The IGP must explain

Daily News Editorial

The comment made by a high ranking police officer that the police fear arresting Ven Galagodatte Gnanasara thera due to fear that this may cause a public uprising no doubt would be cause for concern to all law abiding citizens of this country. The remark by the unnamed police officer, which was carried in a national daily, has not yet being denied by the IGP or the police media spokesman at the time this is being written. The Ven. Gnanasara has mysteriously disappeared from the public eye for the past several weeks and has yet to answer summons from court over a number of cases against him, mostly related to hate speech, and one relating to Contempt of Court.

Are the police telling the public that they cannot produce the monk, against whom a court warrant has been issued, all because it fears this will cause public unrest? How can the law, which is no respecter of persons be implemented evenhandedly when the very enforces of the law baulk at arresting an offender merely on the grounds that this would cause a breach of the peace. It is the very antics of the fugitive monk that is threatening to cause a breach of the peace through communal and religious unrest. No less a personage than Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has called for the arrest all those responsible for fomenting racial tensions and has vowed even to introduce new laws to deal with the offenders if the prevailing laws lack sufficient bite.

Needless to say, it will be a gross injustice to the other citizens who are being subject to the strict rule of the law if the law is implemented selectively due to one reason or other. What is more, it is indeed shocking that such an admission is emanating from the law enforcement, no less, which will make the general public look askance at the whole process of the law’s implementation.

Besides, this is not the first time that a member of the Buddhist clergy has fallen foul of the law, and on such occasions the full force of the law was implemented. Among the 14 suspects recently taken into custody for inciting anti-religious violence was a monk. Not only that, two members of the Buddhist clergy and an Anglican priest were placed in death row in the past, with one of them (Talduwe Somarama) executed. There was no public unrest or breach of the peace, though it has to be admitted that the circumstances are different. It is also common these days to see monks being arrested in their hoards and bundled into prison vans, with no backlash reported anywhere in the country. What will be the position, if, following the new stand taken by the police, mischief makers in the garb of saffron robes run amok setting the country in flames? Is the police going to look the other way fearing any action on their part would add to the mayhem?

We are not certain if the IGP endorses this sentiment expressed by one of his officers. If not, he should come clear and set the record straight. There can be no ambiguity in the implementation of the law. It is not just the Ven. Gnanasara.

There could be instances where even the arrest of prominent politicians of the last government could lead to public unrest- at least in the minds of the police. Therefore going by the latest logic of the police (or at least some of its officers) no arrest will be made of these politicians and all cases of corruption and other misdeeds will be swept under the carpet only because their arrests could lead to a public uprising. (THE POINT -TW)

The government should get cracking down and deal firmly with inciters of ethno-religious violence. The Prime Minister has already read the riot act in this regard. A yellow robe should not be a license for one to take the law into his hands nor make him immune to arrest, for that matter. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa handled Ven.Gnanasara with kid gloves and paid dearly for his folly. The Yahapalanaya Government will do well not to repeat the mistake.