No room for complacency | Daily News

No room for complacency

As this is being written reports emerging from a much embattled Kandy indicate that things were returning to normal. The 24 hour curfew that was to run till 4 pm yesterday was lifted at 10 am, which also suggests that the police and the security forces had brought the situation under control. However, the government cannot afford to drop its guard. Although things have calmed on the surface there could be simmering tensions waiting to explode. Hence, the police and the forces should continue their presence in the area, at least for sometime. The Emergency too should be continued with, though it should not be extended more than is necessary, lest this sends the wrong signals to investors. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, no doubt, is fully cognizant of this and is bound to act accordingly.

While the healing process will take time, steps should, no doubt, be taken at rapprochement of the Sinhalese and the Muslims in the affected areas. It is best that religious leaders from both sides take upon this task rather than any politicians getting involved.Already, politicos from all sides are taking up positions and giving their own interpretations as to causes that led to the mayhem, with fingers too being liberally pointed. Joint Opposition firebrand Wimal Weerawansa told parliament that the incident was stage managed by the UNP leader as a diversionary tactic to wriggle out of the No Confidence Motion against him, while Dullas Alahapperuma has taken up a holier than thou posture in suddenly taking the Muslim community into his bosom. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, not to be outdone, has described the communal clashes as a government ploy to introduce the new constitution to divide the country at the behest of foreign powers. Is the former President trying to make the public believe that the victim lorry driver and the Muslim thugs who fatally injured him following a purely personal argument, that sparked the violence, had, at the behest of the UNP, conspired to stage the incident so that the government would be able to bring in a new constitution and divide the country?

Equally, it cannot be denied that the incident was seized upon by political elements to create mayhem ala a July '83. Here too, the conspirators could not have known in advance that Prabhakaran would set off that fateful landmine, in Thinneveli, that killed 13 soldiers. But the termites came out the woodwork in next to no time, with the mob even armed with prepared lists of all Tamil homes.

This is why the government should get to the bottom of the conspiracy, and, ascertain how the rabble was put together in next to no time, if it is to avert a repetition of the unfortunate incidents. In this regard the statement made by Cabinet Spokesman Dr. Rajitha Senaratne should be treated with all seriousness and acted upon swiftly.

Addressing journalists at the post Cabinet media briefing Dr. Senaratne said it has come to light that two MPs, four local government councillors, recently elected from a new party, a Bikkhu, known for his strong links to the pohottuwa, and, an electoral organiser, from the same party, were behind the whole conspiracy to incite communal violence, following the lorry driver incident. He said they had also come to know that the mobs were complete outsiders, transported to the area in buses and vehicles and that one of the MPs, representing the hill country, was directing operations, via his mobile phone. The minister said speedy action will be taken against the miscreants.

It is hoped that the minister will act true to his word and bring those responsible, before the law. We have seen that, in the past too, the names of politicians had transpired in connection with similar acts of violence, and, the identical pledge made by the powers that be, only to be consigned to the forgotten things of limbo, with the passage of time. Incitement of communal passions is far too serious an offence to be similarly treated and the minister should follow through his statement with concrete action. Who knows, it could also shed light on who was behind the recent spate of street protests, involving students, that brought much public opprobrium against the government. It is also bound to unravel the entire political conspiracy to put the government into difficulty, and, the masterminds involved.

Now that the flames have been doused, and, public life, reportedly, limping back to normal, in Kandy, it is incumbent on the newly appointed Minister of Law and Order to get a firm grip of things and put in motion a foolproof system to ensure no repetition of the kind of incidents that were witnessed during the past week, in parts of the hill capital, in the future. Steps should be taken to establish a rapid deployment force in every police station, in the country, to act swiftly, at the first sign of trouble. It is alleged that delay on the part of the police to act was the main reason for mob violence to escalate. There are lessons to be learned from the Kandy incidents.


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