A question of security | Daily News

A question of security

A lot of hot air was let off by the Opposition in Parliament on Wednesday over the withdrawal of the special security provided to TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran following the latter’s participation in a protest march in the North in defiance of a police and Court order. It was the contention of Law and Order Minister Rear Admiral (Ret.) Sarath Weerasekara that he cannot permit the police officers guarding the MP to be demeaned and look silly by making them continue to protect the latter who was clearly acting in defiance of a police order. It certainly would have looked funny indeed if the police guarding Sumanthiran, at the time of the protest march, were to confront their own colleagues who were trying to explain to the MP and Co. that they were acting against a police order which technically would have amounted to a Home and Home match.

Needless to say the entire police service would have been reduced to a laughing stock in the eyes of the public if that had been the case. Hence, the Minister could not have been faulted for acting the way he did by immediately withdrawing the special security contingent deployed to protect Sumanthiran who was said to be under a death threat. It was the foremost duty, as Law and Order Minister entrusted with overseeing the police service, for Rear Admiral Weerasekara to stand by his men in upholding their honour and dignity.

But from the way the Opposition conducted itself, it was apparent that they had failed to cotton on to this reality and was only harping on the security threat to the TNA MP in the wake of the withdrawal of his special security (his normal security is intact). However, as rightly argued by the Minister, what was borne out by the MP mingling among thousands of protestors during the agitation was the fact that he had no threat and in any event the MP should not have participated in such a mass agitation if indeed he was under a death threat. There was also the scant regard for the health guidelines introduced post Coronavirus by a lawmaker, who should be showing the way to others by example.

Sumanthiran’s case typifies the bogus security threats cited by MPs from time to time as a means of demanding extra security from the State as an ego-boosting exercise and to aggrandize themselves before the public. This should open the eyes of the authorities to the modus operandi adopted by MPs and other ‘VIPs’ to avail themselves of additional security which is a ruse in order to remain in the spotlight. In fact, Rear Admiral Weerasekara recently declared that all extra security provided to MPs would be withdrawn and that security details henceforth would only be in proportion to threat assessment on the MP or VIPs concerned. He also enjoined all police personnel providing security to MPs not to engage in tasks other than what they have been strictly entrusted with. This no doubt follows media reports in the past of police officers guarding MPs and Ministers being forced to engage in work outside their main duties such as domestic chores.

Rear Admiral Weerasekara may have also been influenced in his current action by the fact that Sumanthiran had also been attending events in the North that are sympathetic towards the LTTE, with the police security provided by the State, in tow. As a former Navy Commander who was in the thick of battles against the LTTE, it certainly must have rankled him to see that a MP who shows open sympathy towards the LTTE, which killed hundreds of police officers, receiving special police protection, in a classic twist of irony. The Rear Admiral’s sentiments in this regard were given full play the other day when he declared that legislation would be brought soon to ban any espousal of the cause of the LTTE in Parliament or any mention of Prabhakaran in the House. This was on the basis that the LTTE was a banned organization and Prabhakaran a terrorist leader. As the Minister pointed out Germany has totally banned any vestiges of Hitlerism in the country and any glorification of the Third Reich.

Sumanthiran says should any harm befall him the Minister should be held totally responsible. Such sweeping declarations have been made by MPs even in the past particularly during the height of the second JVP uprising when the late Ranjan Wijeratne was at the helm of national security and at times slashed the security of certain Members of the Opposition. Government and Opposition MPs have called for the full restoration of the TNA MP’s special security. Since Minister Weerasekara has already expressed his opinion that the MP, after all, could not be under a death threat if the latter could freely mingle with thousands of protesters, a fresh threat assessment ought to be made to ascertain if indeed this was case and if not, Sumanthiran could be accorded the special protection demanded by MPs across the floor.