Madush’s arrest: media drowned in speculations | Sunday Observer

Madush’s arrest: media drowned in speculations

The arrest of underworld drug lord Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshitha, better known as Makandure Madush in Dubai has seen both social and mainstream media go into meltdown. Arrested along with forty others which included popular singer Amal Perera, the incident has all the ingredients of a modern-day scandal: drugs, politics, money laundering and unending speculation.

Following Madush’s arrest, several other suspected drug dealers were captured in various locations in Sri Lanka, in towns as far apart as Grandpass, Suriyaweva, Matara, Padukka and Wennappuwa. It is an indication of the degree to which the tentacles of Madush’s network has spread throughout the country.

Interestingly, also arrested in Dubai following Madush’s detention is Maddumage Chandana Lasantha Perera, better known by his alias, ‘Angoda Lokka’. Perera too has a criminal record that allegedly rivals that of Madush, although it is the latter that has aroused more public interest.

What is noteworthy about Madush’s arrest is the speculation that surrounds it. Madush’s name has been linked to many a politician- most of them stalwarts of the previous regime. Allegations are aplenty. It has even been claimed that a Minister of the previous Government had his son’s much publicised wedding financed by Madush in return for transporting him to the airport to facilitate his getaway from the country! Another opposition parliamentarian took to the floor of the House to make an impassioned speech, denying all links with Madush.

In the wake of Madush’s arrest, there has been a lot of naming and shaming. Social media is rampant with photos of various individuals, some of them identified as being detained in Dubai, others as associates of Madush, being photographed standing alongside various politicians. These photos, usually taken on social events where politicians have little control over who they mingle with, prove nothing.

It is clear that all sides of the political divide are in a desperate scramble, scouring the internet, searching for images of any shape or from that imply that anyone who has been arrested in Dubai has links with a local politician. Some of those claims will be true. However, when the net is cast so far and wide, with little regard to journalistic ethics or accuracy, the first casualty is the truth. This is what has happened with regard to the Madush saga: fake news has taken over.

It is unthinkable that Madush ran the extensive drug network that he is credited with, without some form of political patronage. It is equally unlikely that all of Madush’s political acquaintances came from a single political party and not from rival political parties. A man who is smart enough to operate such a network and savvy enough to direct underworld operations from his hideout in Dubai would be careful to have his bread buttered on both sides.

As the Madush saga continues, President Maithripala Sirisena is on record saying that he will advocate implementing the death penalty for serious drug trafficking offences. Capital punishment, although on Sri Lanka’s statutes for decades, has not been implemented for over forty years. President Sirisena has declared categorically that he is willing to break with political traditions and go ahead with carrying it out. While there are disagreements about whether capital punishment is the real answer to the menace of drug trafficking, the President’s commitment to the cause has to be commended.

There has been much speculation about what happens next. Despite all the hyperbole in the media, Madush will not set foot on Sri Lankan soil to be dealt with by the justice system here. That is because Sri Lanka and Dubai- notwithstanding the hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans working in that country- do not have an extradition treaty. It will be recalled that in another recent high-profile case related to alleged money laundering by high profile personalities, the Government failed to secure the co-operation of authorities in Dubai.

Madush will be dealt with by the justice system of the United Arab Emirates first. Any consideration of requests by Sri Lankan authorities will come only thereafter. So, despite the media circus going on in Sri Lanka, Madush and his accomplices may have to spend time behind bars in a prison in Dubai, if he is found guilty by the courts in that country, before he confronts more serious charges in Sri Lanka.

That may be a blessing in disguise. With all due respect to the integrity of the justice system in Sri Lanka, it has to be acknowledged that the path to producing a suspect in court is laden with hurdles. These hurdles could be manipulated in many ways, ensuring that delays occur for indefinite time periods so that justice delayed will be justice denied. The delays in the prosecution of those responsible for alleged corruption and abuse of power during the previous regime are a case in point. It is not the justice system that is at fault, it is its political masters who pull its strings that have to be dealt with.

With a high-profile suspect such as Madush, with so many alleged political links to diverse political parties, it would be optimistic to expect that he will be dealt with expeditiously by the local criminal justice system. We daresay that trying Madush in Dubai might be the best course of action, at least in the short term.

Mention must also be made of popular singer Amal Perera, who has been caught up in this drama. There have been numerous attempts to absolve him of all blame, with claims that he only happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, simply by being an entertainer at someone’s party.

While the wisdom of being an attendee of a party hosted by a well-known fugitive of the law must be called into question, the law must apply equally to all. Just as much as Amal Perera is admired for his contributions to music, being an artiste should not entitle him to special privileges. He must have his day in court and be presumed innocent unless he is proven guilty.

Madush’s arrest has focused the spotlight on the seedy underbelly of our country’s drug trade and its alleged links with politicians. It is just as well that what follows will be enacted in Dubai because the narcotics trafficking that ruins the lives of thousands of youth is too serious a matter to be left in the hands of Sri Lanka’s corrupt politicians.