Nature, rationale and need for security

2017-05-12
 MR’s security contingent consisted of some 229
security personnel, and was axed to 187
 Security for politicians has major, destructive impacts
on society
 Security has today become a cultural factor with a
social cost
In early 1990 while in parliament, opposition MP Mahinda
Rajapaksa who was then campaigning on human rights violations
in the South during President Premadasa’s rule, was called by
State Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne and told personally, he
would be provided with two army personnel for security reasons.
Mahinda first declined saying he had two police constables to
provide him security. But Minister Wijeratne insisted he should
have two army personnel for his security as the threat was high.
Mahinda Rajapaksa thus became the first MP to have army
personnel for security.
Twenty seven years later, on February 5, 2017, Law and Order
Minister Sagala Ratnayake announced in parliament that former
President Rajapaksa’s security contingent consisted of some 229
security personnel including the STF, and that it was axed to 187
with 42 of them recalled. The minister said security was provided
to VIPs based on ‘threat assessment’ conducted by the police bi-
annually. Two days later, the media reported another reduction in
security for Rajapaksa by recalling 50 personnel. That was
cancelled within 24 hours and restored with no reasons given,
media reported.
What is all this security for? Threats to political bigwigs became a
nightmare following the 1987 July Indo-Lanka Accord with the JVP
going on a killing spree. With JVP boycotting the elections,
Provincial Council and parliamentary candidates and their party
supporters were brutally killed during 1988-1990. The then
Elections Commissioner Chandrananda de Silva’s report on
parliamentary elections of February 1989 states 13 candidates
were murdered while 150 others killed 48 hours prior to the
commencement of the polls. It was this JVP insurgency that first
necessitated security for politicians in the South.
Earlier in 1985, the LTTE had killed some 252 Sinhala civilians and
three Buddhist monks in areas commonly called ‘border villages.’
In 1986, the number was 137. This does not mean the LTTE
spared the Tamils and Muslims during those years. On the other
hand, in Colombo was another report of an assassination attempt
on the then National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali by an
armed Tamil group. Nevertheless, there were no serious threats
perceived on politicians.
Later in July 1989, while the LTTE was officially negotiating with
the Premadasa Government and with a ceasefire in place, they
killed TULF leader MP Amirthalingam and former Jaffna
Parliamentarian Yogeswaran in Colombo, paving the way for the
outbreak of war in June the subsequent year. Four months on, the
JVP was wiped off with the leaders, with the ‘threat factor’ shifting
from the JVP to the LTTE.
On May 19, President Rajapaksa proclaimed thus, “Having
defeated the most ruthless terrorists who made the world
helpless, we rise today as invincible citizens; as a nation with a
great and imposing personality.” He said his government had
eradicated terrorism, the biggest impediment faced by the private
sector in taking part in the Northern Spring. Two years later in
May 2011, Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said
addressing a three-day defence seminar in Colombo that the
country was rescued from terrorism once and for all.
That was the assurance given to the people of the country. There
isn’t much exaggeration in those statements. It is true the LTTE
was completely wiped off the ground. Surviving cadres either
surrendered or were picked up from among thousands of
refugees.
That was eight years ago. During the last three years, many
reports divulged the regrouping of the LTTE. In the second half of
March 2014, the police headquarters published descriptions and
photographs of three absconding LTTEers identified as Gopi,
Appan and Thevian. Termed ‘high profile,’ a staggering one million
rupees was offered for information leading to their arrest. It was
also established that they were ‘informants’ of the military. Today,

it seems a dead case anyway.
Five months later on August 14, 2014, ‘The Hindu’ reported about
six Sri Lankan Tamil youths being arrested after they were
smuggled into Australia as a possible scheme to reorganise the
LTTE. The report said, “The purpose of the youth flocking to the
faraway Australia may not be merely for the sake of jobs.” Yet
three years on, there seems to be nothing more than seeking
refuge and livelihood, in that story.
In March 2015, a couple of months after the presidential polls
voted a “Yahapalana” government to power, its Deputy Foreign
Affairs Minister Ajith Perera told the media that the LTTE’s front
organisations operated businesses overseas to generate funds in
a bid to revive the outfit. But how he arrived at that conclusion
was not told.
