he incident in which Deputy Minister of Co-operatives and Internal Trade Hemal Gunasekara’s driver was imposed a spot fine by a policeman for driving the vehicle with the Minister in it at high speed and the follow-up incidents are a good case study to identify the way the law is implemented selectively in this country.
According to reports the vehicle in which the Minister was driven to Colombo had exceeded the speed limit of the Southern Expressway, violating traffic regulations. The Minister himself admits that his vehicle had been driven at a speed of 141 km per hour whereas the maximum speed allowed on the Expressway is 100 km per hour. He had said he advised the driver to speed-up since he wanted to go to Parliament to attend an important debate.
Days later the policeman who had imposed the spot fine on the Minister’s driver had been assaulted by an armed group and his car had been set on fire. The policeman accused the Minister’s men of the attack and the Minister simply denied it, asking whether a man can assault people after a by-pass surgery. It is true that there is no proof that it was the Minister’s men who had assaulted the policeman and at the same time no one accused the Minister of personally assaulting the policeman and settting his car on fire.
However, what would have happened - had Gunasekara not been a deputy minister and accused of assaulting or planning to assault a policeman and his car? Wouldn’t the police have taken him into custody? Or sometimes taken him to show hidden weapons since he had assaulted or been instrumental in assaulting one of their lot?
Deputy Minister Gunasekara’s vehicle was said to have had a forged number plate at the time of the incident. Interestingly, police had found this out only after one of the policemen was assaulted.What if the person in question had not been a deputy minister?
On the other hand,what would have happened had a man other than a policeman obstructed a deputy minister’s vehicle and been assaulted by people said to be the deputy minister’s henchmen? Would the police try to find out the assailants; would they have found out that the number plate of the vehicle in which the minister travelled in was a fake one?
This is not all. When some people, wealthy or influential, are suspected or accused of some illegal activity they are invited to the police station for a statement, while others suspected or accused of the same are handcuffed and dragged to the police station and sometimes beaten up in public.
Some people are put in cells only with a canvass sheet to sleep on when they are remanded while some others who get the same order from the court are directly sent to the prison hospital where they are provided with a bed. Sometimes they are allowed to occupy a room at the Merchants’ Ward at the Colombo National Hospital. Even in court the attorneys call the witnesses and suspects or accused “thamun” or “yushmatha” in Sinhala while some others are called “Oba” or ‘obathuma.”
Deputy Minister Gunasekara himself had said after this incident that he was the only minister who had pleaded guilty and paid the fine, which might be true. However, does his boastful comment mean that he had been the only politician who had violated traffic rules in history? His comment was not contested yet by any politician, and that points to the fact of how the law is enforced on politicians and the ordinary people with whose hard-earned tax money the police are paid.