By Ashan Nanayakkara –
Writer struck by a Facebook comment dated 06-01-2020 posted by Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, i.e.” විනිසුරුල කියන්නෙ අන්ත අසරණ අය. මොකද ඒ ගොල්ලන්ගෙ දුක්ගැනිවිලි කියන්න කියන්න කිසිම කෙනෙක් නැහැ. ජජ් රන්ජන්ට කතා කිරීමේ වරදක් නැහැ, නමුත් දුමින්ද කේස් එක ගැන රන්ජන් ජජ්ට කතා කිරීම වැරදියි. ශානිත් කියනවනෙ අනේ බුදු සර් ආයෙ නම් කතා කරන්න එපා කියල. අවුරුදු පහකට ඇතුලට දාන්න පුලුවන් කියල. ජජ්ල ඕන තරම් ඒ ගොලන්ගෙ දුක්ගැනිවිලි මාත් එක්ක කියල තියෙනව. සමහර ජජස්ල පත්තර කන්තෝරුවලටත් එනව. ඇත්තටම ඒ ගොල්ල ගොලුවො. දුක කියන්න කෙනෙක් නැති.” (“The Judges are left in the lurch. They are helpless. Because, they have no one to complaint to. There is no folly in Judge talking to Ranjan; but, it is wrong that Ranjan asks on Duminda’s matter from the Judge, vice versa. Even Shani told Ranjan, please, do not ever talk to them (judges) again, my dear Sir. For such an offence, Ranjan can be sent to behind bars for 5-years. In numerous times, Judges have said about their grievances with me. Some Judges come to Newspaper Companies. In truth, they are tongue-tied group who has no one to share their moans.”)
This was posted at the backdrop where set of electronic recordings have been confiscated by the Police, at Ranjan Ramanayake’s house, of which, couple of recordings said to have been released, which sound, one retired former Judge, Padmini Ranawaka and former Director Criminal Investigation Department (CID) – Shani Abeysekera had had telephone conversations with former Minister Ranjan Ramanayake. According to them, it was come to light, the sad state of affairs of giving promotions to Judges in Sri Lanka, neglect of career judges being appointed to superior courts of the country, decisions of some highly hush-hush court cases and secret criminal investigations.
Listen to Padmini Ranawaka’s alleged recording:
Listen to Shani Abeysekere’s alleged recording:
Out of those 2-telephone conversations, the writer, as an Attorney-at-Law who had appeared several occasions, before her Hounour when she was at High Court No 4 of the Colombo High Court and High Court of Pandura, could confirm that it was Retired High Court Judge Mrs. Ranawaka who was in the other side of the line. The other voice too, more often than not, resonances as Shani Abeysekera. It is latter’s down-south dialect and the other sequence of events which he talks, confirm the voice, as, that too, Shani Abeysekera, the former Director CID. Yet, confirmation of those voices can be challenged by those duo and until such is proven otherwise, let’s play it BY EAR!
Leaving aside all the innuendoes uttered by the Lady Judge who is said to be talked from the other side of the wire, there is one main point that echoes through-out her conversation with Ranjan. That is, how hard to be a Judge in Sri Lanka and how painstaking exercise that they are tasked to, for which, has no timely promotions and upgrades based on their merits.
The writer, being a member of the Profession, had appeared before this Lady Judge, could vouch for her integrity (though it is subjective to some other party). She is the ultimate product of a career Judge, who has no any social relationship, influential social life, nor casual acquaintance of anyone those who are in Places. That is the status of our Judges. They are, naturally, entered into their own shelf after joined into the Judiciary and they see the world only through their close family members. That is the sacrifice and the cost of their Job; in return, they are venerated as living gods, but that too limited till they retirement. Those Judges, sometimes, who wants to go out of the box and have active social life will end like “Icarus” who attempted to escape from Crete by means of wings constructed from feathers and wax, eventually, when he got closer to the sun more and more, wax got melt and he tumbled out the sky and died.
