19 July, 2024

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Late But Still Not Too Late 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The government is coming up with many new laws, some of which have been positively viewed and others negatively. Among the positives have been the new anti-corruption law and the truth commission bill with the latest being the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) bill. The negatives, however, outnumber the positives with the Online Safety bill and the Anti-Terrorism Act heading the list. They are both meant to suppress protests, both verbal and on the ground. There are other controversial laws hovering in the background, including the NGO control bill and the electoral reforms bill that are still to be presented to the general public or to parliament. What is common to these laws is that they have been prepared without transparency by unknown figures who keep to the background.

The ONUR bill which saw the light of day about a month ago has come without any fanfare. This law should not be confused with the proposed truth commission that the government has been promising to establish for about a year. The ONUR bill is a very broad one encompassing ethnic, religious and social harmony issues. The office that is set up will be mandated to make necessary recommendations to the government and relevant authorities towards achieving national unity, reconciliation, and durable peace in the country and formulate a national policy and national action plan on reconciliation and coexistence. By way of contrast, the truth commission that has been proposed would be focused on the period of the three decade long internal war that was fought most of all in the north and east of the country.

The ONUR bill proposes to establish an office with eleven members. The office will consist of one ex-officio member not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to a Ministry and ten others based on the recommendations of the Ministers. All members are to be appointed by the President. Any individual who wrongfully resists or obstructs any person attached to the office from carrying out duties or willfully provides false information to the office will be considered to be committing an offence of contempt against the authority of the office, according to the bill. Where the Reconciliation Office has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed the offence of contempt against the authority of the Reconciliation Office, the Reconciliation Office shall report such matter to the Court of Appeal. The problem is that the members appointed to the office will not be independent by the fact of being selected by government ministers and appointed by the president.

Partisan Appointments

As a result, those who will be selected to be ONUR members can be politically partisan individuals who will use the plethora of powers they are entrusted with for highly partisan purposes. The proposed ONUR office follows the recent pattern of new institutions being created in which those who will head them are to be appointed by the president at his discretion. The Online Safety bill has provision for the five commissioners to be selected by the president at his discretion. They were to be empowered to decide on what constitutes hate speech and causes injury to people and whether they need to be subjected to punitive action. This power of appointment has been challenged in the supreme court where petitioners have sought that the power of appointment be given to the Constitutional Council rather than to the president.

The constitutional council was established to ensure that those selected to the positions of state authority should be politically independent to the extent possible. When it was first established under the 17th Amendment the concept of the constitutional council was welcomed unanimously by parliament. However, when successive government leaders found that the arbitrary powers they once wielded with regard to making appointments to high offices of state was taken away from them, they tried their utmost to undermine the constitutional council. As a result, the 17th amendment suffered repeal on two occasions but has been brought back by the 21st Amendment. Unlike previous governments that repealed the laws that set up the constitutional council, the present government is more subtle in seeking to make its existence superfluous by ignoring it.

It is an unfortunate possibility that even laws that could be used to do good, such as the ONUR bill, can end up being used for partisan purposes. This is what has happened in the case of the ICCPR Act. This was a law that was meant to give effect on the ground to the world renowned International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, the manner in which this law has been used is a travesty to human rights that the ICCPR was meant to protect. In Sri Lanka it has been used to persecute writers, journalists and actors who have dared to question the ethnicised Sri Lankan state that gives priority to the majority community. Those who have been victimized by the ICCPR Act have spent months and years in jail without bail on the grounds that they crossed the threshold of hate speech prohibited by the ICCPR Act.

Non-Partisanship 

The members selected under the ONUR Act need to be non-partisan as envisaged by the 21st Amendment. There is a possibility of the ONUR Act, which gives the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation broad powers, being abused to harass those who are political and ideological opponents, in the manner that the ICCPR Act has been abused. There are many potential flashpoints that could lead to ethnic and religious tensions unless they are handled judiciously. The possible flashpoints include the archaeological sites that are being discovered in the north and east of the country, with the pressure to turn them into living religious sites, even though hardly anyone of that religion live in the area.

The conflict in Kurundi in the north over a Buddhist temple being built on top of an archaeological site has caused sufficient tension that a judge has fled the country for trying to stop this encroachment. There is also the tension surrounding the issue of grazing lands in the east of the country which are now being claimed by those who come from outside. There have been images of cattle lying slaughtered in the fields, while their owners mourn the loss of their economic assets. It is important that the government takes steps to prevent a recurrence of the past, where those fields became human killing fields in the course of the three-decade long war.

Despite the president having made his position clear on these issues that plague the country, there is no follow up. The president has said that private individuals and organisations have no right to encroach on lands that do not belong to them. However, the problem lies with the lack of implementation. Unfortunately, the president himself undermines his own good intentions by not adhering to the constitutional norms such as respecting the right of the constitutional council to make appointments to high state offices. This serves to undermine the independence of state institutions, the rule of law and the justice this would afford to all. Instead of trying to act on his own, the president needs to forge a multi-partisan consensus with the opposition political parties and civil society to ensure good governance in the country. It is late in the time remaining, but still not too late.

