One Country – One Law: In admirable practice | Daily News

One Country – One Law: In admirable practice

Social big-wigs, Mayor arrested, top-cop transferred for violation of health regulations

Justice prevails when the law is equally applied to the elite and the ordinary people of the country. Often there are accusations that law enforcement authorities are over enthusiastic when taking action against law-breakers in the lower strata of the society, but when the rich and influential people breach law, they are handled with velvet gloves.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in his policy statement ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ stated that only one set of laws should be applicable to the entire country and the rulers as well as all citizens should abide by the rule of law. All should be equal before the law and as long as they abide by the rule of law, citizens need not be afraid of law enforcement agencies or of law enforcement officers. An environment will be created where law enforcement agencies and law enforcement officers shall also be subjected to the rule of law, he said.

“The legal system in a country is the foundation of a civilized society and it should operate to ensure the well-being of its people. The aim of the concept of rule of law is to build a civilized society. As such, a democratic Government should never interfere with the rule of law. Our government shall always be dedicated to protecting the rule of law and shall not allow anyone to challenge it.” – Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour.

The practical implementation of this policy is evident from the way law enforcement agencies carry out their duties in the face of health regulations currently in force to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic. Special police teams have been deployed to raid parties and public gatherings organized in violation of quarantine rules and regulations throughout the country. Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said all Officers In Charge (OICs) of police stations have been instructed to conduct surveillance operations to raid parties and public gatherings especially at night. The action has been taken against all the violators of health regulations irrespective of their social standing, the spokesman said.

Many vehicles were impounded and the travellers who did not possess valid documents have been detained. The vehicles impounded include luxury cars, vans, trucks, three-wheelers and motorcycles.

Most interestingly, those arrested included high society partygoers who celebrated a birthday party at the five-star Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo and the Mayor of Moratuwa who tried to interfere with a vaccination drive in his area.

When the information on the gala birthday party at the five-star hotel became known, the Police arrested the event organizer Chandimal Jayasinghe and model Piumi Hansamali for organizing the birthday party. They were later granted bail by the Magistrate. Subsequently the police identified 13 more persons who attended the party, who were detained for violating quarantine regulations. Police said 13 suspects including a woman were later produced before the Hulftsdorp Magistrate’s Court.

The Judiciary also took a stern view of violators of health rules. Moratuwa Additional Magistrate Uddala Suwandurugoda rejected the bail application filed on behalf of Moratuwa Mayor Samanlal Fernando and remanded him until June 11. He has been accused of threatening a female doctor and obstructing duties of health officials at a vaccination centre at the Methodist Church in Molpe, Moratuwa on May 27. He had apparently given ‘chits’ to his supporters to jump the vaccination queue. A ‘B’ Report regarding the incident had been submitted to Court by a special Police team attached to the Mount Lavinia Police on May 28 based on the complaint made to the Mount Lavinia Police by the Health officials who were on duty at the vaccination centre.

The Mount Lavinia Police told the Additional Magistrate in submitting the ‘B’ Report that the Mayor had violated health guidelines issued by the Director General of Health Services, entered the vaccination centre forcibly and created a scene, obstructing the duties of the medical staff.

Although a senior Cabinet Minister tried to defend the Mayor, the Police did not allow any outside interference, arrested the Mayor and promptly produced him before the Magistrate.

Having seen the whole episode on social media and national television, the Sri Lankan public congratulated the female medical officer for acting rightly and firmly. The doctor also expressed appreciation to the police officers at the vaccination centre for instructing the Mayor to leave the premises as soon as possible. It was indeed a happy moment for law-abiding citizens to see the medical officer and Police protecting the dignity of their office zealously. 

In another incident, Police took action against a senior Police officer for violating health regulations. Two police teams are investigating the incident where Kurunegala Mayor Thushara Sanjeeva Vitharana’s birthday celebration was held at the Kurunegala Police Station premises over the weekend. Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in charge of the area who attended the birthday party was transferred with immediate effect. The Kurunegala Mayor has been mired in controversy on several occasions in the past too.

“It was observed that the police officers present there had committed an offence and following investigations, a disciplinary inquiry will take place against them in addition to action under the provisions of the quarantine laws,” said the Police Spokesperson. Further, action will be taken against all other parties involved in the party as per the provisions of the quarantine law, he added.

The ASP in question was transferred over his reckless act of organizing what was said to be a surprise celebration for the birthday of the Kurunegala Mayor.

The general public strongly believes that stern action should be taken against the violators of health regulations, as the vast majority of the public willingly compromise their freedom, jobs and even the most basic rights such as buying provisions and visiting shops, to support the country’s COVID-19 management efforts.

There is no justification for the social elite to organize parties at high-class hotels or in any other venue when millions of compatriots ranging from the informal sector workers, daily wage workers to others confined to their homes, have no way of earning a rupee to buy essential goods and are wondering as to when the travel restrictions would be lifted for them to venture out for work or to buy provisions.

There are people with numerous problems and they brave them and stay at home considering the grave nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. If the people with little or no education could tighten their belts and support the Government’s plans to face the dreaded challenge, what right does the elitist society have to organize parties with scant regard for health regulations?  

If the laws applicable to the public do not apply in the same way to the wealthy and the powerful, that is nothing less than an insult to the law-abiding public. Hence, the police decision to treat the high society partygoers and the people from ordinary families with the same yardstick is highly praiseworthy.

As the ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ policy states, social inequality that will result as a consequence of development, can be considered a social problem rather than a personal issue. A Government’s responsibility, therefore, is to protect these vulnerable people.