Monday, March 12, 2012

How do we explain this regular phenomenon in Sri Lanka? Mob revenge

I was just reading a blog article by the ‘Sri Lankan Doctor’s Comments’ today where he was asking how we explain the happenings after the killing of the doctor in Karandeniya, where the suspects homes were set on fire and various acts of revenge took place, and also of the more recent Kahawatte murders, where the home of the brother of the accused was torched and burnt. In similar fashion, I would note that if a vehicle knocks down a pedestrian or a cyclist, the fault is automatically assumed to be that of the driver of the vehicle, and direct vengeance is meted out on the driver. In the latter case as a driver, I know how irresponsible pedestrians and cyclists can be and they are just as capable of causing the accident in which they are killed or maimed, and then the driver is lynched by an enraged mob, as it is assumed that the bigger vehicle was responsible.

I am sure a psychologist will be able to explain this phenomenon, but it happens in countries where people get highly emotional and end up causing a lot of damage. It is in this similar light that innocent Tamil homes were looted and torched, as well as the insane murders that took place 1983 because people were assumed to be Tamil. A bizarre form of questioning was used to determine if one was Tamil, before they were subject to torture or death, even though the person could be a foreigner being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

How do we as a civilized society prevent people, usually unrelated to the issue, taking the law into their own hands? Is this part of educating people that the law should take its course? Or is it that the people have little faith in the justice system and Law and Order to allow proper punishment once the crime can be ascertained?

It is important that all steps are taken to educate the public that such responses MUST cease as it is not the practice to kill or maim people just because someone in the audience has made the conclusion that the person is guilty. There MUST be due process of law to ascertain guilt, and the punishment should then fit the crime. The liability to compensate must be swift, as an injured party often needs immediate redress, and not have to wait till the slow pace of justice takes its course, by which time the aggrieved may have suffered massively one way or another due to delay.

A further point must be made that this kind of Kangaroo Court may administer swift justice, but it will not under any circumstances assist the aggrieved party to obtain justice or compensation that is rightly due. Society must have confidence that the real guilty will be punished in accordance to the law to stop this practice.

It is important to be able to address this senseless violence where the law of the jungle applies, to inflame the pack instinct into people hiding under collective guilt to commit crimes in the guise of acts of revenge. Otherwise we as a nation cannot pretend to have a sense of balance or rational thought. Something to ponder on.

Comments more than welcome.


Jack Point said...

It is a symptom of a larger problem. There is a breakdown of the rule of law and as a consequence, a lack of faith in the law-enforcement authorities in particular and authority in general.

Look at all of these cases in detail. In almost all instances, one of the culprits was either a politico or a crony, who was seen to be immune - to get away with it in effect. The police and the courts are seen to be impotent and anger boils over into violence.

The system is corrupted by power but also by money. If the police and judiciary can be bought, it is rendered ineffective and thus end up with the same problem as above.

There are milder manifestations of the phenomenon as well, such as in the total ignorance of road rules, because the RMV is bribed and the cops can be bribed.

I have looked at aspects of the problem here:

and here:

Further useful commentary here:

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