By Tassie Seneviratne –
All the Courts a stage – All the players are still rehearsing their parts, their sixes and sevens’.
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Political Victimization of public and semi-public personnel between January 2015 and November 2019 appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, (The Commission) has stirred up a hornets’ nest.
By a sudden quirk of events, the accused in high-profile cases investigated by the Police and the consultative Attorney General, have been exonerated by the Commission. This includes cases filed in courts. Whether the law as laid down in the Code of Criminal Procedure has been followed, is in question.
The people are in a quandary whom to believe. Either way, the Police, the Attorney General and the Judiciary are in a no-win situation.
Into the bargain is a fourteen-page document titled: “Sri Lanka: Under Rajapaksas’ Watch, Rule of Law suffers the onslaught of Politics” authored by internationally recognized researcher, Alan Keenan, writing for the International Crisis Group.
The report goes on to say inter alia, “The politically motivated Presidential Commission of Enquiry has been distorting politically-connected criminal suspects into victims, and investigators and legal reformers into criminals.”
The report further states: “The unprecedented efforts of the Government of Gotabaya Rajapaksa – most strikingly through his presidential commission of enquiry into so-called “political victimization- threatens to do more than just eliminate the possibility of justice in the specific cases it is considering. These specific cases relate to that of political allies of the state, and in instances where family members are being rescued from prosecution. In doing so, it risks distorting judicial and police procedures, by which the very existence of a meaningful justice system is cast into doubt.”
There is also a witty circular prepared by a group of professionals, doing the rounds in social media:
වැඩ කරපු සතියක්!
🔴නොවැ 19 උදෑසන : රු. මිලියන 600ක රජයේ මුදලින් මැතිවරණ අල්ලස් ලෙස භාණ්ඩ බෙදූ අනූෂ පැල්පිට, ලලිත් වීරතුංග සියලු චෝදනාවලින් නිදොස්කොට නිදහස්
🔴 නොවැ 19 සවස : කෝටි 100ක බදු වංචාවක් නිසා සීල් තැබූ අමාත්ය ජොන්ස්ටන්ගේ මත්පැන් ෆැක්ටරියට අදාල බලපත්රය කිසිදු අයකරගැනීමකින් තොරව නැවත ලබාදේ.
🔴 නොවැ 20 උදේ : ඇමති ජනක බණ්ඩාරට එරෙහි නඩු දෙකක චෝදනාපත්ර බලශූන්ය කෙරේ
🔴 නොවැ 20 සවස : රජයට කෝටි විස්සක වංචාවක් සිදුකල “ලක්පොහොර” සභාපති ඇප මත නිදහස්
🔴නොවැ 21: නීතිවිරෝධී අවි ගනුදෙනු සහ මුහුදු ආරක්ෂක සේවාව නීතිවිරෝධි ලෙස ලබාගෙන රජයට පාඩු සිදුකල, විදෙස්ගත ශ්රමිකයින් ලංකාවට ගෙන්වීම හරහා අසාධාරණ ලෙස මුදල් ඉපයීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් චෝදනා ලැබ සිටින ඇවන්ගාඩ් සමාගමට බඩඉරිඟු වගාව සඳහා ඉඩම් අක්කර 5000ක් ලබාදීම
🔴 නොවැ 23 : රු මිලියන 2991 ක මුදලක් සාපරාධී සාවද්ය පරිහරණය කිරීමේ චෝදනාවට ලක්ව සිටි බැසිල් රාජපක්ෂගේ විදෙස් ගමන් තහනම ඉවතට
🔴 නොවැ 24 උදෑසන : දෙරණ මාධ්ය ජාලයේ සභාපති දිලිත් ජයවීර මහතා රාජ්ය සේවා කොමිසමේ සාමාජිකයෙක් ලෙස පත්කෙරේ
🔴 නොවැ 24 දවල් : පිල්ලෙයාන් නිදහස් කිරීම
🔴 නොවැ 24 දහවල් : අතිගරු ජනාධිපතිතුමාට එරෙහි ලලිත් – කූගන් නඩුවේ සිතාසිය අභියාචනාධිකරණය විසින් බලරහිත කෙරේ
🔴 නොවැ 25 දවල් : රිශාඩ් බදුර්දීන් නිදහස් කිරීම
මෙවන් ජයග්රහණ මතු මතුත් ජනතාව වෙනුවෙන් ලබාදීමට ජනාධිපතිතුමා ඇතුළු සියලු දේශහිතයිශින්ට ශක්තිය ධෛර්යය ලැබේවා! 🇱🇰
These are hard assertions. But the quarrel has complex sides to it: It is no gainsaying that there was political victimization under the so-called Yahapalanaya (Righteous) Government. The unlawfully established Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) operating under the directions of Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, is a glaring indictment against the Yahapalanaya Government. When the FCID was established in 2015, I released a press report revealing its unlawfulness on 7th of June 2015. Excerpts from it read as follows:
A special unit titled the Financial Crimes Investigations Unit (FCID) was set up by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW) on 26th February 2015.
