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The Law Is Not Fair

Not here, not anywhere, not yet

The law is like rain. Even if it comes from heaven, it falls on uneven land. For people on high ground, it just passes them over. For the people down below, it tends to flood.

Not Here

Where I live, the law is becoming completely inverted for Muslim people. Usually there’s some evidence of a crime and then you arrest someone. With Muslims the police now arrest first and ask questions later.

For example, a newspaper published an unlikely, un-verified story that a (Muslim) doctor had sterilized 4,000 (Sinhalese) women. This is the sort of story that can set off riots. Rather than arresting the publisher, they arrested the doctor on some other charge. Then they asked the public to make complaints. This is not how the law is supposed to work.

In another case, a young pregnant (Muslim) woman felt sick and covered her face. Someone reported her and the cops held her in jail for 24 days.

Meanwhile, people that actually practice terrorism by rioting, burning shops and murdering people get out on bail, if they get arrested at all. Hate speech against minorities is rampant but if a minority punctuates badly they can get arrested.

And it’s not just minorities. Anyone that questions or threatens the power structure can be beaten over the head with the law.

Shakthika Sathkumara is still in jail for writing a fictional short story about very real child abuse in Buddhist temples. He’s been in jail for 10 weeks for righting a fictional story about a real problem. Meanwhile a corrupted monk who organized riots was pardoned by the President. He promptly vowed to unleash pandemonium. This is how the law is being applied right now.

Not Anywhere

And it’s not just in Sri Lanka. In the US white supremacism is not called terrorism, even though it’s a bigger problem than Islamist terrorism. Neo-Nazis even get police escorts, and a President who says there’s good people on ‘both sides’. Politicians ask for drug testing for people on food stamps, but not on executives that get billion dollar bailouts.

Also, globally, you need money to work the legal system at all. You have to buy good lawyers, you have to buy bail, the system even as it’s designed is unequal. Not to mention that certain people can buy access to the lawmakers and judges and police themselves.

Not Yet

At the least, however, you could say it’s getting better. Laws originally came from kings and enforced that power structure. Then nobles got some benefits. Then they came to enforce the rights of landowners. In modern democracies they seem to enforce the interests of dominant majorities, but you can at least say that the base of bias is getting wider all the time.

The goal, one hopes, is that one day the law will apply equally to everyone. That it will be both written and enforced that way. But we should at least drop the pretence that the law is somehow fair.

It’s not. It’s a part of the power structure, and this world we’re in is very unequal and unfair. So then, is the law.

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He/him. Videos: and podcast:

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