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Latest comments

  • 11
    0

    Bills can be presented in the Parliament but they should not be violating the constitution of the country. Unfortunately, almost all the bills presented to the parliament have been found to be in violation of the constitution and still, the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice are continuing in their positions. This clearly shows that both of them have no self-respect or care what the citizens of the country think of them. Should they continue in their positions?

    • 5
      0

      (Part I)
      Buddhist1,
      “Unfortunately, almost ALL THE BILLS PRESENTED to the parliament have been FOUND TO BE IN VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION and still, the ATTORNEY GENERAL AND THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE ARE CONTINUING IN THEIR POSITIONS.”
      Command Responsibility in both Civilian and Military Administration in the country has been lacking!
      Be that as it may!!!??? Let’s get the minions’, who are supposed to be enshrined with the responsibility of Drafting the D____D Laws to be then studied and passed as Sacred Laws to be followed of this TRIPLE BLESSED, 2600+ YEARS of Buddhist Culture and CIVILISATION of Kingdoms even before the advent of ARAHAT MAHINDA on our shores????? That duty is that of the LEGAL DRAFTSMAN’S DEPARTMENT (LDD) – HEADED BY THE CHIEF LEGAL DRAFTSMAN (CLD) who has one too many Legal Draftsman (LD) reporting to him – MINISTRY OF JUSTICE/ATTORNEY-GENERALS’ (AG) Overarching Control Department!?
      What a Joke!!!??? Forget past beyond 2004 current instance – purpose, “Brevity & Critical Analysis”!
      Last 20 years 2004 to 2024 (Not arrived yet) what has all the High Profile Ministers of Justice, Attorney General’s, including the Famous but Infamous Mongrel’s of AG’s office who should never have permitted to Tarnish that ‘Hallowed Office’ by NINCOMPOOPS!!!???
      (TBC)

    • 4
      0

      (Part II)
      If they had the Conviction of Mind to perform as Erudite AG, they would have sacked the Chief Legal Draftsmen (CLD), when the first time since 2004, they had to revamp the Draft Act presented to Parliament , which then had to be amended (find loopholes to avoid referendums) and then surreptitiously with the “faulty” amendments in the 2nd, 3rd reading (Need validation by legal counsel as this is what I have heard from associates) and becomes “LAW OF THE LAND” DEVOID OF A REFERENDUM!!!???
      Add to the milieu that we have had QC’s and PC’s elevated as Ministers of Justice – who from time to time articulate Corruption of Multi Billion US Dollars and Banked in Overseas Banks by Sri Lankans of Corrupt and profiled with acrimonious illegitimate background!!!??? We had the privilege of an Emeritus Professor too in that SLOT, without much difference in the scenario, or OUTCOME!!!??? Probably though good in THEORY, Emulating that into Practice wasn’t easy!!? We had bad Draft legislation coming into the legislature and surreptitious inclusion, first excluding the bad portion and then introduced in subsequent readings – DEVOID OF REFERENDUM!!!???
      (TBC)

    • 6
      0

      (Part III)
      Nothing happens, though to all these guys and their Illegitimate wealth, which stay put with those crooks forever and never brought to book, to enable the government to FEED THE STARVING MILLIONS!!!???
      This ‘BAD DRAFT’ IS A “PARADOX” at Best, DELIBERATELY done to CIRCUMVENT restriction of CONDUCTING, REFERENDUM PROVISION to be carried out to PROTECT THE EMBEDDED SOVEREIGN SECTIONS of the 1978 Constitution!!!???
      This is a PARADIGM, envisioned by “POLITICO JUDICIAL AUTHORITY“ to UNDERMINE THE CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS OF THE 1978 CONSTITUTION!!!??? That and THAT ONLY AND NOTHING ELSE!!!??? Pusillanimous ambiguity created for one’s own CRROKED advantage!!!???
      To prevail on the “Sobriety”, it’s so ‘CLAIMED’ by ‘CROOKED’ CRIMINALS OF ALL SHADES, COLOUR AND HUE as “DRAFTING ERROR”!!!??? If so, WHY oh, WHY the CLD and LD’s, NOT TAKEN TO TASK!?
      NAY, THAT’S FURTHEST from the TRUTH, to PUT it “MILDLY”, MINDFUL of ‘LEGAL LUMINARIES’, OF EMINENCE, WHO HAD OCCUPIED THESE HALLOWED PRECINTS!!??
      That is the reason, (Coming Back to my ORIGINAL ACCOUNTABILITY)!!!??? No LD or CLD has been taken to task and made MORALLY ACCOUNTABLE – NO STRICTURE PASSED BY LAW-MAKERS!!!???
      “CROOKES & CRIMINALS UNLIMITED”
      We would avoid for the moment, the erudition, emancipation, qualifications of Hon MP’s, “except
      (TBC)

