are much politicised. Their pious eyes are, perhaps, trained only to the skies. Is this not what Karl Marx said that their religion is money?  Money rules over all, even religion.  Oaths of office intoned with religious overtones have likewise meant nothing for law and order. Benevolent exceptions are surely there; they are yet only of little practical effect.

Writers and speakers, at least some we hear of, are of a different mould, not given to politics. They are active. More than others they are the committed ones, whose expertise, whose erudition, whose concern and whose commitments are exemplary. They are extraordinary. Nonetheless, they too have little effect on the unravelling scene.  Their impassioned arguments do not ring a bell, nor echo anything more than the ordinary.

Can the experts, already empanelled by the Government, help? They are barely heard. People only know they are empanelled.

To the kattadiya (conjuror) phenomenon, all the high-sounding panels, therefore, is a waste of time.  Action is the immediate need. Yet others who have likewise been wasting the time of the law and distorted the law are now to be dealt with under the Dhos Sadhos (charge and high charge) tune, where persons who wasted time to make complaints are now to be dealt with criminally under a commission extraordinaire!

Other matters hanging fire in like manner are in the prisons, where 1000/2000 of remand prisoners are to be released, out and out, with no questions asked. Is this action somewhat like garbage disposal? Where is law and order?

In the present political set-up, the Legislature and the Executive are in a quandary in regard to law and order. The Legislature has betrayed the law of the people, of the criminal law due to them, substituting instead the law of the lawyers in criminal adjudication. The Executive exists only for interference not for any improvement in the due administration of law and order. Instead there was intrusion in the form of a Trojan horse attempt to recruit lawyers to the Police. This idea has now made a ‘tactical retreat’. The idea is symptomatic of a conjuror’s attempt to push it through an unsuspecting Minister of Police.

Social aspects

The social wear and tear of the legal system has weakened. This means that the market system has overrun the system. Details are a multitude and the practice unrestrained. Perhaps such bribery and corruption has so enveloped the Bribery Commission that it is expedient for this Commission to look the other way explaining in some spurious language the reasons for its inaction.

Transformation or
Constitutional reform?

All that has been discussed above do not auger well for any worthwhile prospects for law and order. The problem is political and social. The difficulty Constitutional reformers would face is congenital; their own standing does hardly allow the meaningful reinstitution of the Sovereignty of the People.  Even otherwise, the occupational disposition of would-be reformers is much more hazardous to accommodate the Sovereignty of the people against their own personal interests. The reason is that such accommodation and adjustment of the provisions would be inimical to the very elite interests of the Constitutional reformers. This has been all along a self-serving game in Constitutional reform, since independence.  If we are to get anywhere, the reformers will first have to be reformed.

The ramble, as it seems above, is to stress the point that although the purpose of law and order is to serve the sovereign people, in reality, that is just not happening and the people are being duped.

Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII distracted the citizens of France from demanding democracy, by sending its army to wage wars in foreign lands and bringing back the loot.

How long will the Government keep riding the crest of the wave that propelled it to power? Widespread disillusionment has set in and that wave is now a spent force. It is, make it or break it, time for the Government.

Until one or the other happens, only the Nidhos: nidahas – Dhos: Sadhos, mantra will toll the knell.

(The writer is a Retired Senior Superintendent of Police.
He can be contacted at
TP- 077 44 751 44)


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