Political victimization is a heavy word. It brings with it severe consequences for the victim, who mentally undergoes trauma and reflects negatively on the entire state and the government in power.
In my 10 year political career, I have always spoken against all forms of political victimization. Because my family and I have been victims to it too. Since the day I entered Parliament, 10 years ago, I have always been against all forms of violence whether it be caused by the police, state or any other party. I have always respected the will of the people and their right to protest in a peaceful manner, and if laws are broken then they must be dispersed in an equally disciplined way.
Today, I reiterate my comments, that political victimization and police violence is the downfall of any country. During the previous UNP government, I have been victim to it several times. From being dragged into the FCID, seeing my parents and brothers being questioned by the state over absurd allegations for hours and days, and then being remanded for protesting against unjust decisions taken by the former government. One may recall, that in January 2017, when we held a peaceful protest in Hambantota, police brutally assaulted one of the protestors Su Bandara, and he was later hospitalized with severe injuries to his ear. Further, hundreds of us were remanded unjustly for taking part in the protests and were violently manhandled. We were politically victimized for days in addition to what my family and I too had to go through as well.
Further, in the previous UNP government, students were also severely manhandled every time they took to the streets to raise issues and concerns faced by them. Hundreds of the students, including males and females were arrested and back then too, I did not hesitate to talk against violence unleashed by the police on protestors.
Now talking about the recent protest which took place outside the US Embassy in Colombo, by the Front Line Socialist Party members, I believe that while protestors should have respected the court order, the level of force unleashed by some members of the police force was appalling. I have condemned the assault unleashed on the protestors and call for it to be investigated and action to be taken as soon as possible. No violence must go unprobed. The police at no times, must resort to the American way of manhandling protestors. The way George Floyd suffered brutal torture, moments before his death by the American police officers, should never be repeated by any officer, anywhere in the world. In Sri Lanka, especially presently when the police have done a commendable job in the fight against the COVID-19, the behaviour of some police officers is truly condemned and the department should take steps to ensure that this never happens again. Violence is never the answer in dispersing any protest.
While the recent police action has received much condemnation, it is also the responsibility of every citizen in this country to abide by the laws of the country. While in a democracy, protesting is a citizen’s right, it should also not be misused especially at a time when the country is attempting to rise from a pandemic which has crippled all nations. When protests turn violent, it receives widespread media attention which goes into the world, and this damages the image of the country when we, in unity, are trying to rise from the ashes. While it is everyone’s right to protest, it is also upon us to respect the law of the land.
Further, in this day and age, it is also the responsibility of every politician and political party to not use the opinion of certain sections of society, take it out of context, to create disunity and disharmony in the country. I have seen in certain countries when politicians attempt to politicize certain issues for their selfish gains, and mislead the public, it leads to clashes on the streets which has a direct hit on the livelihoods of every citizen as well as cripple all vital sectors. This will then lead to authorities also reacting and things turning violent. In Sri Lanka we have witnessed many such clashes in the past which has then created a huge negative image of the country being portrayed across the globe.
With responsibility comes great power. This is a motto that every one should keep in mind. Violence can lead to ruin and this can have a lasting impact. I will always speak up against any police violence and political victimization in all its form, but at the same time I also appeal to all citizens to behave sensibly and abide by the laws of the land. Sri Lanka has emerged as one of the best countries to eliminate the COVID-19 virus from society, and this was possible because we all abided by the rules and regulations and remained united. This is an example of how much we can achieve together.
Lets make Sri Lanka great again, not push it back into a lawless state – the ripples of which will be felt by all. Take care.