What is unfolding on the political front reminds us of the J. R. Jayewardene era when trade union struggles, including the 1980 general strike, were brutally crushed and the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord and draconian laws foisted on the public while national assets were sold for a song. However, the present-day rulers have gone a step further; they have surpassed JRJ who could only toy with the idea of rolling back the electoral map. He held a referendum in lieu of a general election in 1982 however rigged it may have been. But, today, elections have been put off indefinitely on some flimsy pretext in blatant violation of people’s franchise. The Old Fox promised us a righteous society, of all things, and his followers in the present dispensation have pledged to usher in good governance (yahapalanaya).
As if trouble on the political front were not enough, disturbing news from the North makes people who abhor terrorism suffer from nightmares and flashbacks. There have been several attacks on police and armed forces personnel in that part of the country during the last two years or so. No sooner had a police sergeant, providing security to a judge, been shot dead in Jaffna than a gang armed with sharp weapons attacked two policemen on patrol, injuring them seriously at Kopai on Sunday.
Several suspects have been arrested, we are told. IGP Pujith Jayasundera rushed to Jaffna yesterday and had talks with the police top brass stationed there. It is hoped that they will assess the situation properly and adopt remedial measures.
These incidents seem to follow a similar pattern which presages trouble for national security when one examines them closely. A sinister attempt is apparently being made in some quarters to provoke a backlash and plunge the former war zone into chaos. Mob attacks on the law enforcement officers, carrying out their legitimate duties such as preventing illegal sand mining and conducting random checks on suspicious vehicles seem to be aimed at stopping the writ of the state from running in the North once again. This is a worrisome proposition.
True, there have been clashes between police/security forces and civilians in peacetime elsewhere. Policemen have died at the hands of underworld elements and the army has shot some protesting civilians dead. But, the fact remains that there is no threat of terrorism in those parts of the country. The government has to pay special attention to the attacks on police and security forces in the North in that there have been not-so-surreptitious attempts to drum up support for the LTTE rump. Some politicians are openly espousing the LTTE’s macabre cause and commemorating dead Tiger leaders.
The government should not lose sight of the fact that attacks on police were a precursor to the northern uprising which developed into a full-blown war. A carefully orchestrated campaign seems to be underway to have the police and the armed forces confined to barracks in the North by unleashing violence against them systematically so that disruptive elements could have free rein.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the other day, in Parliament, spoke in favour of coercive methods the government had adopted to crush the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation strike on the grounds that it was duty bound to maintain essential services. If only the TNA leaders had spoken in that manner while the LTTE was controlling most parts of the North and the East, denying the people access to essential services! Maintaining law and order is also an essential service and the government ought to get cracking to bring to justice all those who attack police and armed forces personnel in the North or in any other part of the country.
One must not be paranoid, but it will be a mistake for the government to try to wish away brewing trouble in the former war zone and muddle along.