25 September, 2018

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Back To White-Vanning Days?

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Back in the day a new term entered the political lexicon of Sri Lanka: white-vanning. It was about the use of vehicles, typically white vans, to abduct certain characters that the then regime felt were unsavoury.

At times it was used to obtain information on LTTE activists and activities that could have endangered hundreds of lives, as in the case of the brother-in-law of then Senior Superintendent of Police Sarath Lugoda. The man was abducted in Kirulapona and found a few days later in some other location. Such abductions were justified then as necessary evils in the face of a ruthless terrorist organization. One recalls that former president the late J.R. Jayewardene famously said in the early days of the ‘ethnic’ conflagration, ‘in times of war the laws are silent.’

White-vanning, metaphorically speaking, was not always birthed by such ‘national security prerogatives,’ even if this was morally defensible. It was used to silence (through fear or elimination) political rivals, just like in the UNP-JVP period of terror (Bheeshanaya) of 1988-89 when ‘crushing the insurgents (or ‘the corrupt, oppressive regime’)’ was an alibi for many to bump off opponents, whether the rivalry was political or business-related. Of course, in comparison, the excesses of the previous regime are mild, but that’s no consolation either for the victims and their loved ones or democracy and civilization in general.

Now white-vanning was supposed to be a thing of the past. Indeed, there have been no killings that could even remotely be associated with the regime. Abductions, yes, but still very minor. There have been on the other hand, a readiness to unleash force to put down protests. There’s also intimidation of the media and abuse of state media institutions. These are ‘balanced’ one might argue by the passage of the Right to Information Act. If we talk relative merits, we can always be happy with the status quo, even if it degenerates a little more. The Rajapaksa years, after all weren’t rosy and neither was the time of Chandrika Kumaratunga. And then we had the JR-Premadasa years, which were positively horrendous.

But perhaps the first sign that this regime is seriously getting ready to ‘white-van’ is the concerted effort to silence public interest lawyer and presidential candidate Nagananda Kodituwakku.

Kodituwakku is a thorn in the flesh of the corrupt and the slothful. The cases he’s taken on recently in the public interest have been responded to with an unconscionable ‘look the other way’ by the judiciary. The measures taken are not illegal. You can, for example, take refuge in what could be called ‘dating,’ i.e postponing the consideration of the particular case.

Serious crimes of omission and commission such as the illegal passage of the 14th Amendment in 1988 have been opened up for debate by Kodituwakku through litigation. The case has been passed from judge to judge, which itself can imply (in the very least) an abdication of judicial responsibility.

Now here’s the time line which has led to what to me is a clear case of judicial white-vanning.

Kodituwakku files a case citing judicial corruption (SC/Writs/03/2016). Among those charged is a justice of the Supreme Court. The particular judge has had at least two run-ins with Kodituwakku, who has on February 9, 2015 requested a different bench, excluding the judge concerning the case CA/Writs/65/2015. The action, Kodituwakku has stated in the said application followed severe criticism leveled by the President of the Bar Association against the improper appointment of the said judge as the President of the Court of Appeal by then president Mahinda Rajapaksa. A different bench was duly appointed.

Subsequently, a similar submission is made before a bench presided over by the same judge on May 21, 2015 hearing the Write Application No 83/2014. The objection was on the issue of ‘losing trust and confidence’. The judge determines that the matter would be referred to the Chief Justice: “… Matter be referred to the Chief Justice for making a serious allegation of contempt. Registrar is directed to send the record before the Hon’ Chief Justice… ”

The Chief Justice, in his judicial wisdom, the record indicates, has not taken the submissions of the allegedly errant judge.

It is pertinent to mention that on 15th Feb 2016 Justice V Malalgoda was charged for judicial corruption by me before the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) for abuse of the office of the President of the Court of Appeal to confer favours to the former Executive President Mahinda Rajapakse, which became patently clear by the way the Writ Application CA/Writ/434/2014, challenging the then President Rajapakse’s nomination for a third term was handled by him. The said complaint to the CIABOC ( ) was supported by overwhelming evidence of judicial corruption involving Justice V Malalgoda, concerning the disappearance of the Writ Application CA/Writ/434/2014) after filing it at the Court of Appeal, which was re-emerged when President Rajapakse realized that he was facing a formidable challenge from his main opponent Maithreepala Sirisena. Having considered numerous requests made by many concerned citizens, the said Writ Application was withdrawn by me on 02nd Jan 2015 after filing a motion when the case was taken up during the Court vacation. This Motion vividly explained the circumstance under which the said Writ Application was withdrawn. Further to the complaint made against Justice V Malalgoda to the CIABOC on 15th Feb 2016, it has initiated a formal inquiry and the recording of my evidence has now been completed.

Now, for the record, Kodituwakku has written to the Registrar of the Supreme Court requesting that several cases he has filed not be listed before certain judges he has mentioned by name.

And now the allegedly errant judge has accused Kodituwakku of “improper, insulting, intolerable, unbecoming and contemptuous behavior’ and is moving to have his practice be suspended or that he be removed from the office of Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court.

