23 May, 2022


An Attorney General On The Loose

By Vimukthi Yapa –

For many years before the Attorney-General assumed his high office, his colleagues had been only too familiar with his propensity for horsing around and playing politics with the law. Alas, the warning signs went unheeded by the President who anointed him Attorney-General. 

Thus, the “AG” romped and galloped around town with impunity for three years before dragging the venerable Attorney-General’s Department into scandal after scandal of unprecedented turpitude. By the time Victor Ivan exposed his misdeeds, it was too late. Attorney-General Sarath Nanda Silva had already been elevated to the exalted post of Chief Justice.


Mercifully, his immediate successors as Attorney-General, Kandapper Kamalasabayson and C.R. “Bulla” De Silva, reinfused a sense of destiny, purpose and moral integrity into an Attorney-General’s Department that had been shaken and demoralized by Silva’s personal and political antics.

Twenty years hence, a new Attorney-General today canters along the hallowed halls of Hulftsdorp. By every indication, Dappula de Livera may have already wreaked more havoc in three months than Sarath N. Silva managed in three years. 

De Livera “earned high praise” says his official biography, for “his role as a fiercely independent prosecutor” for the 2017 Bond Commission. “High praise” indeed. De Livera distinguished himself as the only officer in the Department’s 135-year history to be admonished by a Commission of Inquiry in its report and its proceedings. His theatrical examination of Ravi Karunanayake “was a waste of time” and “did not succeed in getting any new material” said the commission. “Your behaviour is not fitting to a senior counsel,” Justice Prasanna Jayawardena once snapped at him, in full view of the press. 

After De Livera tried to shout down the commissioners with an unhinged diatribe, Justice Jayawardena placated him. “I’m sure your words will be appropriately reported in the media, which will give you satisfaction.” Satisfied he was, but now a full year-and-a-half after the publication of the Bond Report, it turns out that his haphazard and childish examination of Karunanayake failed to elicit the elements for the offence of perjury.

Since becoming Attorney-General, De Livera’s media fetish has reached a climax. The nation’s prosecutorial and legal advisory body is today reduced to serving as his personal propaganda machine. His defenders may argue that “the job” is getting done, and it is only just that credit be given where credit is due. But is “the job” getting done? 

De Livera, our first AG in living memory who has never prosecuted a major case, may be surprised to learn that headlines and press releases do not convictions make. Sensitive advice letters from the Attorney-General to the police, once shrouded in secrecy, are now routinely doled out to the media in advance, tipping off suspects facing arrest to flee the country, rush to hospital, file litigation or consult with their attorneys and prepare their alibis. 

Indictments and charge sheets in marquee cases including the Rathupaswala slaughter, the Welikada prison massacre, and the Avant Garde case reach the press before the courts, conspicuously absent any mention of the American citizen, former defence secretary and President-in-waiting who investigators have proven masterminded these crimes. 

De Livera is in a similarly mighty hurry to wrap up every case involving a white van or a murdered journalist. The writing is on the wall. Half-baked cases will follow against the men who followed orders, and he who gave then will remain above the law. When it comes to the defence secretary who the CID says presided over a death squad, celebrated the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge on BBC News, routinely threatened journalists with death, and had a string of LTTE suicide bombs go off on his watch, De Livera finds no evidence of a crime. 

Not so for Hemasiri Fernando, whose negligence De Livera told the media was a “grave crime against humanity” amounting to murder. On July 9, Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne, in a meticulously crafted order, ripped to shreds De Livera’s infantile effort to charge Fernando with murder over the Easter attacks. 

In a foregone era, an Attorney-General would have bowed to judicial independence, perused the order, weighed the legal merits and contemplated an appeal. That was before the bull ran the china shop. Before anyone had even read the order, a panicked press release screeched that it was illegal and De Livera would contest it. When his challenge was finally filed, it was also accompanied by a press release slamming the judge’s order as illegal and biased. 

The AG’s own trigger-happy press releases reveal that the police were wary of charging Fernando and IGP Jayasundera with murder. They did so only under extreme public duress from De Livera. While unusually public, this case was nothing special. Prosecutors are routinely jockeyed by De Livera, in language unfit to print, to close investigations and rush half-baked indictments in any case that will grab a headline.

