Rationality and law and order
There is an unfortunate tendency among some sections
to react irrationally to current law and order questions,
particularly to those relating to unrest in local universities.
This irrationality takes the form of lumping together all the
seeming security issues confronting this country today and in
seeing in this cluster of issues a very grave law and order
crisis. In short, there is a tendency to be sensationalist in
the interpretation of these matters.
We call for a rational response to these questions which
touch on the national interest very closely. As we see it, there
is absolutely no need to be sensationalist in the interpretation
of some current developments. True, not all is well in some of
our universities but this does not translate into a grave law
and order crisis. Higher Education Minister S. B. Dissanayake
was quoted as saying that a JVP faction committed to armed
militancy is in an endeavour to influence the undergraduate
community. However, local opinion would be wrong in seeing in
this statement the perception that mass social unrest is in the
offing. This would amount to reading non-existent meanings into
the minister's view of these developments.
It would be also grossly incorrect to see some link between
the unrest in some of our universities and the possibility of
the LTTE continuing to pose some security threats to Sri Lanka.
It is clearly not the case that all of Sri Lanka's 'enemies' are
succeeding in triggering domestic political and social unrest
within her. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as a state
functionary with his 'ear to the ground' is obliged to inform
the country about these possibilities but he was not at all
alarmist when he spoke on the subject the other day, while
delivering a public lecture at the SLFI on national security and
As the Defence Secretary explained, there is only a remote
possibility of what is left of the LTTE in this country and
outside posing security issues to Sri Lanka, since the Tigers
have been militarily devastated. It is unfortunate, however, if
a sensationalist slant is given to these observations. All that
the Defence Secretary was pin pointing was the need for constant
security preparedness. His pronouncements should not be
misinterpreted as meaning that the LTTE is back in business.
We need to dwell awhile on these matters because national
security and connected issues must be commented on with a high
sense of responsibility and with the greatest rectitude in
thinking. Apparently, these norms are observed more in the
breach among some influential sections and we consider it
incumbent on us to call attention to the potential harm
irresponsible comment on these issues could bring about.
The possible threats to national security just mentioned need
to be handled by the state with the greatest judiciousness,
inasmuch as all those who take it on themselves to comment on
these matters must to do so with a high degree of discretion and
objectivity. One of the worst things these sections could do is
to comment irresponsibly on these issues with a view to scoring
some points against the government. While these tactics may pay
off in the short term, grave harm could be done in the long run
to the national interest. Besides, opinion makers should guard
against taking pronouncements by state functionaries in
particular, outside their relevant contexts and commenting on
All in all, the public interest must be placed above
sectional and personal interests. We do not see how the
legitimate interests of anyone could be served through the
creation of an atmosphere of uncertainty and suspense in the
country. The encouragement of lawlessness in the country could
only give rise to destabilizing currents which in turn could
lead to developments which would be to the detrimental of all.
We in Sri Lanka are not strangers to such deleterious trends.
We have seen how lawlessness has backfired on all in the
past. In one such bout of chaos in the late eighties the
totality of the university system collapsed. Hopefully, the
lessons of history will be learnt in earnest.