Why do buses burn?
An editorial in a state controlled newspaper
last week came out strongly against 'Mob
Justice' when commenting on the burning of a
bus by the irate public of Anuradhapura
following an accident between the bus and a
three wheeler, where the driver of the three
wheeler was killed.
Mob justice, any time anywhere, should be
condemned but there are reasons why normally
peace-loving people take the law into their
hands and decide to execute instant justice.
The editorial did beat about the bush as to
the causes such as: 'the knowledge that the
offenders may go scot free or be let off
lightly by the court which may fuel their
desire for vengeance,' 'our penal system
lacks teeth to effectively deal with such
offences,' but failed to identify the fount
of this lawlessness, which we will identify
later in these comments.
Rage of impotence
The people who have taken to attacking
vehicles that kill people on the highways
are usually peace-loving citizens who have
remained calm when accidents happen and help
the victims by rushing them to hospitals,
even at their expense. Why should they be
assaulting or even killing members of bus
crews and setting the vehicles ablaze?
These are people who virtually live by the
wayside - pavement hawkers, small boutique
keepers, sweep ticket sellers and the like.
These monstrous vehicles rush past them, not
caring for human or animal life or limb, at
tremendous speeds and not giving a damn to
what are called the laws of the land. And
they appear to be immune from any kind of
prosecution by the police.
It is the rage at the impotence of the law
enforcement authorities to bring justice to
these 'terrorists' behind wheels that leads
to arson. Even in the Wild West criminals
were lynched when the sheriff was not
present to bring the criminals in.
What the public usually see is traffic
policemen with their white bands hiding
behind traffic lights, usually under the
shade of a tree, nabbing drivers who have
jumped the amber light or crossing double
lines. Certainly, not obeying traffic lights
and crossing double lines are offences but
what of the more serious offences like
driving at breakneck speed on narrow,
crowded highways making pedestrians jump
into drains and other vehicles to swing
aside to avoid collisions?
Mobile traffic policemen are visible but not
seen going after the miscreants. They are
often seen dropping their wives at work or
children at school. That is only natural
when much higher placed officials and
officers of all state services are seen
doing the same thing.
The police force, though grown in strength
in recent times, is no longer a disciplined
and efficient force. Some senior police
officials are not hesitant to admit it. It
has been a process of deterioration down the
years. The Inspector General of Police is
usually held responsible for the state of
the police force. But should he?
Police chiefs given extensions of service
have become puppets of the all powerful
Executive President who is also the
Commander-in-Chief of the police and all
armed services. Though this is the law,
today under the 17th Amendment to the
Constitution, the power of appointing the
IGP stems from the Constitutional Council.
Constitutional Council stalled
The President in not appointing a member to
represent minority parties to the
Constitutional Council is thereby stalling
the functioning of the council and the
appointment of independent commissions for
the police, public service, judiciary and
the Elections Department. Instead, he as
President has been making appointments that
are the responsibility of the Constitutional
Council and the independent commissions.
Having taken over powers of the
Constitutional Council he has to bear the
responsibilities for the appointments and
the functioning of those services - police,
public service, judiciary and the Elections
Department. This has gone on for two long
years and the present state of the country
could be attributed to stalling of the
independent commissions from functioning.
Thus when buses burn on the streets due to
utter lawlessness and the police can't or
don't do anything about it, the
responsibility should lie with our Executive
President, Mahinda Percy Rajapakse.
Whether this chaos and disorder is in
accordance with the Mahinda Chinthana, the
apostles of the faith should inform us. The
UNP has at last awoken to the need for the
implementation of the law that has already
been enacted and is now threatening to
impeach President Rajapakse on the issue.
Many NGOs including the Organisation of
Professional Associations (OPA) too are
demanding its implementation. Will Mahinda
Percy and his brothers who rule the country
Today, the non-implementation of this
all-important constitutional amendment has
imposed severe burdens on the people.
Residents in the suburbs and even
have to employ watchers or security guards
to prevent daylight break-ins. It costs at
least Rs. 10,000 a month to employ such a
person at a time when the cost of living is
going through the roof. Kidnapping,
abductions and murders continue as never
before in the country. Little wonder some in
the international community are saying: 'If
you can't protect your people we could.'
The President is contributing much to the
image of lawlessness in the country. The
transfer of Piyasena Ranasinghe, the
director general of the Bribery Commission
without giving any reasons, and also the
transfer of ASP Premashantha, the
officer-in-charge of the Assets Division of
the Commission has contributed much to the
image of an emerging order of rule by
Ordinary people too are affected by this
chaos and disorder. When we drive along the
Nawala-Nugegoda road which has turned out to
be a race track, we see monstrous buses
hurtling towards us with pious expressions
such as 'Budhu Saranai, Devipihitai'
(Blessing of the Buddha and protection of
the gods) or 'Jesus Saves' written boldly
across windscreens. We have been inclined
not to place our trust in the spiritual and
divine at such moments and instead
frantically swung our vehicles to the side
of the road running the risk of knocking
down pedestrians andgoing into deep drains.
We need help from terra firma more than
spiritual or divine assistance. Can Mahinda
Chinthana save us?