Sometimes a press release will not do. When it comes to the Bond Scam, is seems paramount to De Livera that the country believe that we have him, and him alone to thank for bringing Arjuna Mahendran, Arjun Aloysius and the other scammers to book. So determined is he to keep the spotlight on himself that for the first time in history, the state press dedicated a full page to praising the Attorney General, chastising his predecessors and planting all credit at his doorstep. Such articles do not write themselves. When his officers recoiled at this vanity, another article appeared giving his 15 prosecutors a morsel of credit for the trial to come, while of course stressing that De Livera will “personally” lead and oversee them.

His leadership priorities were on full view last Friday when he wriggled out of testifying in Parliament about the AG’s Department failing to prosecute the suicide bomber Zahran, notwithstanding two years of begging from the police. Rather than stand up like a leader and take responsibility as the then head of the Criminal Division, he threw an innocent state counsel under the bus with glee and fled the premises on a convoluted technicality. In De Livera’s book, a general may lead from the front, but an Attorney General leads by hiding behind his officers as human shields.

Indeed, by De Livera’s standard, the testimony before the Parliamentary Select Committee by his officials last Friday exposed more evidence of gross omissions, negligence and impropriety on the part of De Livera’s leadership of the criminal division of the Attorney General’s Department than he has presented against Hemasiri Fernando. By his own standard, De Livera should either drop his charade or charge himself with murder. 

What the public sees is just the tip of the iceberg. Prosecutors now routinely butt heads with their ill-tempered boss and find themselves scribbling pages full of minutes in file upon file to clear their names of responsibility for his indefensible positions. Those more fortunate are seeking greener pastures like judicial vacancies and foreign postings merely to ride out the De Livera dog and pony show.

There are hidden limits. One too many a prosecutor may abandon ship. One too many a judge might rule that the AG is a loose cannon and tear down a key prosecution like a house of cards. Or perhaps one too many a police officer will be forced to withhold critical investigative secrets from De Livera for fear of another devastating press leak. Straws are piling up on the camel’s back. At this clip, our entire justice system could collapse overnight and without warning. To avert catastrophe, De Livera must be reined in.

In October 2016, the Bribery Commission was led by a Director General of such impeccable integrity that despite her independence earning unprecedented public acclaim, it took a single unsubstantiated allegation of misconduct for her to step down with dignity. Today, that leader, Dilrukshi Dias Wickremesinghe, is Solicitor General, and De Livera’s unwitting deputy.

With leaders of her calibre standing by and ready to serve, the President, government, Constitutional Council and Parliament are fast running out of excuses to turn a blind eye to a wild stallion riding roughshod over the standing of one of Sri Lanka’s most sacred institutions. 

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Latest comments

  • 20

    The admission of the State Counsel at the Parliamentary Select Committee is enough to take disciplinary action against Dappula De Livera who headed the criminal division of the AG’s Department for having failed to file action against Zaharan. If he had done what he was supposed to do, the terror attack of April 21st may not have happened and 250 innocent lives would have been saved.
    Minister of Justice Thalatha Athukorale, the ball is in your court. Show us what you can do to save the country from this maniac.

    • 19

      Vimukthi Yapa ,

      RE: An Attorney General On The Loose

      Thanks for the article.

      More News!

      We also have a President On The Loose.

      We also have Monks On The Loose.

      We also have Priests On The Loose.

      We also have Ulama On The Loose.

      We also have Police On The Loose.

      We also have Para-Sinhala Buddhist Racists On The Loose.

      A land like no other with a 2,500 year-old Para- “Civilization”

      • 5

        Amarasiri, no disrespect mate, but I am getting very tired of your insistence of your every comment relating to the use of ‘para’. We get it, you’ve made your point, now move on to another phrase.

        • 1

          Amarasiri an empty hack.

    • 4

      This AG is only interested in subverting the law to protect the Rajapaksa Criminal Network instead of prosecuting them…
      why do you think the cases are dragging for so long!?

