21 November, 2019

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Impeachment: An Ethos Of Ethics?

By Pradeep Jeganathan –

Dr. Pradeep Jeganathan

Virtue, then, being of two kinds, intellectual and moral, intellectual virtue in the main owes both its birth and its growth to teaching (for which reason it requires experience and time), while moral virtue comes about as a result of habit, whence also its name ethike is one that is formed by a slight variation from the word ethos (habit). Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 2.

On the 22nd of March, 1952, D.S. Senanayake, first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon, passed away after falling off his horse, during his morning ride at Galle Face.

It is widely known that his son, Dudley Senanayake succeeded him. It is not so widely known that the circumstances of the succession were controversial, and Sir John Kotalawala, then Senior Vice President of the UNP, and more importantly Leader of the House, had fully expected to be called by the Governor General, Lord Soulbury to form the next government as Prime Minister.

But he never was; Soulbury who was away from his post, had left instructions with the acting Governer General, the then Chief Justice, Sir Alan Rose, QC to either call on Senanayaka Junior, or await his return. And so he did.

Kotalawala himself accepted this desicion at the time after much protest, but in a pamphlet written a few months later suggested that among the much back stabbing and deal making that went on, was a quid pro quo: Senanayake would offer the Governor Generalship to Solbury, who chaired the Royal Commission investigating the suitability of Ceylon’s Independence, if he would ensure the succession of his son, upon his demise.

I should underline that the paragraphs above deal with allegations, not proven fact. I am not in possession of new facts either, all what I say above was in the public domain in 1950s.

But I will say I find it rather persuasive, as much as I find articles of impeachment against the current Chief Justice Dr. (Ms) Bandaranayake unpersuasive.

SWRD, Lord Soulbury and Dudley

But often, as we are caught up in urgent, partisan political struggles, we lose sight of the larger issues. In this case, what is paramount, is an ethos of ethics which we have clearly lost. I present a historical example, at the dawn of what we call independence, to underline that two important British royal officials were implicated in the controversial, and arguably sordid, transition from Senanayake Senior to Junior.

It militates against the often expressed view, that the decline of an ethos of ethics we see in Sri Lanka happened the day before yesterday.  To me it is sobering to wonder if we ever had one. If I am right, the task of an Ethos of Ethics is much harder, yet necessary.

Often, we adults know right from wrong. But we carefully lull ourselves into thinking that some small wrong, doesn’t matter if it benefits us, and doesn’t seem to do much wrong to others. And then we continue along that path, as the unethical behavior grows in magnitude.

It is not just a matter of conscience, even one’s conscience could be an important starting point in an ethos of ethics. It is certainly not a matter of law, even though legal arguments are important seeing that justice is done.

It is, I submit, a matter of habit, custom and manner. Such needs to go far beyond law. Certainly at this late stage, the only right thing to do in the matter of the impeachment of the Chief Justice, is to step back, making clear amendments to the Constitution, allowing the impeachments of the members of the Superior Courts to follow common and well understood protocols of Justice rather than an unhappy combination of the custom and manner of the Kings Rajasingha II and Kakkille.

But is this really enough? For that would be to end the matter in a question of law. It is not. We do not need to learn right from wrong. But we need to think of how we teach such to children, and teach this again, to ourselves.

The matter becomes deeper, when we begin to understand, that both loyalty and fairness are virtues, deserving a place in an Ethos of Ethics. Often they come into conflict. Loyalty is certainly slippery, for it can contain implicit or explicit quid pro quos. You do this for me, I will do that for you — even if it seems unfair to others. Each situation may be different, but navigating that boundary is some thing we need to teach ourselves.

Even after the constitution of two republics, we haven’t yet even begun.

Dr. Pradeep Jeganathan is a Senior Consultant Social Anthropologist, at the Consortium for Humanitarian Agencies, in Colombo. For more info visit www.pjeganathan.org

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    A very good article. I guess every adult knows how to select the good deed from the bad deed. However, people in Sri Lanka have been brainwashed for centuries in its culture to accept concepts/practices such as nepotism (an acceptable virtue to support his/her loved ones, i.e.relatives and friends), bribery (in the form of souvenirs/presents at the time of visiting village headman or government agent for even a simplest duty), etc. This is exactly what happens today….a century long (un)ethical practices are dominant in modern society. I am also of the view that Sri Lanka needs a change for betterment. Remote villagers are now ready to accept the ethical deeds.

