|Saturday, 14 August 2004|
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Dispense justice on Samurdhi rip-off
The disappearance of over Rs. 650 million from the Social Security Fund of the Samurdhi Authority during 2002 and 2003, which has led to the arrest and remanding of former Minister Abdul Cader and the decision to net in the 'big fish', those who swindled the poorest of the poor of billions of rupees, has drawn the correct response from the Government.
That is the preparation of legislation to ensure the proper utilization of Samurdhi funds, besides ensuring their safety.
The issues at the heart of the Samurdhi funds scandal which ended in the arrest of the former Minister, should soon come before the courts for arbitration but there is no denying the fact that the relevant funds have been misappropriated.
Accordingly, those appointed to the helm of the Samurdhi Authority by the former UNF Government should be called on to account for these missing funds which are the mainstay of the poorest of the poor in this country.
Thus, the considerable number of Samurdhi recipients are now facing the tragic prospect of going hungry. They have been deprived of their daily sustenance by parasitic elements which have made corruption a way of life.
We therefore call on the authorities to lose no time in nabbing the "big fish" in this dastardly act of embezzlement which has serious implications for the well being of the majority of our people.
We call for the swift activation of the Rule of Law in this situation. The wrong-doers concerned must be prosecuted and made to account for their illegal acts. There shouldn't be any doubts in the minds of the public that justice is being done and that too with the least delay.
Now that a legal framework is being created for the protection of Samurdhi funds, it needs to be demonstrated to the people that such legislation has adequate "teeth" which really do "bite".
Besides, our corruption fighting machinery should be assisted by both the rulers and the ruled to make a sharp dent in the problem of corruption which has reportedly assumed mountainous proportions over the years.
The existing corruption-fighting institutions should be substantially empowered to dispense justice without fear or favour. Besides, they shouldn't be made a victim of power politics.
Over the past two years when corruption in public life was said to be rising to astronomical heights, our corruption fighting mechanisms were virtually in a state of paralysis. Not surprisingly, no efforts were made to restore these institutions to vibrant health.
Come April 2 and the country came under the care of a government which is decidedly pro-people. Accordingly, special care needs to be taken now to ensure that power abuse never emerges again. It is our hope that there wouldn't be any illusions of grandeur in any governing quarters.
Of Police and gangsters
A Daily News headline "Policemen should be ashamed to be overpowered by gangsters" would have interested many readers. The story was about an admonition by a Senior Superintendent of Police to his charges to make use of the 'minimum force' law to tackle any roughneck.
"You cannot eat humble pie if you are conscious of this privilege empowered you by the law, save your dignity and bring honour to the Department," he has said.
We do not know what inspired the SSP to say this. Surely it couldn't have been without reason. One occasionally hears of instances when the boot is on the other foot when an enterprising policeman too ready with his fists meeting his match at the hands of some ordinary thug.
He would also have not forgotten the ignominy suffered by one of his men at the hands of a ministerial offspring where the poor fellow ended with a bruised ear.
But a danger lurks in the erstwhile SSP's statement. There is certainly no limit set to determine this 'minimum force'. Will the SSP's lecture give a license to policemen with itchy fists to use some hapless victim as a punching bag?
What yardstick can be applied for 'minimum force'? Policemen too come in all shapes and sizes and may not know their own strength. In this context, 'minimum force' is very loosely worded. An enterprising policemen following the SSP's instructions to the letter could land himself in hot water.
One often reads of deaths of suspects while in custody. Is this result of 'minimum force' crossing the border ? If it is, then it certainly won't do the dignity and honour of the Police any good.
Time was when the men in khaki did not have to worry about the niceties of 'minimum force'. The very sight of the uniform raised awe and respect even in the mind of hardened criminals. The trademark moustache instilled fear in the blackest of hearts. Old timers recall how the mere appearance of police sent shivers down the spines of local ruffians.
The open economy and the worship of cash opened a new world in which old values died a natural death, transforming society into a heady whirlpool. The police too were caught up in this vortex of change. Gone was the fear, respect and confidence commanded by police.
Maybe the SSP is an old timer and hark to the halcyon days of the police force where his Department was the lord of all it surveyed. He would not in his wildest dreams have bargained for the challenges to the invincibility of his men.
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