Is terrorism really over? This is the question one may ask oneself when one is made witness to cowardly attacks on the Opposition politicians and the media. Although the southern terrorism was effectively neutralised in 1989 and the Tiger terrorism laid to rest last year, another form of terrorism is prevailing.
Governments formed by the SLFP and the UNP have been taking turns to unleash violence against their opponents for the past few decades and, for the dastardly acts of terrorism being perpetrated against dissenters at present, it is the SLFP, which is in power, that must take the full responsibility.
A clear indication of the government's involvement in attacks on its opponents and critics is that they go uninvestigated or probes conducted half-heartedly into such incidents predictably draw a blank.
The latest attack on the Opposition has been reported from Jaffna. Democratic National Alliance (DNA) MP and JVP stalwart Sunil Handunneththi and three others were set upon by goons while they were taking part in a political campaign in the peninsula. The JVP has blamed the Military Intelligence for the brutal attack which left four including Handunneththi injured. The army has denied the charge. The Military Spokesman has said investigations are being conducted into the incident and the attempt to blame it on the Military Intelligence (MI) smacks of a sinister move to discredit the army.
The benefit of the doubt may be given to MI, though the possibility of some rogue elements in uniform doing 'political work' for the government cannot be ruled out. If it is true that MI had nothing to do with the attack at issue, then the outfit must be able to co-operate with the police to track down those who attacked a parliamentarian under their nose. If it claims to be unaware of the identities of the perpetrators, then it is not worth its salt.
Sunday's attack must be condemned unreservedly by one and all. This newspaper is one of the bitterest critics of the JVP and rarely misses an opportunity to haul it over the coals for university violence etc but its right to engage in democratic politics free from attacks, harassment and threats must be guaranteed.
The government has naturally become the suspect in Sunday's attack because of the statements made by some of its propagandists, who promptly claimed that MP Handunneththi had been assaulted by some of the residents of the area. If so, why doesn't the government act on that information and make arrests forthwith? Handunneththi insists that his assailants spoke Sinhala fluently. Is it that the northerners have learnt, in spite of the war, to speak better Sinhala than their southern counterparts?
Whom is the government trying to fool?
The government, it may be recalled, acted swiftly when a group of Peradeniya undergraduates booed Minister of Higher Education S. B. Dissanayake a few weeks ago. A piqued Minister Dissanayake lost no time in having some students arrested and prosecuted. It is puzzling why there is no such high octane performance on the part of the government as regards Sunday's attack.
It is incumbent upon the government to have the attack on JVP activists thoroughly probed and the perpetrators brought to book immediately. Nothing short of that will help clear the government's name. Let no lame excuses be trotted out. Now that the war is over, the onus is on the government, which, to its credit, created conditions for rekindling democracy in the North and the East by defeating terrorism, to ensure that everyone will be free to engage in democratic political work in those areas as well as in other parts of the country.
(FULL TEXT OF EDITORIAL APPEARING IN "THE ISLAND" OF NOVEMBER 16th 2010)