The Sunday Times Editorial

9th February 1997

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Wrong target

When the UNP was in office it considered the PA as its principal opponent if not enemy and most things were targetted towards undermining or out-playing the opposition. Today the PA is virtually doing the same thing. Most things including a recent Commission report, are obviously being used to hit the UNP at the polls while the battle against the terrorists of the LTTE is being put to second place. On the opposite page today, a writer gives his viewpoint on the recent controversy over a suspect produced before the Lalith Athulathmudali Commission and the subsequent removal of the head of the Crime Detective Bureau which is the principal anti-terrorist unit of the Police. We do not wish to comment on whether or not the CDB chief and two senior officers acted properly in this matter. It is a case for the judges to decide on. But the three officers removed were closely involved in under-cover work to track down secret LTTE operators or suicide bombers in the city. Their awareness, experience and skills acquired through years of work, cannot easily be replaced. Thus their sudden removal might affect national security. If the problem about these officers had something to do with personal political connections, still they could have been cautioned and given the benefit of the doubt in the highest interest of the nation. If they were found to be anti-national they should, of course be punished. But there is no evidence of that as far as we know. To put it bluntly even their alleged UNP connections could have been overlooked in the face of the fact that they were top notch anti-LTTE fighters.

Corrupt politics

Despite its transition from martial law to democracy, the corruption so rampant in the country, has seemingly turned off the people of Pakistan who appear to have little or no trust in the country's politicians as indicated by the disturbingly low 30 per cent turnout in last Monday's elections. The Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif on paper scored a resounding if not landslide victory, capturing 134 of the 217 National Assembly seats. With support from some like-minded parties Mr. Sharif might be able to muster a two-third majority to challenge the new official role that President Farooq Leghari has given to the military through the Council for Defence and National Security. Mr. Sharif might even consider amending a controversial clause under which the President could fire the government for a variety of reasons. No prime minister in Pakistan has lasted the full term of office. Earlier Mr. Sharif himself was fired and then in November last year the Benazir Bhutto government was fired largely on corruption charges centred on Ms. Bhutto's husband who had earned notoriety as a Minister Ten percent. It seems that the people of Pakistan tolerate so much military interference because they feel the military officers, whatever their other faults may be, are not so corrupt as the party politicians. So much so that even the so-called Mr. Clean Imran Khan who came in with a cricketing googly was given a bigger thrashing than he ever got on the field. It means a majority of Pakistani people, mostly the women, just can't and don't trust politicians who promise so much but produce so little. If the Pakistan election has any lesson or warning for Sri Lanka, it is that if party politicians do not stop playing their dirty games, most people will lose interest in elections. People will come to be resigned to their fate that whichever party is in office it is the same difference. With local elections due in March many people who last time had to choose between the lesser of two rogues are wondering whether their choice this time, their option, would be even more dubious.

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