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      The usual hair splitting to demonstrate PJ’s higher intelligence–in a world of politics which we know is always already tainted, it is ONLY the degrees of taint or ugliness that counts.
      The ethos of ethics must of course be upheld – while the struggle against the impeachment of CJ, due to denial of due process and natural justice carries on. One hopes it will raise the bar of ethics in the SL judiciary which is far less tainted than the legislature or executive by corruption.
      All things being relative, it is Mahinda Rajapakse the most corrupt executive of post-independence Lanka and his Kangaroo Court of political opportunists that should be IMPEACHED

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    A timely recollection and succinct discourse on the ethos of ethics. We are as a nation yet crawling like an infant, though we lost our innocence a very long time back. We may eventually learn to stand, walk and even run, but will we ever regain our innocence. This the heaviest price we have paid as a nation.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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      RJ?
      Which innocence are you talking about in such suggestive ways? I hope you dont mean sexual innoncence Doctor? Do you mean the ways in which CJ was treated by the PC men?
      Pradeep, has probably not remebered ethics during his infamous time at ICES when his ethics vis a vis the institution was so much suffering from such lack of innocene?

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        @SN Could you be so kind as to let everyone know, what “his infamous time at ICES when his ethics vis a vis the institution was so much suffering” (sic) means? i.e. rather than indulging in PSC like innuendo, make an allegation supported by evidence. :)

        I’d rather not be impeached randomly by the regime or the smart set; I do share a senior attorney with the CJ.

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    RV and RN, I agree. And thank you for commenting.

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    Ethics and Values are at the core of Justice. Laws are the extension of Justice to regulate the behaviour of human beings. Ethics are what one learns in the lap of ones mother, in the hands of ones father, then in the schools of learning and later in the university of life. These translate to ones behaviour and interaction with other human beings and the world.

    Religon also plays an important role in teaching ethics and values but unfortunately the teachers and preachers are wanting and not a good example of what they preach and teach. Today religon is more focussed on the rituals than the spiritual.

    So the ethical character of a person is a result of his environment, upbringing and education. When one is not taught the good, the bad and the ugly, then in later life we have an individual who lives according to his wishes and desires and perhaps what he thinks is best, his conscience. That is why laws are neccesary to regulate people of all types to conform with the needs of as we say a just society. This is a uniform system applying to all. If every one acts according to what he or she thinks is right there would be chaos. If someone thinks he is above the law then its not going to work either.

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    Anything that begins paying homage to Aristotle must be one steeped in intellectual depth and wholesome thought. After all the old Greek taught the world “Gratitude is the greatest of all Virtues. If you have none go acquire one” – perhaps not in the same sequence of words.
    If Mahinda R or his army of “advisors” had access to Aristotle’s thinking he would have established his gratitude to his own people – as well as the Tamils he was negotiating to come to power – by first
    settling the Natiional Question. That would have,in a grotesque sort of way, gone out to honour obligations of a sinister variety – now far too well known.

    While congratulating Pradeep on a characteristic piece, I wonder if he was consistent with historical events of his day or unkind to the monocoled Lord when he noted “…LEFT INSTRUCTIONS with the Acting GG”
    HM’s Agent, I venture to suggest, is more unlikely to “follow instructions” from one of the “subject race” than to give effect to some form of Quid Pro Quo.

    Senguttuvan

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    Dr. Jeganathan,

    You attempt to make a persuasive submission. But, do you think in a society, where you (rightly) wonder “…if we ever had ..” (ethos and ethics) that as a society we are ready yet, for “..making clear amendments to the Constitution, allowing the impeachments of the members of the Superior Courts to follow common and well understood protocols of Justice..”

    I am a Sinhalese, and I don’t think I am offending you when I ask you to think as a Tamil living in Colombo, how weak our society’s capacity to consider the national question, (for me a much deeper issue, simply) and human suffering of human beings as fellow human beings, as we are all being held hostage by the current power structures, local, regional and global.

    How can we come up with the instruments for “clear amendments for the constitution” and “well understood protocols of Justice..” from within a context such as this?

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    If Jeganathan can talk to Ranil Wickremasinghe, he can get information about this, because Ranil’s father played a key role in DSS and DS issue. Sir Oliver was also behind it.

    I have no doubt Ranil’s father or mother told Ranil about it.

    They were also behind getting Sir DB Jayatileke out of politics and deport to India.