On 7th of June 2015 I pointed out in an article released to the English newspapers that “FCID has been unlawfully established.”
“The establishment of the Financial Crimes Investigation (FCID)in the Police Department has given rise to many sore issues. The main issue being that it is selective and is politically motivated. The FCID has been challenged in the Supreme Court on that basis.
Be that as it may, a Government Gazette establishing the FCID has been signed by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) purportedly under Article (Section) 55 of the Police Ordinance.
Section 55 of the Police Ordinance does not authorize the IGP to sign a Government Gazette. …….”
“It is very clear that section 55 authorizes the IGP only to issue Departmental orders (DO) that are generally published in the Police Gazette which is a confidential document distributed only among police officers, and that has been the practice from day one.
“Establishment of a Police Force (Division) by Government Gazette can be done by the Minister concerned under Section 4 of the Police Ordinance and such gazette has to be signed by the Minister. Hence the Government Gazette signed by the IGP is a bloomer on his part, and is unlawful.
“Section 4 of the Police Ordinance reads: “It shall be lawful for the Minister, by order published in the Gazette, to establish a Police Force in any place other than large towns, – – – – -“
“It appears that the IGP and the Minister have swapped roles. In matters of high public concern such as this, the IGP and Ministers concerned are expected to act with due care and precaution and not be guided by expediency whether political or whatever.”
It is when confronted with the law on the identical grounds that I had laid out five years earlier, that on 16th October 2020, testifying before the Presidential Commission on Political Victimization, RW was compelled to admit that the formation of the FCID was unlawful. There was not even a semblance of remorse when he made the admission.
It is utterly bewildering that the judiciary and the whole judicial establishment, the Attorney General and others relevant, watched all this in silence. The Police were not only completely compromised but waded into with glee. The National Police Commission and the Constitutional arrangements were reduced to nothing. None of them dared to assert its authority over this unlawful exercise.
The FCID was blatantly a cover for pollical ends. For five years so many people were subjected to so much victimization for so long under this unlawful gazette, whereas it would not have taken anyone more than a few minutes of reading the gazette, to perceive its unlawfulness.
But that was the FCID. As for the CID, it is known how attempts were made to manipulate it during the tenure of Shani Abeyasekera (SA) as its Director, but failed. That is why the FCID was pitched. Therefore, investigations handled by (SA) consultatively with the Attorney General, have to be taken as done with due care and precaution. Of course, the accused are innocent until proved guilty in a court of law.
Presently, questions are also raised as to whether the action taken in some controversial cases is proper:
1. Case against former cabinet minister Rishard Bathiudeen for illegal clearing of the Kallaru Sanctuary in the Heritage Wilpattu National Park. Court of Appeal (COA) has ordered replanting of the forest. Did environmental experts take into consideration the fact that it takes over 2000 years for a rain forest to develop? The penalty should commensurate the upkeep of the newly planted trees till a rain forest comes to being. What the government did while the clearing of the forest was taking place amidst wide public protest over it, is another question. The answer is as clear as clear can be – the massive vote-bank, Bathiudeen had built up by doling out State resources, helped to obtain two-third majority in the Parliament. Heritage had to wait! Ecology is not a part of juris prudence for COA.
2. Shooting of under-world character, Madushanka: Two bullet injuries have been found at back of head. Police evidence too accounts for these bullet injuries. But according to medical evidence, he had died of bleeding in the stomach! Have the Attorney General and the Courts delved into these discrepancies in evidence, to find out the truth? Was he done away with because he knew too much?
3. Since recently there is a whole train of events where persons have been shot dead trying to runaway even with handcuffs on. Courts and AG see no problem. The days when SC Judges like Sri Skandarajah J. kept an eye on these non sequiturs, is long gone by default of expectations.
Justice is yet at sixes and sevens, not the one for law and order.
*The writer is a Retired Senior Superintendent of Police.