Now is this a mere matter of egos or the splitting of hairs between two men, each for reasons of convenience? Theoretically it could be just that.

On the other hand, Kodituwakku’s intervention with respect to the 14th Amendment is a slap in the face of all three branches of the state — the judicial, legislative and executive. It was an amendment which was initiated by the then incumbent executive, President J.R. Jayewardena to a) bypass a draft amendment that was following established procedure, and b) allow persons defeated at a General Election to enter Parliament through the ‘National List.’ Jayewardene sent a typewritten version of HIS draft amendment along with a handwritten note to the then Chief Justice requesting determination on constitutionality. This version was not gazetted and was not placed on the Order Paper. The people’s trust was betrayed in the instant that the Chief Justice took it up for perusal. It was Jayewardene’s draft that was taken up in Parliament following the discretion of the then Speaker. In every single election held since then the 14th Amendment was referred to make room for political losers, with full complicity on the part of the particular Executive and the particular set of legislators.

In the matter currently in court, courtesy the stubborn litigant Nagananda Kodituwakku, the record shows that the judiciary has been lax or worse in moving on the illegality of the 14th Amendment.

In this context, one has to wonder when the umbrage taken by this judge is just a matter of bruised egos or objection to an unconscionable affront or whether the judge is but an instrument of a larger collective of individuals who feel threatened by the lawyer. Given the almost two decades worth of injustice meted out to the people over and above the burdening the same with patently anti-democratic and illegal legislation, given the navel-gazing by all three branches of the state on this very matter for the very same period, and given the by now clear fact that Kodituwakku has pulled the carpet from under the feet of these very same branches of the state, we have to wonder if this is a classic case of legal white-vanning. Indeed, Kodituwakku is of the opinion that the moves against him are due to his uncompromising stance vis-a-vis any person holding any public office including the judiciary particularly after steps have been taken to charge several judges for judicial corruption.

The matter has not yet been concluded in the Supreme Court. Let us not be presumptuous. Let the judges judge and consequently judged in view of the history of events, statements, interventions, sloth, negligence and ignorance. However, let us be vigilant simply because the very judge who is moving to silence Kodituwakku has been pencilled in to hear the case. If the Supreme Court does not understand the meaning of the term ‘conflict of interest,’ and if this judge does not see fit to excuse himself then his judicial ‘fitness’ needs to be questioned. At best it can be seen as an attempt to draw Kodituwakku into a fight and make him ‘prove’ unfitness, but it is more likely that it would force Kodituwakku to object and request a different bench. In short, ‘constructive postponement.’ Should we laugh or should we cry?

One thing is clear though. If Kodituwakku is subjected to legal white-vanning, “regular” white-vanning cannot be too far away.

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Latest comments

  • 12
    2

    The whole World can see the Criminal mafia network of Politicians, Lawyer, Doctors, Government officials and many more who are preventing the development and progress of Sri Lanka…

    How far they will go to maintain a state of lawlessness in this country to protect criminals!!?

    Now is this why all the Rajapaksas criminal network cases are not being investigated!?

    Is this same mafia network protecting the Rajapaksas!?

    Is this criminal network one and the same!?

    • 8
      0

      It is pretty clear that our Judiciary is rotten to the core. The best option would be to bring in foreign judges and have them train our locals . The apex court should be the Privy Council as in the past, until our courts catch up.
      I am not totally convinced of Nagananda’s credentials. When is he going to challenge the right of MP’s to change sides at will? This is the biggest case of corruption in the country.

    • 7
      0

      Sunil

      “The whole World can see the Criminal mafia network of Politicians, Lawyer, Doctors, Government officials and many more who are preventing the development and progress of Sri Lanka…”

      Six days ago the convicted Lalith Weeratunga and Anusha Palpita have been granted bail.

      What a wonderful news.

  • 10
    1

    People like Naga are the hopes we have in SL for good governance!
    We need to protect this man from both political parties and the colliding corrupt justice system!
    Good work Malinda!

    • 3
      0

      srinathan.gunaratnam

      “People like Naga are the hopes we have in SL for good governance!”

      A few months ago you put all your hope on Dr Gota. Why suddenly change your mind?

  • 4
    0

    Every human has right to live. We all know, but still we see each other as a puppet of selfish rules named Religion. Selfish, because most of it was changed throughout historical periods, exactly to please the political or religious entities of the respective periods.

    • 5
      1

      Thengai Srinivasan

      “Every human has right to live.”

      However its not true when psychopaths reigned North and South when journalists were either bumped off or bought their silence with laptops. Malinda Seneviratne did personally know these unwritten rules when Dr Gota was successfully operating his fleet of white vans. Malinda Seneviratne mostly chose to remain silent.

  • 5
    1

    Siri-Wicks admin came to power, giving us millions of false promises with regard to elimination of corruption. It has been reveled now, the present govt is the most corrupted administration in the history of Sri Lanka apart from the hostilities they have done to the country in the international arena. (That also is ‘first-of-its-kind’ scenario I guess. Not a single legitimate govt in the world may have brought a resolution against their own country and its military at an international forum. Common Siri, your rhetoric wont be enough to take that stupid action back!)

