27 May, 2022


Attack On The JSC Secretary: Fooling The Masses On ‘International Scrutiny’

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr Laksiri Fernando

There is a new pattern of argument by government spokesmen (no women!) denying the last Sunday (7 October) attack on the Secretary to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Manjula Tilakaratne. They in essence ask, ‘could the government be so foolish to indulge in such attacks on the Judiciary when Sri Lanka is at the scrutiny of the UN Human Rights Council?”

I am positive that the ‘argument’ was collected from Mahinda Rajapaksa himself who roamed around the corridors of the then Human Rights Commission (now Council) in Geneva in early 1990s. Unfortunately this is not 1990s!


Those days several Latin American countries, particularly El Salvador, Guatemala and Chile, were on the spotlight of the UNHRC, but abductions, disappearances and other human rights violations nevertheless continued stealthily. The argument on the part of the government spokespersons (there were women!) were the same: ‘are we so foolish to do these things when we are willingly under your scrutiny, they argued.’ Even the human rights advocates who came from these countries were perplexed at the beginning; more so were the human rights observers from other countries including government representatives.

But this was only a passing phase. Within few years, the speculation disappeared and before that Mahinda Rajapaksa disappeared from Geneva. Human rights research and investigations on those countries very clearly proved that the governments and their various agencies were the real perpetrators of human rights atrocities except where armed or terrorist organizations (like the LTTE) were in existence.

Under normal circumstances, when a country is under the international scrutiny it works as a deterrent on government violations. This is largely the case in Sri Lanka, after March 2012, when the UNHRC managed to pass a resolution against the government (not necessarily against Sri Lanka). Suddenly the government changed the tune. This sudden or abrupt change was quite suspicious considering the whole ‘show-off’ and ‘browbeating’ that they demonstrated in Geneva. They have agreed, as if wholeheartedly, for a ‘full body check’ from top to bottom.

As they have ‘agreed’ they now believe that they can claim anything found suspicious in the body (politic) as an ‘implantation’ or result of ‘conspiracy’ of other parties. This is fooling of masses on ‘international scrutiny.’ Without insulting women, I may add that the pretended innocence of the government is like the proverbial ‘virginity of the prostitute.’

Among several government spokesmen who put forward this argument before the media; while Keheliya Rambukwella badly mumbled; perhaps Wimal Weerawansa was the most articulate on the argument, as usual. I am quoting from News 1st yesterday. He asked and argued, “What is the benefit that the government can accrue through this action when the UNHRC in Geneva is ready to blame the government even on false accusations? It is like roping its own neck. Do you think the government would do that when there is international scrutiny?”

Pre-empt Speculation 

The reasoning behind the argument or the behaviour behind ‘rogue’ governments usually goes like follows.
(1) When there are violations, international scrutiny can work as a deterrent. Yes.
(2) When there is international scrutiny, even ‘rogue’ governments are careful not to indulge in massive violations. Partly Yes.
(3) When there is public or international assumption of deterrence, governments can continue with selective violations (as strategically necessary) and claim international scrutiny as defence. Mostly true.

Of course, the same or similar reasoning can be employed by other parties to discredit a government, rogue or not. But it is extremely unlikely that any other political actor is in a position to indulge in such an action to discredit presumably the ‘all powerful’ Rajapaksa government, with a massive military and security apparatus today. For the opposition political parties, there are so many political issues to utilize against the government, if they wish to, rather than trying to discredit it through risky stage-managed assault or abduction.

It is true that irrespective of all these apparatchiks, the government has also allowed cudu (drug) mafias and the underworld to operate. Therefore, there can be a slight possibility that this kind of a thing can be done by a private party. But can there be a motive for such a private revenge-taking on the JSC Secretary? What the public know is what the President revealed to the Media Heads at his meeting with them on 11 October that there is a complaint from a ‘father of a female judge’ regarding what amounts to sexual harassment. This is categorically denied by Tilakaratne.
Be as it may, the complaint apparently was made in April, but no action was taken until October by the President, properly directing it to the relevant authorities to investigate the matter!

Of course there can be a cynical theory that because of the above, or for some other reason, the JSC Secretary himself hired thugs to assault him to blame the government or any other. Didn’t a dubious Minister say that? Of course there can be such a deceitful people in society, especially among politicians, but it is difficult to imagine that such a person can survive in the judiciary for long years whatever his other weaknesses. Tilakaratne was a High Court Judge previously before becoming the Secretary to the JSC.

No one can conclusively say who attacked the JSC Secretary on that Sunday. As Rev. Maduluwawe Sobitha has said, there should be prompt action to arrest the attackers and to conduct an impartial inquiry. There are many doubts that the attempt was to abduct Manjula Tilakaratne and not merely to assault him.

There is every reason to believe that the government is the prime suspect. They have every strategic reason to attack the judiciary at this juncture. There is no need to reiterate the events surrounding the pressure or the attacks on the judiciary from the executive branch in recent times subsequent to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. If there is any impeachment necessary, it should be against the President but not against the Chief Justice. There are clear attempts to install ‘dictatorial authority and governance’ by doing away completely with the independence of the judiciary. Motives are to safeguard family rule, hoodwink minority rights, suppress dissent and pre-empt strikes like FUTA. There is so much written on the subject.

Defend the Judiciary 

In a court of law when someone is accused of a crime, the person is ‘presumed innocent until proven guilty.’ That should be the case when and if anybody is arrested and accused of the said attack and assault.

