An article by Basil Fernando (an SLC advisor), published by the Asian Human Rights Commission, August 20, 2010

The beating of an opposition Member of Parliament by officers of the Galle police raises one important question: how many times do you have to beat an MP before he learns his lesson?

The politicians of the present generation are not good learners. They certainly are not the type that learns by reading; nobody ever asks them how many books they have read. Let us just leave that out.

Do they learn by seeing and hearing? Let us take the immediate example. An MP got beaten up by the police. Well, everyone who goes to a police station, unless he is carrying a bribe, gets beaten up at the police station. That is more or less the actual situation, with perhaps a few exceptions. So the MP, who was an opposition MP, should have known that the police do not like opposition MPs and he was, in fact, going to a dangerous place. He should have known better.

He did not know that or had forgotten that, perhaps because he was a little proud and thought the policemen would respect a Member of Parliament. That was an absolutely foolish thought. The police do not even know the meaning of the word ‘respect’. They only know FEAR. They do not actually respect government MPs, but they do fear them. Governments MPs can have them transferred or sacked. Opposition MPs cannot do that, so there is no reason to fear opposition MPs.

Furthermore, it was incredibly foolish for this MP to expect that the policemen would enforce the law against the government. There is, in fact, nobody in Sri Lanka that can enforce the law against the government. Not now at any rate. The law is used only to punish opponents of the government. Surely, the MP should have learnt that lesson by watching what happened to the commander of Sri Lanka’s armed forces, Sarath Fonseka. Everybody with any authority is eager to enforce the law against him.

These are things that any person with eyes and ears know so therefore, the MP must be having some problem with both. Hence, he had to get a beating to learn his lesson.

There are ways the opposition MPs can get police to FEAR THEM! The ways to do that is as follows:

Step One–Understand the nature of Sri Lankan policing. It is an institution that has no independence and is servile.

Step Two: Open your mouth and begin to say just that about the police–Tell people loudly about their real nature–Then the people will come to know that MPs know as much as they do. As a result of this the people and opposition MPs will have something in common then. ONCE THE POLICE SEE THAT OPPOSITION MPs ARE WINNING THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE THE POLICE WILL FEAR THEM!

Step Three–Support every victim of torture. Tell the victims that opposition MPs want to record every case of torture, all the details and every day; that they will expose police torture to the parliament and the public. IF THEY DO THAT, IN NO TIME THESE MPs WILL KNOW HOW MUCH POWER THEY CAN HAVE.

That is the way to learn a lesson from a beating. That is the way to also pay back in kind.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.