By Basil Fernando –
The International Bar Association in the executive summary of their report entitled, ‘A Crisis of Legitimacy‘ issued in March 2013 makes the following recommendation to the Commonwealth:
The Commonwealth should assess the seriousness with which the Sri Lankan authorities take these Recommendations, monitor the urgency with which they are acted upon, and consider with great care:
(i) Whether they are respecting its core values and principles, including the respect for separation of powers, the rule of law, good governance and human rights enshrined in its Charter;
(ii) Whether the Commonwealth’s reputation would be more enhanced or tarnished if Sri Lanka were to host the forthcoming Commonwealth heads of Government Meeting and act as its Chair-in-Office for the next two years.
What the International Bar Association is requesting the Commonwealth to do is to review the situation and be satisfied that Sri Lanka respects its core values and principles, including the respect for separation of powers, the rule of law, good governance and the human rights enshrined in its Charter.
While the International Bar Association seems to be unsure about where Sri Lanka stands in terms of the core values which cement the relationships within the Commonwealth, the Sri Lankan government is quite loudly proclaiming to the rest of the world that they do not care a damn about these ‘core values’.
Within the last week itself, in three glaring incidents, Sri Lanka demonstrated to the local community as well as the world at large, where it stands on these ‘core values’. These four incidents are:
- On the advice of the Attorney General, Malaka Silva, the son of Minister Mervyn Silva and six others were discharged from the accusation of assaulting Major Chandana Pradeep Susane at the Hilton Residencies in Colombo. Major Susane complained that he was assaulted and that his military issued firearm was stolen from him by the accused.
- The 17 persons, including some Buddhist monks who were accused of causing extensive damage to the building, merchandise and vehicles belong to the shop, Fashion Bug, in Pepiliyana were discharged on the basis that a settlement had been arrived at with the owners of the shop. The Minister of Justice wrote a letter protesting the discharge and in talking at a BBC interview stated that the settlement had been arrived at by pressure.
- The former member of the local government (Pradeshiya Sabha) of Godakawela, Mr. Lokugamhewage Dhamasiri and his associate, Sanath ‘Chutimalli’ Nandana, were in remand custody for about one year on the charge of their connection to the murder of a mother and daughter at Kahawatte Kotakethena. They were also released on the advice of the Attorney General.
- Following the impeachment of the Chief Justice, Dr. Shirani Bandaranayke, arrangements are now underway for the transfer of a large number of judges of the lower courts. The Judicial Services Commission took a strong position against the impeachment. It is also expected that Mr. Aravinda Perera, the Colombo Additional District Court judge, who was suspended from service on allegations of corruption is to be reappointed. The former secretary of the Judicial Service Commission, Manjula Thilekaratne has complained that the Judicial Service Commission was under pressure to reinstate a judge suspended for investigations into corruption.
The most recent incidents narrated above are only a fraction of a large list of incidents which demonstrate quite clearly that the government is in no way reluctant to flout the core values, such as the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and democracy.
The problem that the UN Resolution on Reconciliation and Accountability is faced with is that while the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the international community insist that the Sri Lankan government should prove its accountability regarding the core values on which all these international relationships are based, the government of Sri Lanka is structurally committed to the abandonment of all these core values.
The people in Sri Lanka know that the gap between these core values and the Sri Lankan government is a wide as the distance between the Earth and the moon. However, the international community has not yet grasped the actual reality that, structurally, governance in Sri Lanka is now based on a system of values which are the very opposite of the core values that the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the international community are insisting on.