In recent times, some says, Hon. Mrs. Deepani Wijesundera lost her chance to go to zenith of her career, despite her most seniority, as she went too close to the sun; it is alleged that Colombo Fort Magistrate – Mr. Thilina Gamage too became a victim of “Ali case” (having an elephant without proper license) due to proximate relationships with the former Government. Even now suspended, Solicitor General, Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe lost her all future hopes becoming a Supreme Court Justice and even to become the 2nd female Chief Justice in Sri Lanka due to her political affiliations with Wickramasinghe Government.
In yesteryear, the classic example who faced to the identical fate of Icarus was former Chief Justice – Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake. She flew too close to the sun and ultimately burned from the flame and the wrath of the sun. It was very sad the way she was axed out, but she got her comeuppance!
Thus, it is very dangerous to associate with “bloody Politicians” in this country, when you are a career Judge unless that person is your own blood.
Let me quote an anecdote written by late eminent Lawyer, Mr. S. L. Gunasekera (SLG) about him, his father (former highly respected Supreme Court Judge – Edwin Harold Theodore Gunasekera) and then Governor General Oliver Gunathilake, in SLG’s book Lore of the Law and Other Memories: “One rare occasion on which I had the privilege/opportunity of having a discussion with my father while I was still a school boy was when, for whatever reason, he and I went alone for a wedding at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. One of the guests was the then Governor General, Sir Oliver Goonathilake. I recall sitting with my father at a table abutting the aisle. Sir Oliver who was occupying seat at the head of that aisle stood up to depart along that aisle. The band struck up the National Anthem and we all stood as OEG walked down that aisle. My father then said “Watch, son, when the Governor General comes here he will embrace me saying ‘Hello Judge’. I asked, “Why Daddy, is he a friend of yours?”. He said, “No”. Perplexed as I was at the time, I asked his again, “But why Daddy”. Before my father could reply, the Governor General had drawn up alongside us and as my father predicted, he put his arms around my father said “H-Hullo J-Judge” and actually kissed my father on the cheek with my father straining backwards to avoid contact with his face. This was the nearest to a ‘rape scene’ that I had ever witnessed!!
Sir Oliver passed, and I repeated the question “but why daddy”; my father’s answer was “because he is a bloody Politician son”. I asked again, “but why” because never had I, in my youthful innocence, witnessed a scene of this nature. His answer was, “because they are so idiotic as to actually think that they gain the support or the affection of the people by indulging in this kind in this type of stupid antic.” Page no. 18-19.
As per Ranjan’s word to Shani Abeysekera in the 2nd conversation that has been leaked, the Minister admits that he met Mrs. Ranawaka at a reception hosted by Mr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe (perhaps, at his son’s wedding) and this lady Judge very reluctantly provided her contact number to the Minister. It is irony of fate that this noble woman had no proper reading of Politicians as it did by late Justice – Edwin Harold Theodore Gunasekera 40-50-years ago. Above all, it was the same Politician who ventured to state that “90% of the Judges and Lawyers of this country are corrupted” [sic]. (read here) . By giving her personal phone number to Minister Ranjan, poor Judge, has acted the giddy goat! Uvindu, you are right that they have no voice to come correct what transpired in between.
Nevertheless, giving due recognition to each word that was uttered by this Lady Judge during the alleged released telephone conversation, there is nothing which could frame her that she was influenced by the words of Minister Ranjan Ramanayake to deliver the conviction against Duminda Silva. (Writer does not want to carry the risk of totally exonerate the Judge, because, there could have been things these parties may have talked outside the telephone lines) Albeit, it was very clear that, the person who seems to be Mrs. Padmini Ranwaka only talks on her promotion to Court of Appeal along with then Minister Mr. Ranjan Ramanayake. She was about to retire from her “god given divine job as once Hon. Nalin Perera worded in his welcome address as the Chief Justice”. After 27-years of illustrious career, there may be so many expectations and aspirations to elevate the next level of her career. It is a great honour and prestige to become a Judge of the Court of Appeal. It was her weak point and Ranjan was clever enough to nailed it.