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    LKP@. Yes, you are right that its quite uncertain if the amendments would be made. I said, its “only right thing to do,” not that it would happen. Yes, we may not be ready, and it may well not. But it is worth noting, that WR has already drawn up a private members bill on this — which follows I understand the proposed 2000 constitution. Again, it may not be taken seriously — but its ready to be printed, I think.

    @Sen. I didn’t quite get you; but the essay may not be clear also — on this point. Rose didn’t appoint DS,jr. But he said he had instructions, but he would wait. While they waited the Lake House press went to town for DS,jr.
    Apparently, by the time Soulbury was flying back on BOAC (ahh the old days) from London to Ratmalana, JLK was already organizing a protest — made of labour from his plumbago mines – at the Airport, and the flight at to diverted to the then military base of Katunayake. (Sounds familiar?)

    Then the monocled Lord (as you put it!) arrives, and asks DS.jr to form a government.
    The condition of possibility of the rivalry between DS.jr and JLK was, of course, DSS, Snr’s easing out of SWRDB an year or two before.

    If not for that, we may never had to live through the visicous stupidity of Sinhala Only.

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      @PJ Thanks for taking trouble to respond, but, I must say I’m really disappointed with it. You start with Aristotle and ethics but quickly descend to amendments of the current Constitution (and 2000 miscarriage) ), and WR’s pvt. member bill. Sorry about imbuing unrealistic expectations in my term “instruments” where the level of debate is focused on 50s political gossip and whether we are 2 or 1 nations?

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        well, i thought my response was to your specific question, and so the detail in granular.
        the general point of the intervention was to underline that ethics must be a habit.

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          “…to underline that ethics must be a habit.” naivety is valued only in teenage love and face to face combat, you are placed in neither.

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          I am sorry to disappoint you so, Mr. Perera; I look forward to commenting on your own contribution to Colombo Telegraph

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    Wije,

    I wonder if Esmond enjoyed the same leeway in 1952 that he enjouyed during JRJ’s tenure. That (the early 1950S) was a time when the cloak-and-dagger stuff was the virtual monopoly of the likes of Sir Oliver.
    Just my speculation – I was too small to be privy to the stuff of those times.

    Senguttuvan

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    @Wije & Sen: Yes, on J.L. Fernando’s account (Three Prime Ministers of Ceylon, Gunasena 1963) EW was very much in the know, and supporting the succession of DS.,Jr.

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    Pradeep,

    EW did not stop there. His name is associated with infiltrating the
    Police All-Island Radio transmission system (Tarzie Vittach – Emergency ’58) that exacerbated the first 1958 pogrom against the Tamils. As we now know, it was engineered false information of Tamils having killed Sinhalese in the EP spread via the Police system that
    resulted in the slaughter of many Tamils in Padaviya, Inginiyagala and other places. The urbane son – now highly sanitised – was part of the Buddhist-Sinhala chauvinistic group in JRJ’s Cabinet when 7/83 was unleashed to mathematical precision – with such talent as Gonawala Sunil at his beck and call. But as Park Guen-Hye tells us today from Seoul, after her extra-ordinary victory – “it is best to leave the wounds of the past and proceed to a more hopeful future” She may have used different prose. She was talking of her hope to improve the relationship between the two Koreas despite the fact the North Koreans made more than one attempt on her father – killing her mother in one. It is the same spirit Bishop Desmond Tutu counselled the South African Nation in the late 1980s as did Napolean Bonaparte in his time “If we open the wounds of the past, we will lose the present and the future”

    You observe so wisely when you write “If not for that, we may never had to live through the vicious stupidity of Sinhala Only” How true. Except it was not just “stupidity” It was a monumental racially-inclined blunder that went out to divide the country. Though physical division, which Lakshman Kadirgamar predicted in 1978 (YMCA speech)
    was averted – the two Nations remain emotionally divided with the Rajapakses unwilling and/or unable to narrow the gap – at least so far.
    They don’t seem to be in a hurry to heal the deep wounds as their focus and priorities appear to be based more on matters of a pecuniary nature.

    Senguttuvan

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    I am glad that we cab discuss these matters without restrictions by the Colombo Telegraph editors.

    Sir Oliver and Esmond Wicks were part of the anti-Buddhist crowd who wanted to suppress a change from white masters to local villagers.

    Ironically Esmond got rich by marrying DR Wijewardena’s daughter who was Buddhist. Love was blind??