There is no threat or danger in any regrouping unless of course
there is hard evidence to prove they are into armed activities. The
JVP also regrouped in 1993 after their whole leadership was
eliminated in a similar fashion in November 1990. The JVP
regrouping was not subject to the rearrest of ex-JVP cadres or
their weapons searched for. They are now no different to others in
mainstream politics.
Unlike the ordinary, the most recent report on LTTE regrouping
has painted a totally different image. With MP Sumanthiran facing
death threats, his security was beefed up. The whole episode,
despite some media providing every minute detail of the plotting,
sounded fragile. The arrest of four suspects on January 14 this
year by the TID was on information that a claymore was to be
exploded when Sumanthiran was to visit Marudankerni. It seems
the intelligence had finally established the plot while MP
Sumanthiran was on his way to Marudankerni. He was warned
through the Presidential Secretariat. Did not the intelligence
authority receive adequate information to caution MP
Sumanthiran before he started the journey? And why did the
message come through the Presidential Secretariat instead of
Sumanthiran’s security personnel? How efficient and secure is it?
The ‘regrouping’ tale does not resurface in media any more.
Investigating authorities do not have to share information with the
media though many times before, selected journalists did have
access to almost all details to break news and write features,
while investigations were continuing. Yet, what is important is how
serious ‘threat assessments’ are. If there were any seriousness in
assessing threats, there could not have been any recalling of
security personnel to cancel that decision and restore the same
within 24 hours.
There can be a necessity of providing a certain degree of security,
not in numbers but intense and efficient, for former presidents
and incumbent Head of State, and maybe for a few others in
sensitive security, the judiciary and decision-making bodies. What
needs inspection is the necessity to provide security to all cabinet
ministers, MPs and PC members.
‘Security’ has today become a cultural factor with a social cost.
Not solely politicians but their immediate families too, feel
insecure and insignificant if they are not provided with adequate
security. Also, people see their politician of choice as important
and powerful when accompanied by security men. Often, the
security personnel decide the politician’s diary, and answer his
mobile phone. They decide whether the ‘caller’ should speak to
the politician or not. Politics has come to stay with armed security
personnel embedded and accepted.
Security for politicians has major, destructive impacts on society.
Democracy is the worst affected in an elected representative
system of governance. Undefined power usurped by police and
security personnel by working under emergency laws for decades
and in an atmosphere of a brutal war, has been transferred to the
political arena with security provided for politicians. The relaxed
atmosphere the voter should have for free exchange of views and
ideas with the MP are no more. The voter is no more comfortable
in voicing his or her objection to any local issue. There is always
the possibility of the voter being ‘thrown out’ by security
personnel for disagreements with his own elected representative.
This has helped the MPs to distant himself or herself from the
whole electorate as an arrogant political clout. Post elections, he
or she cannot be held responsible to the electorate. The very
essence of representative democracy is lost when elected
representatives decide for their own comfort when and how they
meet people who elected them.
With such guaranteed restrictions on public relations, MPs have
cultivated ‘catchers’ around them for their personal agendas. It is
they who now have comfortable access to the MP. Over the past
decades, this security has also given an aggressive electioneering
tool for most MPs. Thuggery is resorted to in elections with
security personnel supporting election campaigners. All of it
together has led to local and provincial level corruption of many
sorts too, from contracts, government permits to appointments,
promotions and transfers.
In short, the undefined ‘threat’ to politicians has allowed for
unnoticed and unconsciously accepted ‘militarisation’ of local
politics. It has reduced functional representative democracy to a
mere procedural democracy that serves no purpose to the people.
It is with all these reasons and factors there is now a growing
cynical trend that distances people from the very process of
holding elections.
In a democratic society, providing security in this manner to all
and sundry has no rationale. Isolated and suspected possibilities
of the LTTE regrouping should not be used for such heavy security
for all. There is thus a serious need to identify who actually needs
security and to what extent. That does not seem to be happening
as of now. What continues is the old assumption that all
politicians are eligible for security at the expense of democracy
and taxpayers’ contributions. It is this ridiculous practice that has
to be stopped forthwith.
Posted by Thavam