Dealing with the aftermath | Daily News

Dealing with the aftermath

The firm resolve demonstrated by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to go after the culprits of the recent incidents in Kandy has to be commended. In the past, the perpetrators of similar incidents were allowed to go unpunished after the initial hot air let out by the authorities, with the result that the unruly elements were emboldened to repeat their mayhem, in more virulent forms. The Aluthgama incidents spring to mind where the arsonists went scot-free, with the government of the day not taking any concrete action to punish the culprits.

Speaking at a special meeting convened at the Kandy Kachcheri on Saturday in the aftermath of the mayhem, Premier Wickremesinghe said incidents of this nature would not recur if only punishment was meted out to the wrongdoers. If this was not done there would be a repetition of such incidents. As such, the law will be strictly implemented against the wrongdoers irrespective of their status or position. He said the investigations would not be confined to the appointment of a Commission. The Government would go ahead with its duties and responsibilities without waiting until the Commission announced its decision, he said.

The determination of the Premier to get to the bottom of the incidents, no doubt, is bound to act as an impetus to the law enforcement to hunt down the perpetrators without let or hindrance. The practice hitherto had been for the police to let things die off after the initial noise, following incidents of this nature. The victims were made to suffer in silence after their hopes were raised. It is in this context that the Premier's statement that all victims of the Kandy and Ampara violence would be adequately compensated would no doubt be a great solace to those who were at the receiving end. The PM has already ordered that the loan installments of the victims be suspended which would also be a big relief to them after what they have already been through.

It is not only financial assistance and other compensation to rebuild their lives alone that matters. They should also be helped in lifting their spirits after the harrowing ordeal they were subjected to. Religious leaders could be of immense help in this respect. It is also gratifying to note how the Maha Sangha acted in this respect in the aftermath of the incidents. Contrary to the hate mongering which we have come to associate with certain hardline Buddhist clergy at such times what was witnessed was a collective rallying call by all members of the Sangha to their followers to go to the assistance of the victims. Some members of the Sangha even went to the extent of providing protection to mosques in Kandy during the Friday prayers, a gesture no doubt would have gone a long away in rekindling the spirit of brotherhood and amity among both communities. The move made by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to meet the leaders of all political party leaders together with religious leaders too would send the right message to all that all parties were united in restoring goodwill and harmony between the communities and that the misdeeds of a few should not stand in the way of fostering good relations.

Be that as it may, all measures should be taken by the government to ensure no repetition of the type of incidents that were witnessed in Kandy and Ampara. The police should be issued with strict instructions to move in immediately at the first sign of trouble and deal severely with the agent provocateurs. The move by Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena to set up District Security Committees to handle such situations too is a step in the right direction. According to the Minister, all Divisional Secretaries will be given instructions by District Secretaries led by the district security committees on planning and coordinating on the manner of dealing with emergencies, serious crime and other occurrences which are likely to endanger peace and tranquility in the district.

One of the key elements that was lacking in foreseeing the Kandy incidents was said to be intelligence and the police was squarely blamed for this lapse. Hence it is vital that attention be paid towards this important aspect. According to Colombo District MP Mujibur Rahman the main suspect now in custody had been sowing the seeds of communal hatred for the last two years and yet no attention was paid to his (MP's) complaints by the authorities. Had the conduct of this individual been brought under close scrutiny prior to this, the damage could have been contained to a greater degree, was his lament.

It is time that some genuine soul searching be done by the concerned authorities in coming to grips with dealing with communal tensions that would have gone below the surface for the time being but is likely emerge from time to time, as has been the experience in the recent past. Politicians of all hues should exercise caution without giving vent to their emotions that could incite extremist elements into violent action. Above all, they should unite, shedding political differences, in bringing together all communities in peaceful co-existence.


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