Nevertheless, it was the said Judge’s conscience spoke during those conversations and a far cry demanded for an elevation in her job based on meritocracy. It was true, as it is uttered in that conversation, that this efficient Hon. Judge was delivering quite a number of judgments during her tenure in Pandaura High Court. It was also true that Lawyers who practice in Panadura Bar, were talking that they will lose their bread and butter if that disposal rate continues. (It is question that whether the quality of those judgments was kept intact when one increases the rate of delivering judgments. Also when, from those decrees, the life and the death of a person is decided; not animals’).
It was further true that due to some appointments made directly to the Judiciary through Hon. Attorney General’s Department, and seldom from private Bar, personnel who are around the age of late 40s and early 50s, has created huge bottle neck at the top of the Judicial hierarchy, due to which an unwarranted competition has also been developed among the High Court Judges to go up in the ladder by hook or crook. Some vastly experienced, immaculate career judges have to halt their dreams of becoming a Judge in our apex courts due to these improper practices (However, appointing Judges from Official Bar or from Unofficial Bar is highly debatable point which has its own pros and cons. Though it is true that career judges have gone through the mill and have possessed with wide spectrum of law who have loads of experiences, (as practitioner sometimes the writer himself has experienced much comfort before a career judge rather than a nominee from official or unofficial Bar) there are some career judges who are as pathetic as idiot box, vis-à-vis, though some members of private Bar and official Bar, despite the fact that they have no experiences in the judicial service, once they are appointed as Judges, they deliver extraordinary service justifying their selections.
Writer recalls such wonderful man who was appointed from Private Bar was, recently expired Justice, Mr. Prasanna Jayawardene. Against the said Judge, when he was a Private Practitioner, the writer had the chance to oppose, was an immaculate Lawyer and a very rare human being. And Appointment of W. P. G. Dep, PC., the Solicitor General to the Supreme Court who was sidelined by not promoting as the Attorney General who was much deserved at the cost of Mohan Pieris during those days, too became most unstained and unblemished Chief Justice in recent history. Those appointments, are not elected from flock of career judges; but, yet, turn out to be excellent choices. On the other hand, it is a custom that those who have eminent legal practice are deserved to be appointed as higher courts’ judges considering their illuminating legal practice. Thus, one cannot lament what is already persists. But, it is healthy for the Judiciary at large, if all the stakeholders could come to a compromise, what is the ratio of the Judges should they preside the bench from the Judicial Service, Official Bar and Unofficial Bar.
Coming back to Duminda Silva’s court case bearing no. High Court Trial-at-Bar 7781/2015, for which Ranjan Ramanayake is alleged to have influenced, on 08-09-2016 Hon. Padmini N. Ranawaka, delivered her judgment which is referred to as the majority judgment. Hon. M. C. B. S Moraes agreed with that judgment. Hon. A. L. Shiran Gunaratne, the Chairman of the Trial-at-Bar, now Justice of Court of Appeal, delivered a separate judgment and acquitted all the accused of all the charges.
By the said Majority Judgment at the High Court, the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 12th, and 13th Accused were acquitted from all the charges leveled against them. Duminda Silva who is the 11th Accused was convicted for murder among other charges and sentenced to gallows.
One could argue that this Judgment may have been given to curry favours from then Government for a promotion or some other gratification. But, such an opinion is erred in law and in facts as this High Court Judgment was, afterwards, revised at the apex courts of this country in the case bearing no. SC/TAB/2A-D/2017. before Hon. Priyasath Dep PC, CJ, Hon. Buwaneka Aluwihare, PC, J, Hon. Priyantha Jayawardena, PC, J, Hon. H. N. J. Perera, J, Hon. Vijith Kumara Malalgoda, PC, J and, all of them unanimously affirmed the decision entered by Mrs. Ranawaka and Mr. Moraes subject to trivial variations which is not effected to reverse the capital punishment held against former Minister.
