Freedom and Justice under political threat
A black-suited Opposition and a white clad black-ribboned government had a field day in parliament, when the country marked the second anniversary of the Easter Sunday carnage.
It was a preview of what could be the trend in parliamentary affairs – with verbal violence and near physical violence being the stuff of the new parliamentary democracy.
The Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill is not discussed in parliament, as it is being considered in the Supreme Court, on the many petitions filed against it.
While the Supreme Court seeks to make up its mind on this highly controversial draft legislation, the very court system or the judicial process is facing a major threat, not merely a challenge, with the Presidential Commission Report on political victimisation under the previous government.
We are now facing a situation where former members of the judiciary as members of a Presidential Commission, can call upon parliament, the legislature of the country, to reject, overturn, depose, throw out cases that have been concluded and judgments passed, and cases that are still being heard in courts. Those found guilty or are accused in these cases are to be recognised as innocents, or those not facing any charges.
That is not all; those who have initiated these court procedures by filing cases –– for murder, child kidnapping, illegal handling of weapons, overall fraud relating to the state funds, and even fraud on private funds––are to be found guilty and punished. Under what law?
The process of justice is not, and has not been, one of complete independence and fairplay in this country. There have been many distortions of the judicial process under different political leaders over the years. But over all the public have considered the judiciary as the final source of honesty and fair play, in a society riddled with corruption, manipulation of the law, and the distortions of reality.
Politicians who become leaders of the country by the twists and turns of politics and crooked society have often given pardons to convicts including those on death row. They have never been widely accepted by the public, who have never been asked for their opinion on such acts. Such pardons were based on the rights of the Head of State, just like the release of prisoners for the New Year and some special celebratory occasions.
But how does any Commission, even if presidential, recommend the removal of current legal action against those who have been charged through the procedure for legal action by the Attorney General? How can such a Commission recommend the pardoning of those found guilty by the Supreme Court itself?
How can such a commission find that those accused of the kidnapping of several youth are free of such charges?
In a mockery to the process of democracy based on justice and fairplay, the commission gives no legal reasons for throwing away earlier legal judgments or terminating legal procedures. These are acts to suit the prevailing political masters as against their predecessors.
Satisfy those who are now in power is what matters to the presidential commission, with so many in power today having many trails of fraud, cheating, swindling, embezzlement and other crooked actions.
What is the judicial process in the country being moved into?
The Colombo Port City Economic Commission may pose threats to the democratic system, which certainly needs consideration with depth and fairness by the courts and political process. But the recommended actions against alleged political victimization, certainly poses a far larger threat to society, to the very judicial process, with all of its many shortcomings such as the delay in courts, and the profit-centred goals of the legal profession.
This government almost began its work with the pardoning of a murderer, killing several people, in the latter stages of the war against LTTE terror. There was no public call for such a pardon. Such action seems to be the political and strategic thinking of this government, supported by its own Presidential Commission, which is totally against good governance.
This country is aware of the failures of the judiciary and the legal process. We know how the Rajapaksa mishandling or crooked handling of the tsunami funds was covered up by courts, to be later admitted by the responsible justice himself. We see how the judiciary sentences a first time contempt of court accused, to four years of rigorous imprisonment, where the law does not lay down any term of imprisonment – short or long.
We are also aware of President Sirisena suddenly pardoning a murderer Anthony Jayamaha, who killed a foreign girl.
Such distortions of the law and the judiciary should not be the guiding lines for a legal process that upholds the principles of Justice and the Rule of Law. The role and task of governance is to learn from the past and avoid repetitions of such flaws, and bring in new legislation to prevent such distortions of the law and justice.
But that warning we saw in the Black vs White display in parliament on the Easter carnage anniversary, and the moves to pardon and free so-called “Political Victims”, is our stepping back into the dark days of pre-democracy in this country. We are moving to even a pre-feudal reign of power. The rule of the unquestioned Majesty. The deadly display of the Rajavasala Balaya.
Do we have the freedom to restore the independence of the judiciary?
Simple rituals replaced at Buddhist temple
The other day I had gone to our temple to do a Bodhipooja for my granddaughter who was ill. This is is an age-old Buddhist practice to invoke the blessings of the triple gem and pray to the gods for the speedy recovery of the sick.
As I was walking from the Vihare to the Buduge, I saw this fantastic sight of a handful of beautifully dressed women in silk, satin and lace walking into the temple. They were not carrying the usual malwatti of homepicked flowers but ornate arrangements straight from a florist.
I was taken aback. I had not seen such a sight before, certainly not in a temple. I paused to see what was happening and found they too were doing a Bodhipooja, whether for a sick relative or not I did not find out. But it was done in grand style.
In retrospect, I wonder, what has happened to the simplicity of Buddhist religious practices of going to temple in simple white clothes, carrying a malwatti to worship at the main shrines, lighting oil lamps and saying our prayers softly or in silence. It seems that at most Buddhist events, this simplicity has been replaced by unseemly ostentation.
NUCLEAR POWER FOR SRI LANKA?
Apparently there has been a proposal that our country’s plans for future energy requirements, has, among its options, included nuclear generation also as an alternative to fossil fuels (coal and petroleum).In an open letter to the President0 as published in the The Island of Mar. 30 Emeritus Prof. Dharmadasa (Sheffield), has extensively cautioned against any precipitate action in pursuing the nuclear option for Sri Lanka. His is a voice to be heeded. He has, comprehensively supported his viewpoint. The basic points are:
It is a fallacy to regard nuclear as “green or renewable energy.”
The installation costs are beyond our means.Technically qualified and expert operators are required and we do not have them. Competence and discipline are imperative.
