Desperate times need desperate measures. Is this sense of desperation we see in some of those espousing the return of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa?
We need to pose that question in light of the reaction in social media to the arrest of two individuals, one of them a seventeen-year-old schoolboy, for allegedly hacking the website of President Maithripala Sirisena.
Some have suggested – tongue in cheek no doubt –that the President sacks his information technology experts and employ the boy to manage his website.
However, rather than take the alleged offenders to task for what they supposedly did, Rajapaksa loyalists want the boy rewarded. They argue that he should be hailed as a hero rather than being vilified as a criminal simply because, in their opinion, the President is not doing his job properly as he couldn’t even safeguard his own website and should therefore resign just as the schoolboy had demanded after hacking into his website.
Social media is now flooded with similar sentiments from pro-Rajapaksa commentators. If these views are genuine, then there is something seriously wrong with the way Sri Lankans think. Of course, the alternative explanation is that there is a co-ordinated campaign to discredit the President. The latter is more likely.
The issue even takes a racial twist. The President’s act of pardoning the lady accused of writing on the mirror wall at Sigiriya is being compared to the seventeen year old being detained by Police for further investigations. The former is from the Tamil community.
What those singing the praises of the seventeen year old do not wish to acknowledge is that the suspects had allegedly hacked into some three dozen sites. Investigators have said the hackers could have been operating with overseas assistance as there was some evidence of connivance with hackers in Bangladesh. These are not matters to be taken lightly. They need to be dealt with in accordance with the law.
But, the bigger question is why every issue that surfaces needs to be given a political twist? Why does politics have to affect each and every little incident that occurs in this island? Why do issues have to be always viewed with politically-tinted glasses on, be it the Value-Added-Tax (VAT), private medical education, the performance of the national cricket team or hacking into the President’s website?
Of course, it is not only the opposition who are the culprits. Also last week, Police detained three persons at Wattala when they protested against Lands Minister John Amaratunga. While they were charged with unlawful assembly, the ‘real’ offence was quite simple: they hooted at the minister.
As far as we are aware, the good Sri Lankan hoot has been a form of expression from time immemorial. It maybe sometimes annoying, ugly or embarrassing, but it is also essentially an integral part of our freedom of expression. If hooting is now banned in our country, that would be tantamount to taking our freedom of expression away. Again, in this instance, too, politics seems to have taken precedence over common sense and Police have gone for the overkill.
One of the major reasons why the previous regime was ousted by the people was not because of its inefficiency but because of its impunity and its disregard for law and order. Its leading lights were quite brazen in their disregard for the law and pretty much did what they wanted. As a result, they came to control almost every aspect of public life. That was a major factor in their defeat at the two national elections last year.
For Sri Lanka to progress as a nation, it must learn to adhere to the rule of law and not make a mockery of it by hero-worshipping alleged criminals for political reasons. It must also not subvert the law according to the whims and fancies of politicians. Right now though, these ideals appear to be fantasies as politics supersedes anything and everything in this island of ours.