A vacuum has been created in the North. It’s not a power vacuum, but a law and order vacuum. That is exemplified by the seeming lawlessness sweeping across the peninsula, culminating in the rape and murder of a schoolgirl from Punkuduthivu, a suburb of Jaffna last week.
That vacuum was caused by the end of terrorism and the withdrawal of militarism, post 8 January 2015.
The rule of law, under the overarching umbrella of the normal laws of the country is once more prevailing in the North after the recent regime change, but, as current events prove, what is now needed is enforcement.
For that the law enforcement system needs to once more work. Police stations, which were previously closed or destroyed due to terrorism, need to reopen depending on the current needs of those areas in relation to demographics.
Most importantly, there need to be policemen who are conversant in Tamil serving in those places. Breaking the language barrier by being able to converse in Tamil is important to establish a rapport with the Jaffna community and also to conduct investigations.
One cannot try to garner information from Jaffna civilians if one isn’t conversant in Tamil.
The government needs to give priority to have Tamil speaking policemen serving in the North and East as a matter of urgency, in order to ensure the reestablishment of law and order, especially in the peninsula, once more.
For a period of 36 long years, beginning with President J.R. Jayewardene’s order to the Jaffna Security Forces Commander, Brigadier Tissa (Bull) Weeratunga in 1979 to wipeout terrorism in all of its forms from the North by the end of that year, and until the beginning of the current year, it was the gun which ruled the roost in Jaffna.
The Jaffna man, repressed for so long by the barrel of the gun, is now free. That gun was wielded by both the military and the Tamil terrorists alike. But, the reaction to the newly found freedom in Jaffna, as recent events have shown, is similar to the freedom of the wild ass.
That freedom therefore should not be allowed to be abused. It mustn’t be degraded to be likened to the freedom enjoyed by the wild ass.
It was expressed in the form of stoning the police on duty at the Jaffna Courts last week when the Punkuduthivu rape and murder case was being heard, followed by the stoning of some policemen conducting an inquiry into another case at Pallai a few days later on Sunday.
Public property and public officials were the targets of these attacks. Those acts of violence by the public cannot be condoned. They are maintained by taxpayers’ money. The public, whether they be from the South or from the North shouldn’t be allowed to take the law into their hands.
The rule of law needs to be reestablished and maintained and not the law of the jungle.
Crimes in Jaffna which were previously hidden for various reasons, are now, when committed, coming out into the open, reported, discussed and condemned. Not that such crimes didn’t happen in the past, but due to the culture of fear and repression that prevailed then, they weren’t reported or exposed.
It was the bullet and not the ballot that ruled the roost. There was a façade of democracy in the North, especially after July 1983. Nevertheless, repression, whether it were by the terrorists or by the Security Forces and the Police was the order of the day. The security forces and the Police tried to change this culture, especially after December 1995 when Jaffna was liberated from LTTE terrorism, the only face of northern terrorism prevailing then.
But as terrorism wasn’t completely rooted out until 19 May 2009, it was an uphill task for the authorities to reestablish the rule of law in Jaffna and its environs due to frequent terrorist incursions into the so called liberated areas, thereby disturbing the peace, more often than not with bloodshed, then.
Why wasn’t normalcy ushered into the North as a natural consequence, in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of terrorism six years ago? Why had it to wait this long? Only the previous regime could answer that question. Reconstruction works, building roads and highways are not normalcy.
Normalcy is more than that. It includes a functional democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom to protest and even freedom to stone law enforcement officers, knowing that extra-judicial force or power or punishment will not be meted out to the offenders.
The public, in this case the Jaffna public, now act or react, with the knowledge that in the worst case scenario that it will be the rule of law which will be the judge and the jury and not the barrel of the gun as was the case in the past.