By Karu Jayasuriya –
The onslaught on this country’s democratic establishments and rule of law institutions by the incumbent regime, warrants attention and unreserved condemnation by all those who aspire to higher democratic standards.
It is with grave concern, therefore, that we note recent developments regarding alleged interference by the executive on the affairs of the judiciary and the appalling intimidation and smear campaigns carried out by the regime’s propaganda outfits: the state media. We condemn these attempts to cast aspersions on the highest officers of the Sri Lankan judiciary as blatant attempts to irreversibly harm the fragile threads that hold together the once-vibrant democratic tapestry of our country.
The executive, legislature and judiciary are the cornerstones of a vibrant democracy, underscored by an active civil society, a free media and an informed and astute citizenry. All these, except the executive, and of that too, only a minority of the privileged, is being rendered redundant. Whilst the executive of the country is on a perpetual drive to further its powers, the other arms which are to serve as the foundations are being – expediently – rendered redundant with the same conviction.
This is an age in which sons of government ministers’ rampage against public officials forcing thousands of law enforcement personnel to look on powerlessly. We live in a time when the assault on a house of law, empowered and cheered on by a cabinet minister, goes without reprimand or punishment by the rulers.
Today, a government legislator named as a main suspect in the murder of a member of his own party basks in state patronage while the man the regime once called the “Greatest Army Commander in the world” for ridding Sri Lanka of the LTTE menace, is a convicted felon.
With its systematic assault on the rule of law and democracy, this regime chips away at every last remaining hope and redress of the victimized and oppressed citizen. When the people of Sri Lanka cry out for justice, this regime is intent on destroying the judicial system by striking at its very heart. Our collective future rests on safeguarding the dignity and independence of our judges: men and women who serve in capacities that might decide Sri Lanka’s future course. An independent judiciary could see democracy restored; a broken, cowering one would surely pave the way for tyranny.
These are dark times for democracy. Her lights are going out with every passing day. As the legislature loses its relevance, the media remains muzzled, and peoples’ liberties are stolen by their rulers, we must look to the judiciary to keep the power of a monarchic executive in check. We must look to the judiciary to save us from our elected representatives, for Sri Lanka has reached a stage when her people have be safeguarded from the very men and women who were voted into office to protect the populi.
That men and women of integrity and honour form the vast majority of the judiciary and police force is something that should never be cast into doubt. Their silence is understandable in these troubled times, but it can no longer be their sole recourse. If this regime’s continued march to authoritarianism is to be checked, the time has come for the silence of the good people to come to an end. The time has come for difficult choices to be made. We respect and honour those men and women of the judiciary who have decided to make those choices. We stand with them, beside them and for them as they face what will likely be the toughest challenges of their careers. If they will keep the faith, they carry with them the assurance of the opposition’s enduring and unwavering support for their struggle.
The task of restoring democracy and rule of law in Sri Lanka may seem daunting right now. Yet those of us willing to accept the challenge will be assured that future generations will look back on this time and know that we stood on the right side of history.