  • 17

    This AG was always a puppet. Earlier of Sirisena… now also hedging his bets and being GRs puppet!

  • 15

    It is responsibility of the constitutional council who selected the AG, the president who recommended him to this esteemed position and the subject minister who turns a blind eye to all this absurd practices of the present AG. As citizen we all should urge the leaders who promised to bring in an impartial justice system to this country to do so immediately.

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

  • 0

    This says, Sri lanka does not need the 17th amendment. Because, it is the International community that runs the country.

  • 12

    I don’t know much about Livera to comment. Only thing I see is he is extremely unkempt, and like a hippie in 1960’s. Seems he doesn’t have a respect to the position he holds. My concern is, if what he has inside his head is just like the out side of his head, God bless our mother Lanka. I have the same feeling about the inside of the President Sirisena’s head.

  • 7

    If you are sure of yr facts, Mr Yapa, get this into the Sinhala press ASAP!

  • 6

    Vimukthi Yapa, are you the son of Vijitha Yapa, my dormitory mate @ college and onetime editor of the Island Newspaper and of Vijitha Bookshop fame?
    Anyway be that as it may, Iam thankful to you for this expose of the present AG. The AGs dept: began in the year 1884 and we now have De Livera a blotch on the landscape: Frankly, he looks more like a member of Colombos underworld! I am certain of one thing, he is dancing to the tune of GSN Sirisena!.
    What is the big deal in having Constitutional Councils etc when folks like this get appointed as Attorney General! Sir.Alan Rose must be turning in his grave!

  • 8

    This hippie is so arrogant for he is a Sirisena’s boot licker. In bond case, he was Sirisena’s handpicked man, and was instructed to fix well and truly Ranil and UNP by throwing as much shit at them as he could, because of that he lost all his bearings, and behaved like a bull in the china shop. When things are like this, in daily basis Sri Lanka is becoming a utter laughing stock of the world, and the people being driven into the abyss.

  • 0

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  • 2

    President anointing Dappula as AG? Does the author wish to ignore and take the readers for a ride by concealing the fact that the Constitutional Council endorsed this appointment or anointment? President Maru Sira’s partner in electioneering in 2015 was Ran Wicks who became Bond Wicks and he as premier is a prominent member of the Constitutional Council who has a big say in all this. What about his culpability? The current SG is subject to praise by the author. It is also known that she is related to Bond Wicks. Hence one can think where the affinity of the author is. We all know what lechers have become judicial and legal bosses. That is a sad past. We don’t hear of such complaints about Dappula. If he is a bad egg then both Maru Sira and Bond Wicks are responsible for having that guy as AG.

  • 0

    The last two paragraphs about the Solicitor General were not necessary. It makes her appear partisan when she appears to have clean hands and is the potential successor.

  • 5

    I need Enlightenment – When someone appears in Court as a Defendant, Prosecutor, Witness or in any capacity to appear before a Judge, Good Appearance from top to bottom in Court with even hair well groomed, should be a must. as a mark of respect to Court.
    I am wondering how the AG as reflected in a photo above could appear in Court. with hair unkempt ? Can an ordinary citizen too appear in Court like that?

  • 3

    “Good Appearance from top to bottom in Court with even hair well groomed, should be a must as a mark of respect to Court.”

    Would Lasith Malinga suffer any penalties if he appears in a court of law in connection with some case in his usual get-up?

  • 4

    What you see is the most important structure of our Country, the judiciary, collapsing.
    It is not only this structure that is collapsing…..everything.
    The solution lies with the people.
    If we do not unite and stand up together, you could imagine what we will leave behind for our children!

  • 3

    How on earth did this arseling and shitlicker get appointed to this post. Needs to wash his hair with kerosene firstly and appears to be wearing the same suit that has never been to the dry cleaners. An ugly personality who is reviled by the decent officers in the AG department. Our idiot president obviously wanted this scumbag to be AG for personal reasons and this puppet is doing his lick well. Can see the link with Gota and the Fukshers in his corrupt behaviour and time the CC kicked this ratbag out. No need for scum like this.

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