The long and short arm of selective law enforcement

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  • Different strokes for some different folk can demean Rule of Law

Two weeks ago a Government MP was nabbed at BIA attempting to walk through the customs zone with a haul of undeclared gold stashed in his bag. The gold was valued at Rs. 75 million and a 10 percent fine of Rs 7.5 million was imposed. He promptly paid the paltry fine, as if it was some spare cash he kept stored away at home to meet such an eventuality.

All Ceylon Muslim Congress’ gold smuggling national list MP, Puttalam’s Sabri Raheem walked out of Customs a free man. The following day he attended Parliament to depart from his usual practice of always voting with the government whatever the motion, and instead, this time, to vote against the government, not in the public interest, or as a conscientious objector, but to spite the President and Prime Minister for their failure to lift a finger to rescue him when he was caught red handed with contraband gold at the airport.

His audacity was not restricted to demanding presidential succour to secure unconditional release but extended to his bold appearance in the House the following day to cast his anti-government vote out of sheer malice, and to openly boast how he had avenged the presidential snub. The limits of his impudence didn’t end there.

Two days later Sabri was back at the airport and wheezed through Immigration to catch the FlyDubai shuttle to his Dubai domain, with all the carefreeness of an amateur explorer searching the Sahara for Ali Baba’s legendary gold cave.

Not so lucky was a Frenchman last Saturday. Taking the cue from Sabri’s paltry 10 percent fine ten days ago, he, perhaps, took a calculated risk to smuggle gold through Customs. But he had pressed his luck too hard. For, when he was caught red-handed with Rs. 85 million worth of gold, the Customs fined him, not as they had fined the Government MP ten days earlier at 10 percent of the Rs. 75 million gold but at 80 percent of the Rs. 85 million gold.

Whereas Sabri conjured an instant Rs. 7.5 million to pay his fine and walked out free, the Frenchman failed to fork out Rs. 70 million to gain release. The two fines, imposed within a ten-day span, were vastly disproportionate to nearly the same value of gold. He was arrested and remanded.

While Sabri was enjoying his freedom in the Persian Gulf’s hot spot, the Frenchman, alas, was sweating it out in the makeshift sauna of a Negombo cell, left to idly ponder on quaint customs and selective fine enforcements practised at BIA, where gold smuggling MPs are extended special rates if nabbed, while all the rest must land in jail, without the means to pay the unexpected arbitrary two-thirds fine.

But is this wise? Allowing the authority to depart from a standard rate for fines, thrusts a great discretionary power on wayward officials, incentivised to show leniency. All crooks must be equal before the law and the deterrent fines for the same offence of the same value must proportionately be the same. Else, it will ultimately lead to lower the respect accorded to the Rule of Law in the eyes of the public. The importance of maintaining the Rule of Law is much stressed but the importance of upholding the practices that prop and keep it robustly alive are often ignored.

Last month, the President ordered an immediate probe into Pastor Jerome’s disparaging comments against all four religions, expressed in a video that had gone viral in mid-May. Given the violence that such religious slurs had provoked in the recent past, the President took no chances to risk a repeat bout.

“I will not allow any individual to destabilise the country,” he had declared, adding, “anyone instigating religious disharmony will be probed and stern action will be taken.”

The President ordered the CID probe on May 15th morning. The CID, no doubt, fearing that Jerome might make a dash for freedom, went to court and obtained the travel ban on May 16th. Too late, far too late. Jerome had taken a flight on May 14th night.

The CID, however, may have not been struck by the urgency of the situation, forgetting perhaps that, considering the religious and racial tension that lurked beneath the veneer, communal violence was a powder keg with a short fuse that could be set off with a single communal match.

They did not consider Jerome, an immediate flight risk. They ignored alerting the airport authorities that the man next door in his Miracle Dome may suddenly pop up to flee. Instead of shutting the door on a possible bolt, they spent the next day, going through the legal motion to obtain an official travel ban. In typical Clouseau style, they were clueless that the bird had fled his guilded dome and taken flight the day before, and was out of their reach and grasp.

However, for the fugitive pastor, this humongous blunder would certainly have appeared divinely instigated. He capitalised on the lapse and turned it to his advantage.

From his foreign clime of refuge, he used Zoom technology to call his flock of credulous sheep to rally around his shepherd staff and declared: ‘I will return soon.’

No doubt, his sudden flight and imminent return were all thanks to his miracle fortune, the heavenly fruits of keeping the bespoke faith in his mentor of all mentors, Africa’s dark angel, ‘miracle money’ Uebert Angel – Zimbabwe’s now disgraced gold smuggling Godfather who peddles, in his Gospel of Uebert, a pseudo-theological belief that the reward of financial and material gain is the divine will of God for all pious Christians who practise Angel’s customised brand of the faith with zeal.

Jerome Fernando used his divine wherewithal to activate a team of expensive lawyers to petition the Supreme Court to grant an order to prevent the police from arresting him, and thus pave the way for a safe return to the island. The Supreme Court took the case up and fixed it for support on July 28.

