The ‘Witch’ hunt and meting out justice

If ever there is a Ministry of "Witch hunting" and there be a competition for the most active ministry, it will undoubtedly win the first prize. Some of the "witches" of the pre 93 and pre 94 era are back in the fold and are treated as sacred cows.

Since 1970 this process has gone on. The post 1977 election scenario saw the witch hunt in full swing where the security forces were supposed to have been given three weeks of light duty or off duty by the then Prime minister JRJ who proudly proclaimed the folding of the electoral map. At the rate at which the witch hunt is proceeding now it will fast surpass that of 1977. However the Minister of Interior has denied this but it is left to the intelligent observer to decide on the accuracy. All these hunts are proceeding while Sri Lanka’s deadliest "witch" is being pampered and petted by the UNF government and is treated like their lapdog even being given state television coverage to insult and demean the UNF government.

On the question of meting out justice there appears to be a mighty hurry to mete out justice on a selective basis. The politically viable incidents taking precedence. In the early Eelam wars the LTTE had kangaroo courts and summary justice like the lamp post killings. This was when the Sri Lanka government decree did not hold in the North. In 1988 in the JVP uprising there was no rule of law by the state. The security forces resorted to extrajudicial killings while the accused offenders were firmly in their custody. The horror chambers of Batalanda, the mass graves of Suriyakande, the Wawukelle murders and the Embilipitiya students disappearance all stand testimony to the society then. Those who were responsible for these crimes are still at large.

The arrest and disappearances of the JVP hierarchy were bereft of any form of judicial procedure. In a democratic and civilised society any person in police custody has an entitlement to the judicial process. What we saw in this era was torture and summary justice through the barrel of a gun.

We are now happy to see legal processes being speeded, filling up our jails to capacity. This is unsatisfactory but preferred to the extrajudicial killings in the past.
Arvinda Gautamadasa