    This same way JRJ got his brothers all educated using the dowry he got by marrying Salina.

    SWRD was different from all these. He could have been the governor of SL. But he went a different path and married a village-based woman but educated at St. Bridgets but only upto the 7th grade.

    SWRD did not get a chance as LSSP and JRJ obstructed him with extremists Mettananda, KMP Rajaratana and sorry to say even FR Jayasuriya. Even Sirima took the reactionary side when it came to the Paddy Landa Bill.

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    THESE EDUCATED TAMIL RACIST SO CALLED INTELLIENCIA HOLD AGAINST THERI CON SICNCE THAT THE ” TWO NATIONS REMAIN EMOTIONLLY DIVIDED”, WHICH IS TOTAL
    HISTORICAL FALACY WHERE WERE TWO SRI LANKA NATIONS? WHAT FALSE IDIOCY. SRI LANKA WAS NEVEER EVER AND HAD NO REASON TO BEDIVIDED,UNLESS OTHER THAN AT THE TIME IT WAS UNDER FOREIGN DOMINATION.TAMILS WERE ALLOWED TO REMAIN AS MANY OTHER DESTITUTE ALIENS IN THE NORTH SUBJECT TO CONDITIONS LAID DOWN BY THE OWNER DESCEDENT OF THE SOUTH. AND NOW THEY CLAMOUR TO LAY CLAIM TO THAT REGION,WHICH IS NOT ONLY MOST DEPLORABLE AND UNGRATEFUL BUT ALSO HEINOUS. IS THIS GRARTITUDDE. THE TAMILS IN AFRICA WITH AMPLE AREA COULD EASILY CALIM AN ELAAM THERE, BUT CLING INTO TH TINY SPACE OF LAND IN SRI LANKA.HOW MUCH HAD PRABKARAN TO SARIFICE IN HIS LOPSIDED RECENT ATTEMPT. IT SEEMS CLEAR TGIER TAMIL TERRORISTS RUMP STILL WHACK THEI TOUNGES,HOPEEFULLY, BUT IN VAIN..

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      The ex-Tigers are with the current government and are being utilised to act according to the whims and fancies of Raja’s. Both Sinhalese and Tamils are suffering under the unruly Government

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    This is a good discussion, I must say. Thanks.

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    “it militates against the often expressed view, that the decline of an ethos of ethics we see in Sri Lanka happened the day before yesterday. To me it is sobering to wonder if we ever had one. If I am right, the task of an Ethos of Ethics is much harder, yet necessary.”

    Does this man know what he is talking about? To him ethics is a form of gymnastics.

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    ..

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    Wije:

    Interesting. Why did the visit of Dudley’s party to Sirima/Ratwatte’s
    Balangoda Walauwa on wife-hunting fail? Was it Dudley’s eating habits
    only? History may have been different if that alignment (the expression in South India for such matters) worked.

    In your list of Buddhist extremists, should you should also not include T.U. de Si;va and NQ Dias.

    The Wijewardenas were Buddhist when Esmond, Gomes et al married the girls. Were they not Christians prior to that and Buddhist before that.

    Methinks SWRD’s MEP failed because it was an “achcharu” coalition that had political parties of diametrically opposed philosophies – and they were bound to crack sooner than later. Pity the life of an educated,
    lively, liberal leader was sacrificed to make history as the first
    political assassination in modern times. Ironical – because the very Balavegaya of religion that propelled him consumed him as well. Dramatic – because the conspirator-in-chief was a high-ranking Buddhist priest. Curious comedy because the trigger-man was a Buddhist priest, who on the day he was hanged, went into records as a Christian.

    As Sir Walter Scott was to sing “Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when we first practise to deceive” ???

    The nett result – in 6 decades and more, as that great lawyer, historian, speaker, liberal Dr Colvin R. de Silva – who allowed all his learning and principles to be seduced by the temptation of office – forecast at one time “if we insist on one language we will be left with two little bleeding nations” Colvin – a favourite of mine -was rarely wrong.

    Senguttuvan

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    Your Majesty King Barnette, I fear, seem to have lost your marbles when you made these comments in sheer and controllable fury. In visceral moments such as that the animal part of the human body takes over and obliterates the rational thought process – as the Freudian crowd tell us. But in moments of calm, think of what this island was
    before the arrival of the Portugese and you will have more than just one think. The 2-in-1, we will learn in due course, is much more than a Japanese electronic musical gadget.

    Senguttuvan

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