Nuclear accidents are difficult to handle. Corrective measure are urgent and costly. Large areas have to be abandoned after such accidents and remain so for decades (or even centuries or millennia) before they can be safe again. Major accidents have already occurred, Three Mile Island (USA), Sellafield (formerly Windscale) (UK), Chernobyl (USSR/Ukraine) and Fukushima (Japan). Damage to plants can be triggered by cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes, tidal waves, earthquakes and tsunamis.
In a telling remark, Professor Dharmadasa makes reference to the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel (a Ph.D in Physics,) decided to close down all 17 operational nuclear power plants in her country following the Fukushima accident.
Nuclear fuels are expensive and demand special safety protocols.Nuclear waste is difficult to dispose. If buried, they require heavy, concrete “Sarcophagi”. Even then, the land cannot be farmed or inhabited for a very long time.
Symptoms or illnesses (like cancer), show features suggestive of exposure to nuclear radiation.These are very valid reasons for older installations in rich countries to be abandoned as reliance on nuclear energy is no longer seen as an option; nor even long established facilities retained. No new installations would be considered by them.
India meanwhile, have operating nuclear power plants in the South (Kalpakkam and Kundalkulam). Hopefully, this would not cause problems for us. On the other hand, would they have surplus power which we could buy?.
In regard to the difficulty in handling a nuclear accident, we have an experience which may be indicative. In Seeduwa on the Negombo/Colombo Road was the Milco powdered milk factory. This caught fire sometime in the late seventies. The destruction was horrendous and he fire lasted for days.
Needing to pass this site, virtually daily, I could see it smoldering for weeks. There were many fire trucks standing by, apparently inactive. I was prompted to ask why they remained inactive and was given the shocking answer: “There is no water available for the fire hoses”.Tells us something about the suitability of nuclear plants for us, does it not?
Winning hearts and minds of community
‘Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Community’
Author: Dr. Kingsley Wickremasuriya
Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police – (Retired)
by Major-General (Retd) Lalin Fernando
This is an interesting memoir of a police officer who having served in the Volunteer force may have done equally well, in either the army or the police. He chose the police and was an exemplary if reserved senior. This is not an action-packed adventure book of daredevils or roller coaster recollections of the sharp end of police life but more about human relations with the public. Sadly and regrettably, he states that he was deprived of the highest command by the frailties of politicians. The choice of the politicians was a travesty, abnormal but not unusual. In this case, the chosen person, mentioned in the book had deserted the police years before and left the country when posted to Jaffna but had the audacity to claim political victimisation years later when the government changed. A silly claim, stupidly upheld. A chapter on political interference would not be out of place.
The book would have been much more interesting and relevant if it had recorded the terrible events of that time from the JVP terror and atrocities (1971 and 1988-9) to the murderous Eelam conflict.Here was a police officer whose mission appears to have been to build up public relations as practiced elsewhere in a terrorist setting as in Jaffna and later Batticaloa by setting up “Community Oriented Policing Programmes” to bring about law and order and harmony when relationships were under heavy strain.
This is pleasant, well-written, and easy to read. It shows in equal measure both the vicissitudes and skullduggery of the worst and best of humanity during his service in the police. It is an honest, moving, and personal insight into an eventful career with defining moments that affected the lives of many. It was a life of tackling not only lawbreakers but careerists among his own ilk while having to bear, not exceptionally, the burden of interference by power-mad, smooth-talking, corrupt politicians, their slights, and machinations. It finally ended his career prematurely.
It has fascinating tales that are humane, enlightening, and informative. It is a studious book by a prolific writer. It is a compelling story with a lively and not-too-subtle style of writing, with considerable research material included. It is close to real life, relaxing, entertaining and not too heavy. It should be made available in Sinhala and Tamil, not only in the Police Training School and Academy, police stations, zones, districts and divisions but in the reading lists of schools.
His was also an attempt as by many others to change the mentality of the police from a colonial to a national one. Colonial police would use firearms freely. National police should not. A Colony would use the army to buttress the police. A national army should only be used as a very last resort. The police are a country’s first line of defence. For this to be workable, SL’s police force should first be made independent of politicians by law as reasonably possible. A greater strength (presently nearly 75,000), higher pay, better equipment and facilities, imposing office buildings, good accommodation, improved communications, reliable transport including access to helicopters and high standards in recruitment are essential under knowledgeable leaders whose integrity is impregnable.
The book is also heartwarming, sad and at the end, maddening. It is opportune too as the author’s life work to keep the peace is falling to pieces thanks to the incorrigible, venal, mainly poorly educated and therefore easily misled and misleading, utterly corrupt and cowardly politicians the people have bred for their own selfish, cruel, greedy and bullying interests. They portray the police as aliens. The people must realise that the police reflect society and never the other way around. They will then accept their own faults, just as the police would wish to do whatever correct thinking people want them to do. If spectators rush onto the field of play to question the referee bringing the match to a halt, the police if in attendance do not arrest the referee. They disperse the mob.
It is only the police that prevented total anarchy in the country last year (2022) as those who promoted it well know. This book should be a clarion call to the police to lift themselves up by their jock straps. They, possibly one of the first (1866) if not finest police forces in the region have so far kept the country far safer than many others as even their worst critics must admit. This is despite carping criticism by those who are no better or worse than the police. There is no dearth of respected, tough-minded, well-disciplined, and fearless police officers as good leaders at all levels. They have proved themselves as fearless guardians of the law, especially when all others have failed. Thanks are due to the standards set by senior police officers, like the author and others he identifies in his book, who was affectionately known to older generations.
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