By Lucien Rajakarunanayake
How did Sri Lanka get so distant from global realities, so soon?
Why is a protest near an embassy of the United States a matter for such concern for the Police to even obtain a court order against, when the whole democratic world is carrying on such protests?
One may not be a supporter of the Frontline Socialists, who have a largely unsocialist record in their political performance in recent years. But, their decision to protest near the US Embassy, or any other place in the city, against the current US policies especially relating to the Police, brings them into some reality with the current rise in public feelings on police brutality and state manipulation of the police; the call of democracy, spreading from the United States.
Was the Sri Lanka Police more concerned about the trend of near global protests against police brutality and the moves of the police against particular minorities. Did they fear this trend would have a stronger impact on public feeling and opinion here, that they had to be so tough, and in fact brutal too, in dealing with the Colombo protesters?
The Police authorities should have known that the huge and continued protests in the US for more than two weeks was related to the killing of a Black American citizen, by a choke hold on him by a policeman who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, until he finally said “I can’t breathe’.
The huge protests in the US, especially in the main cities in that country, such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago and so many others, and in the capital of Washington DC, was all against police brutality, and the support it received from the governing authorities for nearly a century. These protests soon led to similar action in countries such as the UK, France, Belgium, Germany and other European states, as well as in Australia – all of them recognized democracies. These protests took place in their capitals and other cities, and in front of the US embassies in those countries.
Can the Inspector General of Police, or even an authority higher than him, let us know what reason there was to prevent such a pro-democratic demonstration in Colombo? Is the US embassy in Colombo a place of special diplomatic sanctity, a place of political or police veneration, that citizens must be prevented from exercising their democratic and fundamental right of protest, if it is near or associated with the Embassy of Diplomatic Sanctity.
The TV news about this move by the Police showed how contemptuous the Police was about the decent handling of protesters. There were many images of clear brutality, vocal insults to the protesters, improper handling of women protesters, scornful and disrespectful attitude to citizens of Sri Lanka. It was much worse than police in the US, where some even joined the protesters against the Police, by kneeling down with them?
Did the Police action to shield or defend the US embassy in Colombo, have anything to do with the pro-Donald Trump politics and governance in Sri Lanka today? Trump’s threat to call the US Armed Forces to support the Police and the National Guard during the Washington DC protests, has now gained the wrath of the leading current and retired personnel of US Defence authorities. The Police action against democratic demonstrators this week raised questions whether the political strategists in Sri Lanka, now planning their manipulations for the coming General Election campaign to benefit Lotus Bud politics and Pohottuva Governance, are also thinking of continuing with such manipulations of the democratic process after elections, with a parliamentary majority – even without a two-thirds majority; or the use of Presidential Power to subvert the democratic process.
We had the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Maj. Gen (Retd) Kamal Gunaratne come with a great example of the Pohottuva regime’s support for democracy, soon after the recent police brutality. He reminded the people that the present government had in the past several months since the presidential election, the police had not used one baton to strike the people, had not not used any huge water spray against the people, and had not used a single tear gas cannon against the people. He did not say that more than three months of this period was one under curfew, and the people had enough pain from the Covid-19 lockdowns, without needing any baton, water spray or tear gas.
Did the police brutality in Colombo, against democratic demonstrators, show the democracy of the Retired Uniforms that Sri Lanka is moving to?
Our Police have handled demonstrations of many types in the past seven decades and more since independence. Not all of it has been the best in democtaric values and standards. We are not unaware of police brutality and violations of the law by its uniformed ‘defenders’. What is important today is to know whether we are moving to a new age of Police Brutality and contempt for the democratic processes; at a time when the wider democratic world, yes in the West from where we obtained our democracy, is moving to better control of the Police, better training of the Police, and the widening of the Democratic Process.
What the Black Lives Matter movement in the US is doing is to fight racism and related threats to Democracy that are glaringly displayed by the Police. It is time for the Police and Defence authorities in Sri Lanka to understand this trend in global affairs, and not hide themselves under the mud of anti-democratic brutality, especially by the Police – the expected defenders of the people – and lead us into the fascist dominance that Donald Trump and his supporters are seeking today.
The Police have been outspoken on how they sought to prevent protesters near the US embassy from breaking the guidelines on social distancing and other requirements against Covid-19. Is it bad police memory that made them forget how no such action was taken at the recent politically organized and controlled funeral in the Hill Country? Was even one violator of the Health Guidelines at this funeral brought to justice or to good social thinking?
Interestingly, both the Frontline Socialists and Covid-19 have jointly brought the Kollupitiya Police, 30 persons with OIC included, into social restrictions, with them being moved into a quarantine centre for the next 14 days. It is nature’s own display of the need for proper Police control in this country, as the democratic world is crying louder for today!
Courtesy: The Island