The weekend newspapers carried a story of a rare triumph for the rule of law. The company running a farm that encroached on a wildlife sanctuary has vacated the sanctuary, full story here and here.
What is noteworthy is the reason for the withdrawal from the sanctuary. It was not the law enforcement authorities or the courts that forced the company out. In fact the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and the Ministry of Agrarian Services and Wildlife claimed that there was no encroachment at all.
It was the multinational partner in the project, Dole Bananas of the US that acted, on being informed of the encroachment by local activists. Given that no local agency was even willing to look at the matter Dole could easily have followed the (now well trod) path of brazening it out and denying that the sanctuary was violated. Luckily for the public they chose to do what was right and not what was convenient or profitable.
Things have come to a pretty pass when it is a foreign multinational that acts responsibly, while the rulers, law enforcement and other agencies ignore a problem. Multinationals are frequently painted as evil, exploiting corporations. While not all of them are squeaky clean, many have embraced the concept of accountability and responsibility seriously. Do we now need to turn this concept on its head and treat Governments, rather than multinationals as the likely villains in the play?
Why did no one else act? Powerful forces were involved, as a quick glance at the Sunday Leader story will tell.
The rule of law is one of the foundations of a functioning state, the events above testify to the extent to which it has been undermined. Laws exist to protect the population from the whims of the rulers, as the rule of law unravels citizens will find themselves being preyed on by the rulers, as in this case. Looks like we are up the plantain tree?
Addendum 29th November
Serendipity looks at some other aspects on the same question here.