What is the Law or Who is the Law? - Editorial

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The Rajapaksa regime - finding itself or plunging itself into crisis after crisis, conflict after conflict and conflicts within conflicts - has sparked off the latest national and international row over the arrest and detention of the Tamil Muslim Alliance leader, Azath Sally.

On Sunday Mr. Sally’s outspoken daughter Amina wrote an emotionally dramatic letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. She said her father was on a death fast since his arrest last Friday and was refusing to drink even water though he was suffering from diabetis and other ailments. Ms. Sally said the President had been a close friend of her family for decades and she made an appeal to him to come and save her father from death by giving him a glass of water.

While the President’s response is awaited Justice Minister and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader apparently stunned the Rajapaksa regime by strongly attacking it for arresting and detaining Mr. Sally. Addressing a public meeting on Sunday  the Justice Minister strongly condemned the detention of Mr. Sally and demanded that he be released immediately.

He said as Minister of Justice in the UPFA government, he could not see any justification for the arrest and detention of Mr. Salley though Terrorist Investigation Division officers were indicating some vague charge of promoting Islamic terrorism. The Justice Minister said that if the same law was applied, scores of others in the majority and minority communities should be arrested for promoting racial hatred or disharmony.

Politically Mr. Sally has been a poll vaulter like so many other politicians including ministers. He was first in the UNP and became Deputy Mayor of Colombo, then crossed to the Rajapaksa camp and for some reason or apparently because he did not get what he wanted he became a major critic of the regime and formed a Tamil Muslim Alliance. Mr. Sally’s personal credentials, aims or agendas apart, the issue here is the law and the fundamental right to equality before the law. What or more precisely who is the law in Sri Lanka? Before the famous French revolution, the notorious King Louis XVI when he was asked a similar question gave a infamous reply by saying “I am the Law”. Independent political and social analysts are disturbed as to whether Sri Lanka is being dragged towards such a calamity.

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in a widely viewed TV interview on Sunday said her perspective was that the leader or leadership of the country could by example bring out the best in politicians or the worst in them. She said she believed that every human being essentially had two natures - a good selfless, honest and caring nature and another nature that was deceptive and selfish, hypocritical or corrupt. Ms. Kumaratunga claimed that during her 11 years as Executive President she had to a large extent brought out the best in ministers, MPs and other politicians. Whenever one of them broke the law she took tough action. The former President said that tragically what was happening now was that the worst in politicians was being brought out and she believed the leader or the leadership was responsible for this. That was the reason why Sri Lanka was facing major national, international and economic crises.

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