By arriving to the aforesaid conclusion, His Lordship the Chief Justice, inter alia, determined that,
“…In this factual backdrop, the presence of political stalwarts accompanied by their associate armed with fire arms, to my view, is sufficient to kindle a fear psychosis in the minds of the average voter. Such a scenario would certainly have an intimidating effect on the minds of a voter, the common object alleged in count No.1. I am also of the view that in deciding as to whether there exists an unlawful assembly or not, the incident that is altogether have taken place on the day must be considered cumulatively and not in isolation. It is then and only then, one could appreciate the objective of the group of people and by extension direct their mind to appreciate whether what ultimately took place was within the foreseeability of the unlawful assembly…”
“…Starting from the time the polling commenced and till the time it was drawing to an end, the 11thAccused spent his day, marauding between polling stations with weapons, defying officials discharging their duties, and assaulting and victimizing people associated with Solangaarachchi. The only time they were not seeing intimidating people were when the group was having lunch. No sooner than they finished their lunch, the group was seen assaulting, threatening, chasing people and flaunting their fire arms near Rahula Vidyalaya. Their conduct both before and after lunch revolved around intimidating voters by directly and indirectly showing their power near polling stations….”
“…There is evidence to hold that the 11thaccused obstructed the vehicle of the deceased Baratha Lakshman. And there are clear signs that when fire broke out, the deceased Baratha Lakshman, understanding the difference of fire arm power, attempted to retreat and flee the scene is also evidence that the 11thAccused’s pilot vehicle proceeded forward without any hindrance which could only mean that the 11thAccused’s obstruction of the deceased’s convoy was deliberate…”
“…On an election day which holds significance for both parties—whose enmity is widely known—it is untenable that a seasoned politician of the 11thAccused’s caliber would not foresee that his act of obstructing the deceased’s journey and pushing him, would escape without a serious reaction from the other side. He was fully apprised of the firearm capacity of his side. He was undoubtedly the central figure of that assemblage…”
“…Where there is clear evidence that a person who is the leader of a group commits the first act in a criminal offence and thereby triggers retaliation, and during the course of that retaliation which he himself triggered, ends up receiving the first injury, should he escape the liability for his actions and intentions?…”
“…The deceased’s fatal injuries were inflicted imminently after the 11th Accused’s injury. His presence continued to be assistive and operative on the actions of the unlawful assembly. Therefore criminal liability could be imposed on the basis of unlawful assembly. Therefore his conviction and sentence is in accordance with the law…”
Having given a complete analysis to the High Court Judgment by the Supreme Court, it is legally wrong to state that just because one Judge out of 3-Judges of the Trial-at-Bar was tapped by Ranjan Ramanayake, could negate the entirety of determination given by the Supreme Court.
Nonetheless, by the conversation had with Director CID – Shani Abeysekera, it is revealed that, the High Court Judgment was about to go in favour of Duminda Silva and due to some attempts made by either Shani or Ranjan, the upcoming Judgment will go against Duminda Silva. Further, it is the Million Dollar question, how Shani and Ranjan came to know that Duminda Silva shall be convicted before the judgment was delivered. And on what powers, former Minister Ranjan Ramanayake quarried from a High Court Judge that, “every one of the country is looking at you, Madam…” and try to impede with the justice system putting carrot of ‘the port of Judge of Court of Appeal’.
It is ironical that out of alleged 1500-recordings, only the tapes of Duminda Silva came out.
In the given facts, it is very clear that current regime has played their cards very cleverly and paved the way to the freedom of former Minister R. Duminda Silva. The Judges, the Citizens will have to face the music now. The final outcome of brining back Duminda Silva from gallows is now inevitable; it’s a matter of time. Whether it is Padmini Ranawaka or Ranjan Ramanayake is immaterial inasmuch as murder of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra is concerned. Whether Bharatha was bitten the bullet due to his own folly, is also neither here nor there. That is a broad day light murder committed by most gruesome manner in an Election day, which warrants, demands justice to be dispensed though the path way to justice is hampered by one Judge and a Clown of a Minister.