This effectively frees the pastor to return without fearing arrest until the final adjudication of the Supreme Court. In the same manner Gotabaya obtained an anticipatory bail order to prevent his arrest on corruption charges, Pastor Jerome will be held untouchable and beyond the clink of police handcuffs.

No such luck for Natasha, the standup comic whose asinine joke about ‘Suddhodana’s son’ fell horribly flat when it went viral late May, after it had been first pronounced at an ‘April Fool’s Day Challenge’ Contest on a public stage in Colombo on April 1st.

On May 28, she was arrested at the airport while attempting to go abroad. Spurred by a Buddhist monk’s complaint, the CID had launched a probe and had alerted the airport well in advance.

Unlike the President’s complaint against Jerome and the swift order to probe his actions, the CID avoided all the hassle of seeking a travel ban or arrest warrant against Natasha from court.

Instead a ‘red alert’ was issued for her arrest on sight.

A Buddhist monk who had released his hate reaction clip on social media to Natasha’s sickening joke and a YouTube channel owner who had given it wider reach were all arrested the same week, and remanded till June 7th. When the case was called on Wednesday, they were denied bail and remanded for two more weeks till June 21st. A frightful price to pay for a terribly frightful joke.

Unlike the pastor’s ‘flights of angels’ granting sweet refuge abroad, Natasha’s guardian deities, perhaps, belong to some inferior caste in the pantheon of her gods. They hopelessly denied her timely warning to make good her flight, they wretchedly failed to grant Natasha the chance to find refuge in some safe foreign clime; and, worse, deprived her of the means to pray the Supreme Court for order to prevent arrest.

Or else, she would have been, together with Jerome, on the self-same plane home, without fear of arrest, granted a brief reprieve from atoning her sins, until the Supreme Court gives final judgement in the case. Alas, instead, Natasha and the other two, must sweat out two more weeks remanded in their cells, praying that bail will be granted at the next court hearing.

The pastor, the comic, the monk and the publisher, all faced more or less the same charge of making or disseminating offensive comments likely to ‘disrupt communal harmony’. All were arrested save but one, whose arrest went awry when CID officials clumsily bungled the President’s order for swift action against the self-acclaimed ‘prophet’ Jerome. By the time they had stirred into action, the bird had miraculously taken wing, two days before.

Shows how much tardiness in making prompt arrests, can oft result in most bizarre incongruences in law enforcement; and these two glaring examples reveal the need to prevent the long arm of the law from falling far short of its duty to ensure an equal playing field exists for all citizens in the event of transgressions.

It jars justice when one is fined 10 percent, while another is fined 80 percent for almost the same value of contraband gold. It also mocks the system, when four face the same charge but one is free to roam at will with legal cover, with the others left to languish in jail, still without the prospect of bail.

Watch the pennies, the pound will look after itself. Watch out for these small travesties, and the justice system will look after itself.

For some it’s a painful duty, for the Swedes sex is sport

Liberal but cold Swedes have decided to put steamy passion into their lives and turn on the heat for a more satisfying lifestyle.

While the conformist Mormons prudishly hold sex as a duty, only for the consummation of a marriage, these randy Scandinavian Vikings have transformed sex to a hot-blooded sport.

The Swedish Sex Federation announced this week that it had organised a Sex Championship for all Europeans to show off their staying prowess in the ultimate satisfying contests ever devised. Beginning from June 8th it is expected to last for several weeks.

And it’s not a ‘slam-bam, did I do all right’ affair either. Each participant has to compete for 6 hours a day. They must show their consummate skills in 16 sexual disciplines, in bouts to be held over six weeks. They must show their skill in seduction and massage and perform various sexual acts.

Both men and women in this hedonists’ Olympic Games, will be judged on a point system. Each aspect of their performance must be aimed at maiming pleasure. The more a partner experiences orgasms, the more points scored.

Although the Swedish Embassy in Colombo had assumed an aloof air and feigned ignorance, though others have dismissed the sexual contest as a fake, still the players and the voyeurs won’t let their hopes go limp, saying that the weeks-long marathon games will begin after the warm-up events.

Britain’s Daily Mail confirmed on Thursday that porn stars and models will begin competing in the tournament that’s been dubbed the ‘European Sex Championships’. A reported 20 representatives of a dozen or so nations will take part in the event at an undisclosed location in Gothenburg, Sweden.’ But the paper said an application to officially register the games had been rejected.

But the fans didn’t lose heart. After all, permissive Sweden, perhaps, the world’s most sexually liberated state, may welcome a change from free and open loving for a little bit of nookie under the sheets, and find, the forbidden fruit tastes sweetest.

According to Dragan Bratych, the chairman of the Swedish Sex Association, creativity, strong emotions, imagination, physical fitness and endurance will be monitored and evaluated by a connoisseur team of judges, jury and public to be hailed ‘sex sports person’ of the year. The seedy tournament will be streamed live over the internet.

But for the wily Swedes, it’s a ‘Europeans only’ contest. They have banned those from the neighouring Indian sub-continent from sneaking a slot in the games.

They would know that the Indians, steeped in Vatsyayana’s two thousand-year-old ‘Kama Sutra’, the manual on the fine art of erotic loving, will have sixty nine more different ways to climax triumphantly in Sweden’s horny titillating games.


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