Island newspaper in its editorial today examines the current state of Sri Lanka; Sri Lanka is now Singapore style police state the editorial examines
Appended below the full text of the editorial
Sri Lanka is now like Singapore thanks to its current leaders; it, too, has become a police state! The long arm of the law is so ubiquitous that one wonders if armed cops have multiplied like cockroaches during the past several months. The CID is busy doing political work, and so are the state intelligence outfits.
The Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe regime is all out to suppress democratic dissent and unflinchingly deploys the police and the military to crush protests. It is apparently labouring under the delusion that crackdowns on protests will deter the public from staging another uprising and help tame its political rivals and student activists so that it can perpetuate its hold on power.
The police are behaving like the Oprichniki of Ivan the Terrible. They are in overdrive to neutralise political threats to the government and descend on protesters to humour their political masters, who seem to be deriving some perverse pleasure from brutal attacks on protesting citizens.
There arise some situations where protesters, especially university students, overstep their limits and become a public nuisance, compelling the police to use force to disperse them. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has also urged protesters to exercise their rights without inconveniencing others. But why the police set upon protesting students at the Colombo and Kelaniya universities, on Wednesday, defies comprehension.
Those protests were peaceful, and the police could have brought the situation under control without using force. It is only natural that the university teachers have taken up the cudgels for their students’ right to protest, condemned the government, and threatened trade union action in protest against police brutality.
The state-run hospitals are experiencing shortages of life-saving drugs and equipment so much so that the Health Ministry has imposed restrictions on surgical operations performed there. The Treasury insists that it is without funds for elections. Schools and universities have been affected by fund cuts. But the government has enough money to import shiploads of teargas!
A government sans legitimacy seeking to restore political stability ought to tread cautiously. It is a fatal mistake for the incumbent regime to go on the offensive in dealing with public protests. Coercion may seem to work in the short run, but is always counterproductive. Not even the Ranasinghe Premadasa government, which crushed the JVP in the late 1980s, and had countless goon squads working for it, was equal to the task of suppressing democratic dissent.
The economy was healthy and the UNP strong. Premadasa was a popularly elected President enjoying considerable public support as well. But he was no match for People Power. Current President Ranil Wickremesinghe was a senior minister in the Premadasa regime, and cannot be unaware that the violent suppression of dissent is an exercise in futility. The same goes for Mahinda Rajapaksa, who led the Opposition’s protest campaigns from the front during the Premadasa regime, but chose to emulate Premadasa in handling political dissent after securing the coveted presidency.
Speculation is rife that the government will be able to unlock the IMF bailout soon, but its efforts to stabilise the economy, which it itself bankrupted, are bound to fail unless there is political stability. Trade unions are on the warpath, but the government refuses to heed their voice and tries to silence them. Protests and strikes have the potential to snowball and spin out of control as we saw during the last stages of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa rule.
The government is skating on thin ice. Instead of riding roughshod over the Opposition, trade unions and pro-democracy groups including students, it had better get them around the table and address the root causes of their protests if it is keen to defuse tensions in the polity, which is like a simmering volcano. It must allow the Election Commission to conduct the local government polls, which will enable the people to vent their resentment democratically.
Let the police and the military personnel—political generals included—be warned that if they act in contravention of the law when they deal with protesters, they will do so at their own peril. They run the risk of being hauled up before court for their unlawful actions, and will be left without anyone to turn to in such an eventuality.
Source: The Island