But in politics, the reasoning is different, and it should be different. Otherwise democracy is in jeopardy. The exposure of attacks on democracy is an absolute necessity of course on factual grounds. The accusation on the government on this assault is a political accusation. It is a valid accusation on the reasons given above. This does not mean that the government or the cabinet came to the Hotel Road, Mount Lavinia, and assaulted Tilakaratne. But political responsibility lies with the government and most likely the assault or the attempted abduction was conducted on clear instructions from above.

The assault is not merely on Manjula Tilakaratne but on the judiciary. The judiciary is not merely one branch of government among the three (legislative, executive and judiciary), but constitute a special position in safeguarding the rule of law, adjudication of justice and fundamental rights of the people. All these are under threat in Sri Lanka at present.
No one would argue that the judiciary (or the legal profession in general) in Sri Lanka is perfect or up to proper democratic expectations. There should be judicial reforms, expeditious delivery of justice, more professionalism, sensitivity to the ordinary people (not only to the rich!) and commitment within itself for judiciary’s independence. There must have been politically biased judgements in the past or bending over backwards to the political whims of even the present regime. However, as the judiciary is under attack from political goons at present, whatever the past weaknesses, the judiciary should be unconditionally defended by the people and all sectors of the democratic society. It is also an international duty.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    So much valid points have been sited by intellectuals on the attack on the Judiciary. But the ship sails unharmed.Isn’t it time for people to come into action until the ship is sunk forever.

  • 0

    What is the fraction of the people in the South reading articles like this?

    What fraction knows what the successive governments have been

    a.manipulating them to do:

    b.telling (=lying to) the international community:

    c.actually doing to the country, esp the North and the East:

    i. ”But that truth cannot excuse human rights violations that currently afflict the nation as a whole; or for that matter obscure the looming threat of the cultural and political colonisation of the north by the Sinhala Buddhist majority” – Biased and Prejudiced Collection on Sri Lanka, *Gananath Obeyesekere, Economic & Political Weekly, VOL 47 No. 04, 28 January-03 February 2012, http://www.scribd.com/doc/82525102/Biased-and-Prejudiced-Collection-on-Sri-Lanka

    ii. http://www.scribd.com/doc/106780784/Who-Looks-After-the-Environment-of-the-Oppressed-Revised-24-Sept-2012

  • 0

    Why do the people in the South think that those in the Northeast should agree for UNITED Sri Lanka when they are trampled politically, socio-economically, environmentally.

    Physically (and psychologically):
    ‘’Military density in the North of Sri Lanka in ”peace time” is much higher than the peak conflict time in Iraq, Northern Ireland, Kashmir or French occupation of Algeria’’ – Notes on the Military Presence in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, Vol XLVII No 28, 14 July 2012, http://epw.epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/17622.pdf

    Psychologically (and physically):
    The location, size and design of the ”monuments” are dead against any sense of reconciliation:
    President unveiled monument on 9 December 2009:
    Defence Secretary unveiled monument on 30 April 2010
    Defence Secretary unveiled war memorial on 9 May 2010

    Submissions to LLRC must be translated into Sinhala before the distorted history becomes THE History:

  • 0

    When the fat president needs to tell the IGP to catch the culprits we know who did it?
    Did Frederica Jansz do it?

  • 0

    People who supported the judiciary, executivee and lehislature that supported the haraasing, torturing and killing of Tamils in the shoudl not cry whent teh executive turns their gun on them. They got used to the means suppressing rightoeuness for which you were help ful

  • 0

    I am very proud of you Laksiri.Your braveness, factual correctnes of your article and the reveal of the truth must be respected by every one. Our professionals and schollars are in deep slumber.What to do This is our fate. General public have been silenced by death treats.Brothers company(Demons) very soon sweep the democracy completly from this country for them to suck the last drop of the blood of the poor ignorance people of this country.Down with the Brothers Company.

  • 0

    Well, well,well. When the innocent tamils were being harassed, abducted, tortured, imprisoned without trial and killed by the Rajapopaksa regime most of the sinhala journalists, politicians, clergy, civic leaders and the public kept quiet but now when Rajapaksa has turned his well practiced oppressive methods against the sinhala people there is no shortage of criticism by these people almost on a daily basis. All I can say is you created and nurtured this demon Rajapaksa and you have to suffer without complaining like the tamils.

  • 0

    Dear Pirhana,

    I don’t think your criticism is completely correct. There were ‘Sinhalese’ who were defending Tamil rights even under difficult circumstances. As for myself the following two articles are examples, among others.


    It may be true that the ‘defence’ perhaps were not up to your expectations. Those were difficult times given the atrocities by the LTTE themselves. What do you say about that?

    However, the issue raised in this article is not merely about the attack on a person, Manjula Tilakaratne. It is an attack on the Judiciary. If you fail to defend the Judiciary on this instance, you might be making the same mistake of the ‘Sinhalese’ that you suppose to criticise.

    Laksiri Fernando

  • 0

    Thank you for your response, Dr Laksiri. I do get the point you have made in your artile.The attack on the judiciary by this regime is with the intention of making it toe its line and ultimately it is the people,all the people, in the country that will suffer.Please don’t take my criticism pesnally. I admire the few decent well meaning people – academics, civic leaders, journalists and others who are brave enough to voice their criticism in public against this dreadful regime at risk to their own personal safety.

    The LTTE had to be destroyed as it was not only holding the whole country to ransom but it was also causing immense damage to the tamils of Sri Lanka who they claimed to represent. Many sinhala people voiced crticism against the way the Rajapaksa regime conducted the war, especially how it completely disregarded the safety and welfare of the hundrds of thousands of civilians in the war zone.The same sinhala people are still vocing their criticism in this regard bravely at international fora and I am pretty sure the tamils are very grateful to them for their continuing supprt.

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