More on ‘bombing parliament’
October 31, 2017
People receiving media attention in a country such as political leaders and ex-army officers directly or indirectly entertaining thoughts of violence and recommending such as a means of solving problems of a complex nature that crop up in a democracy is a dangerous trend that has to be seriously addressed. Failure to do so at the early stages can have disastrous consequences.
In 1971 I remember I was at a conference with the IGP with several other Senior Officers when the intelligence chief of the time interrupted this meeting informing the IGP that there was verified information to the effect that police stations would be attacked and arms and ammunition seized. The immediate reaction was one of total disbelief. However the information proved dead accurate. The rest is history.
As reported by several newspapers during the past few days, the National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa has stated that Parliament should be bombed if the proposed draft constitutional reforms receive the two thirds majority.
Unlike in 1971 situation it is difficult to guess whether Weerawansa is rhetorically beating war drums or genuinely attempting to scare the parliamentarians from voting to make up the two thirds majority. If it is the latter, the threat is a downright act of terrorism that has to be dealt with appropriately by law. The behaviour of a cornered tiger is unpredictable. Only the intelligence sleuths will be able to make a reasonable assessment of Weerawansa’s frightening outburst.
Several other politicians making comments in favour of Weerawansa’s threat and and a retired Senior Army officer too joining the party, one begins to wonder whether the call to violence is becoming louder and clearer.
Parliament that represents the people is symbolic of the supremacy of the people. It is the nation’s topmost organization. Any insult or threat made against Parliament directly or indirectly by a member of the public or even a Member of Parliament directly impacts on the entire population. No person born to and has grown up in a democratic culture, with even an iota of knowledge and understanding of the role and importance of Parliament will even in the wildest of dreams entertain thoughts of degrading or destroying the hallowed institution.
Any act that has been committed detrimental to the security of parliament has been etched in history. The early Seventeenth Century ‘gunpowder plot’ is annually commemorated as Guy Falke’s Day. The measures taken to protect parliament from the forays of the Luftwaffe during world War-II and the secret procedures adopted to keep Parliament functioning for critical decision making are indeed high points in recent British history. In these circumstances, even a veiled threat to destroy parliament would have been considered high treason the punishment for which is death.
The insulting and degrading behaviour of some members of our parliament in recent times have certainly brought down the stature of the House, but in no way has been a threat to the existence of the House or its security.
On the 18th August 1987 our Parliament came under a grenade attack at which an MP and official were killed. The attack was carried out by a former JVPer Ajit Kumar supposedly a kinsman of Weerawansa.
In this instance the real targets were the President and the Prime Minister. However they were not hurt. The objective was not to threaten, intimidate or extort. Nor was it done with the intension of destroying the institution of Parliament the primary symbol of our democracy. There was no prior warning or any demands.
When I read the news about Weerawansa’s utterance, the thought that occurred to me was, what if an accused had in a court of law stated that the Court should be bombed if the verdict was not in his favour ! He would have been promptly shoved into the court cell and summarily dealt with for contempt of Court.
With the entire Country focussed on the Constitution making process, religion race and the nature of the state that have for decades been sensitive issues have turned out to be hot and burning issues. Historically, these issues have been directly or indirectly responsible for the violence of 1956, 1958, and 1983 not forgetting the Thirty year War. With hordes of media men hawkishly waiting to capture whatever that come out of the mouths of politicians, the Buddhist clergy and other interested men and women, extremists and rabble rousers are having a field day.
Having been the Intelligence Chief of the country way back in the 1970s, the writer is constrained to observe that the ground is being craftily and systematically prepared for violence and rebellion by some interested in toppling the government. Having personally experienced mob violence both in Sri Lanka and the United States, it is akin to forest fires. With arson and looting; and fanned by rumour it becomes uncontrollable. Once the spreading flames gather momentum the perpetrators merge into the background as innocent spectators.
The utterances of the politician who once belonged to an outfit that believed in the violent overthrow of the state and the army officer who occupationally was submerged in a culture of legitimised violence should be taken as a fore-warning of violent situations to come. The government must act. It has the right to act. To nip in the bud any possibilities of the eruption of violence before they develop into uncontrollable, marauding juggernauts is the responsibility of the government.
In conclusion, there is another good reason why Weerawansa as an MP should never have threatened to bomb Parliament. After all, membership of Parliament is the only job for which even the ability to read and write is not required. The value of the powers, perks and privileges enjoyed by MP’s is inestimable. Even emperors and kings can be envious of the hedonistic lives of our MPs. By threatening to bomb this fountain of sustenance and pleasure Weerawansa has committed an unpardonable act of gross ingratitude.