common feeling shared by the hundreds of television viewers who
watched the real life drama of tit for tat violence erupting at
the SLRC, Thursday, must have been: “He deserves what he got!”
The protagonist in this publicly viewed encounter between an
enraged politician and his henchmen on one hand, and media
personnel and their supporters on the other, was of course the
controversial Deputy Minister Mervyn Silva, who, as we all know,
is no stranger to battles between the media and politicians.
However, it was not until Thursday, that his frequent and
virulent outbursts against the media, received more than just a
Even for a man who prefers to use brute force, when it comes to
resolving a personal problem, it was obvious that the irascible
minister had crossed the line.
This was when he made his unprovoked physical attack on the SLRC
News Director, which resulted in an unprecedented retaliatory
assault on him and his henchmen, by the enraged staff and media
The crime that caused the Minister to go berserk, was that the
SLRC News Director had failed to broadcast a speech he had
delivered when opening a bridge at Matara.
By forcing himself into the SLRC office Thursday, and allegedly
ordering his personal security officer to assault the SLRC News
Director, T.M.G. Chandrasekara, for this act of omission, which
it now appears was equivalent to a serious crime by an employee
of a State owned media institute, Silva himself was guilty of
a) Violating the News Director’s right to decide on what news
should be aired and what should not
b) Obstructing the right of freedom of expression by the media
c) Violating Chandrasekera’s right of protection from all forms
Acting on impulse and perhaps, pushed beyond the point of
endurance, by constant State interference from demanding
politicians of Silva’s ilk, it is not surprising that the staff
of SLRC decided to take the law into their own hands and mete
out justice in a manner they felt justified the crime.
By handing out a lukewarm apology to his assailants, which Silva
allegedly did, after his gruelling experience, when he said, “I
will apologise to the Rupavahini staff, if you think I have made
a mistake…”, was simply not enough, being more an insult than an
If any real good has to come out of this incident, then the
government too must accept responsibility and accountability for
the mistakes of its ministers and make a public apology to the
SLRC staff and its News Director. This must be accompanied by a
sincere promise that it would not interfere with media freedom
in the future.
It must go a step further and punish the offender, by either
stripping him of his title or sacking him from the party.
If however, it fails to act, and prefers to distance itself from
Silva’s high handed act, as in the past, it would be guilty of
hampering media freedom, and aiding and abetting lawlessness and
Thus, while this paper does not condone the kind of ‘mob
justice’ that was meted out to the errant minister, Thursday’s
fiasco raises some important issues and questions.
As recent events have shown, the phenomenon of people taking the
law into their hands to mete out ‘mob justice’, is now a growing
and frightening trend in this country.
The question is why? Does the fault lie with the lawmakers? The
law implementers? Or, because the government prefers to turn a
blind eye and, is in fact, tacitly encouraging the law breakers
in their acts of crime, in order to cover up its own track
record of corruption, and other flagrant acts of infringement of
the law, committed by its own ministers- even those at the very
Examples abound of instances where politicians and other VIP’s
found guilty of corruption, and even assault and murder, have
gone scot-free, without even being fined, because the law was
bent or amended by the State itself. This invasion of State
assisted corruption has seeped through every fabric of
Thursday’s episode, where ordinary citizens decided to take the
law into their own hands, is a sure sign that for the country as
a whole, “Enough is enough”. If the State continues to turn a
blind eye to acts of crime against the people, then the people
have no alternative but to take the law into their own hands.
Mob justice can only result in a state of anarchy in this
country, a situation we would dread to see happening .
The time is now ripe for the government to clean up its act, and
open its eyes to the rampant corruption that surrounds it. It
must put an end to all State assisted crimes, and ensure that
every law breaker, (whether politician, VIP or ordinary
citizen), is punished, in keeping with the nature of his/her
By doing so, it will be able to restore the faith of the public,
and convince them that the solution to ending crimes is not by
taking the law into their own hands.
Most importantly, it will prevent our country from slipping into
an anarchic state in the near future, signs of which have
already been indicated by Thursday’s fiasco.