    In the case of GR not coming to the presidential fray in 2020, Naga, you will get my vote for sure!

    Ok yahapa licking bulls, your free to bellowing at me, as of your wish. :-p

  • 5
    2

    If a member the jury in a trail of a case is insane or out of mind the jury is dismissed. If one judge is corrupt as you say the whole system is unworthy of their profession. Once a former Chief Justice of the SC admitted he let Mr Rajapakse off the hook in the Helping Hambantota case involving alleged theft of 83 millions hoping he would get better how can the judiciary or judges be presumed honest and neutral.
    That’s is the reason for the UN HRC and others affected, either the victims themselves or their loved ones call for international participation in the trial of alleged violation of international and national laws.

  • 6
    4

    During Mahinda Regime White van abductions and murder was not used to get information about LTTE but it was used to human rights activists including parliamentarians, jourlists, political enemies, business people for various reasons including personal, political, ransoms. The main purpose was to create a kingdom for Mahinda Family forever.

  • 4
    2

    Malinda never had the guts to utter a word against “white van” abductions during MaRa regime! He was in fact partying with them, flying with MaRa. Now he has the freedom to write even if it is not true. Enjoy while it lasts, Malinda because you will hide your tail between your legs and disappear at times when real journalists dare to speak and die.

  • 8
    0

    Is the author condoning the white vanning culture?

    How despicable but not out of character for this man.

  • 4
    10

    Kalu,

    You are against everything white. What’s wrong with you? Don’t you realize the white vans were a necessary evil in our battle against terrorism. You want to emulate the West by talking of human rights, while the West is dying to emulate our proven strategies in fighting terrorism.

    • 5
      3

      Ado low class army coolie Rtd (Retarded) Reginald Shemale Perera, why are you still alive? If terrorists were to be picked up, then you should have been picked up as one of them as an army terrorist. But that did not happen, therefore this white van system did not work properly. Bugger, if you had really fought the war like a valiant soldier, this war would have ended in 1986. But you ran with your tail stuck between your legs and goo pukka for 33 years and now you talk crap.

    • 3
      4

      SHAMAL: don’t take serious this Tami Coolie living in the Frozen North. He is just looking for Attention. He looks like a mariakade marakkalaya.

  • 4
    0

    Arya REGINALD Shamal PERERA,

    Who is this Kalu ? Is he related to Gnanasara ?

  • 7
    1

    Malinda had his sense of rectitude concealed in his r….m during Rajapakse’s time. When scores of journalists were “white-vanned”, maimed and murdered by Gota’s thugs , Malinda was a Rajapakse henchman, uttered nary a word against such crimes; but, instead, sang hosannas to Mahinda and, in return, received free computers from him ( paid for by tne citizenry). With the change of govt., the chameleon has now changed colour.
    “Such abductions were justified then as necessary evils in the face of a ruthless terrorist organization.”
    Musings from a medieval mind. Barbarians’ perception !

  • 7
    0

    Malinda Seneviratne has just woken up and then seen “Back To White-Vanning Days?”
    Malinda probably feels that white-vans must be used for a specific purpose BUT NOT against US – the US as perceived by Malinda.
    Malinda moans the way Nagananda is being treated. Nagananda is one of the rare Lankans who fights for justice to all.
    Does Malinda know how a former Governor of NP used white vans? During his reign, the Uthayan press were set on fire several times. Journalist simply disappeared. The Editor was pulped and sent t the IC unit – he survived! Jaffna University under-grads were told “Groups of more than three will be considered terrorists”. The white vans went a long way towards implementing this.
    What are you up to Malinda?

  • 2
    0

    Mr.Sarath Lugoda’s brother in law who was a prominent businessman in Colombo was abducted by Gota’s henchman for ransom. He had to pay millions to save his life and fled the country. I am not sure why this author trying to paint him as an LTTE collaborator. Mahinda’s regime at that time was working with it’s Tamil goons to destroy the Tamil businesses in Colombo. He was part of that wider tactic and all the innocent Tamil people abducted at that time were conveniently connected to LTTE.

  • 2
    0

    “Former president late J.R.Jayawardena said in times of war laws are silent”

    Cuban revolutionary leader late Fidel Castro said “Revolutionary justice is not based on legal perception, but on moral conviction”

    • 1
      0

      Kautilya,

      And you can quote me if you wish and say Rtd. Lt. Reginald Shamal Perera said that “Extra ordinary problems always need extra ordinary solutions”.

  • 2
    0

    Kautilya,
    Do you think Malinda, DJ, and the likes have the moral convictions to openly ask MaRa Bros & Co to gracefully retire from SL before the end of this year.

    Then promote younger citizens ( SriLankans only not GoRa BaRa types ) to take up politics and then take over the power and bring changes for the better of the SL together with JVP.

    Brining back MaRa & brothers will never put the country in the right direction . Democracy will be hijacked again.

  • 1
    0

    “Such abductions were justified then as necessary evils in the face of a ruthless terrorist organization.”

    So if it was justified then…why is it not justified now…?

    Is it because at that time Malindas favorite government was in power but now its hated opposition rules….?

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