Karuwalagaswewa Pradeshiya Sabha Deputy Chairman Chaminda Ruwansiri Perera last week made an attempt to prevent the arrest of some of his supporters who were illegally transporting sand. When he failed to prevent the police action, as a mark of protest, he got on to the back of the Landmaster tractor illegally loaded with sand. He [...]


Politicos, big and small, believe they are above the law in Lanka

UPFA says action will be taken only after guilt is proved

Karuwalagaswewa Pradeshiya Sabha Deputy Chairman Chaminda Ruwansiri Perera last week made an attempt to prevent the arrest of some of his supporters who were illegally transporting sand.

When he failed to prevent the police action, as a mark of protest, he got on to the back of the Landmaster tractor illegally loaded with sand. He got down from the vehicle only after kicking and slapping one of the constables who was riding with the arrested driver.
Further down the Puttalam-Anuradapura main road, Mr. Perera’s supporters had blocked the road with a lorry and waited for the arrested Landmaster tractor.

Karuwalagaswewa Pradeshiya Sabha Deputy Chairman Chaminda Ruwansiri Perera. Pic by Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe

When the two-man police team and the arrested group reached the road block, one constable came under attack from Perera and his supporters. Unable to control the situation SI Pathirana, who was following the Landmaster on his motor cycle, fired into the air to disperse the crowd and save his man from getting assaulted.

The group with the arrested men got away with the Landmaster. The police were able to arrest Mr. Perera only the following day, Saturday June 7, at around 1.30 in the morning at his residence with the help of a large police team.

Around 7 in the morning on the same day, Civil Aviation Minister Priyankara Jayaratne marched into the police station to demand police bail for the errant local politician. By then a large group of Mr. Perera’s supporters had gathered outside the police station, protesting against the arrest. Faced with the wrath of the big politician, police gave in and granted police bail to Mr. Perera but four others who were arrested along with the deputy chairman were produced before a magistrate and remanded.

It was revealed in courts when Mr. Perera appeared before the magistrate on Monday that the police had changed the ‘B’ report to grant police bail when he was arrested. The magistrate chastised the police for attempting to mislead the court after succumbing to external influences. He also severely reprimanded the police for not carrying out their duty and for not even standing up to defend their own officers. The magistrate showed no remorse in sending Mr. Perera to remand prison till the next Monday (tomorrow). After the police were severely criticised for their actions or the lack of it, police arrested 15 people in connection with the protest that was staged outside the police station on June 7.

The Karuwalagaswewa incident is one of many where politicians defy the law. In the last two weeks five other similar incidents were reported from around the country. Despite promises by the main political parties to discipline their out-of-control politicians, many politicians both senior and junior alike seem to believe that they are above the law.

Deputy Minister Hemal Gunasekara was also in the thick of controversy after he was accused of getting a police officer to kneel down for booking his ministerial driver over a traffic offence. Two days after the incident on the highway the policeman was also assaulted and his car set ablaze. Police has initiated a disciplinary inquiry regarding the officer in question while the deputy minister has vehemently denied allegations leveled against him and claims that he was the real victim as the policeman who served the papers was rude and threatening.

While Minister Gunasekara was battling to gain sympathy over his alleged victimisation, Deputy Minister Sanath Jayasuriya was involved in batting a different type of innings in the premises of the Ruhuna Campus. Better known for his blasts on the cricketing field, the former idol took to the streets with ‘villagers’ to attack the students in the Ruhuna University. Despite being photographed with the goons who forcefully entered the university and assaulted a number of students Deputy Minister Jayasuriya denied being present when the incident happened. However, later the ‘villagers’ said that Minister Jayasuriya did not know the details about the event but was there only to support the ‘villagers’ demand to hold the Deyata Kirula exhibition in the campus premises.

Police made no effort to arrest Eraj Fernando, the gun wielding Mayor of Hambantota for attacking the team of UNP Members of Parliament who went to inspect Mattala airport.

Mayor Fernando, surrendered to the police weeks later and was released after his statement was recorded. The politician was caught on camera with a pistol in hand, charging towards the UNP MPs. Disciplinary action against him or any of the law breaking members is yet to be taken by the United People’s Freedom Alliance.

The UPFA will take disciplinarily action only against their members if they have been proven guilty of the accusation, John Seneviratne, Cabinet Minister and senior member of the UPFA told the Sunday Times. As investigations carried out by the police and judicial procedures could take years to complete this may mean that the errant UPFA members will walk free despite their alleged offences. “I can’t think of any disciplinary action being taken by the party at this point, but the party will have to adopt a policy under which all politicians will have to abide by the laws of the country,” he said.

However Minister Seneviratne agreed that some ruling party members of the Pradeshiya Sabhas act with no regard for the laws of the country.

“I agree there are lapses. These members are not politically mature. The party has adopted a policy that in future no individual found to be guilty of any offence will be given nomination,” he said.

The move, however, will not affect the current members of the Pradeshiya Sabhas, as the party policy is to give nominations to all its sitting members, Mr. Seneviratne admitted.

Minister Seneviratne also pointed out that the police should execute their duty with responsibility and without bias. Pointing out that the police also become ‘a law unto themselves’ where individuals arrested are shot dead without explanation, he said politicians are not solely to blame.

When the police work with a bias and don’t record the complaints of the politicians, then they deal with the issues on their own,” he said.

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