    • 6
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      (Part IV)
      A HANDFUL OR TWO”, which is a shame UNEQUALLED & UNPARALLELED – Historically since 2004!!??
      Whilst, having said of what remains as CLD
      Department and SL Legislators, there STANDS out extraordinary people such as Bernard Percival Peiris, OBE, JP (29 March 1908 – 18 January 1977) was a Sri Lankan lawyer. He was the former Cabinet Secretary and the Legal Draftsmen who drafted the “Ceylon Order in Council”, THE FIRST CONSTITUTION OF INDEPENDENT CEYLON, under DSS, 1st PM!? Profound gratitude for a job well done, lasted 25 years guiding the country from independence to its Teens, before the Law tinkering tribe got hold of amending, to make Highly frequent amendments and likened to Newspaper Publication than being the SACRED PRIMARY LAW OF THIS COUNTRY!!?? His uncle is GLP!!!
      NO EASY TASK AT ALL BUT ACCOMPLISHED WELL INDEED AND THERAFTER SERVED AS 1ST Cabinet Secretary of Independent CEYLON AND SRI LANKA under different Governments – various combinations, and IMPECCABLY TOO UNTIL RETIREMENT!!!???
      Best outcome for SL and Lankans would AUGUR only when the 225+1 are sent home!!!??? BIG QUAESTION??? Who is there to FILL-IN!!!??? “FRYING PAN TO THE FIRE”!!!???
      DO AND BE DAMNED AND DON’T YOU SRE DAMNED TOO!!!??? HOBSONS’ CHOICE!!!???

  • 8
    1

    “Late But Still Not Too Late”


    Late for what? …….. Late to the altar? ………. Get over it buddy, …….. that bus has left.

    There will be no recovery ……. of any form ……….. in our life-time. ……… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i9E49k2pUQ

    I’m just waiting for retribution ………. blood and gore ……. brains, entrails, marshmallow and jello pudding on the pavement.

    Wijeweera and Prabakaran ” the liberators” had their comeuppance ……….. now it’s the turn of the Rajapakse-Ranil gang of thieves (won’t add “and their supporters” ….. for the fear of losing Native)

    Let justice be meted out from a barrel of a gun ………… and let a thousand new blooms bloom.

    None should be burned alive ………. one has to have some standards …….. some kindness ………. after all it’s a Buddhist county. …… The constitution says so. NO.



    It’s a restless hungry feeling …… (Jehan, you got the look as well ….. sorreeeee)
    And it don’t mean no one no good
    When ev’rything that you’re sayin’
    I can say it just as good

    You’re right from your side
    And I’m right from mine
    We’re both just one too many mornings
    An’ a thousand miles behind

    • 5
      1

      nimal in full bloom!
      Poetic, as well.

      • 2
        2

        Nathan

        “nimal in full bloom!
        Poetic, as well.”

        Here is the full song:

        One Too Many Mornings
        WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN

        Down the street the dogs are barkin’

        And the day is a-gettin’ dark

        As the night comes in a-fallin’

        The dogs’ll lose their bark

        An’ the silent night will shatter

        From the sounds inside my mind

        For I’m one too many mornings

        And a thousand miles behind

        From the crossroads of my doorstep

        My eyes they start to fade

        As I turn my head back to the room

        Where my love and I have laid

        An’ I gaze back to the street

        The sidewalk and the sign

        And I’m one too many mornings

        An’ a thousand miles behind

        It’s a restless hungry feeling

        That don’t mean no one no good

        When ev’rything I’m a-sayin’

        You can say it just as good.

        You’re right from your side

        I’m right from mine

        We’re both just one too many mornings

        An’ a thousand miles behind
        Copyright © 1964, 1966 by Warner Bros. Inc.;

        • 1
          0

          Thank you, Native Vedda.
          By now, most on CT would have got used to my ‘ignorance’!

    • 15
      0

      Nimal , if possible read article on today’s DM ” Police sources reveal how falsified evidence was used to shame and tame Shani ‘. Absolutely mind boggling. The number of people including law enforcement, AG Department, judiciary, Rajapaksas and many others involved in this atrocious SHAM.

      • 9
        1

        chiv,

        Thanks. What can you say? …….. It’s not just an isolated incident …….. it’s the national character: it’s how the whole country is run. …….. Look how Ranil jailed Aragalaya protesters with trumped up ludicrous charges, on whose backs he became president. Will the Lankan well educated, knowledgeable, intelligentsia/literati take Ranil to task: even raise their voices? ………. Now, I’m not naming names. :))))))))

        That’s Lanka in a nutshell.

        When you put emotions aside, as a practical man, I know exactly where Lanka is heading: where it’ll end up. I have no hopes whatsoever. I’m just having the time of my life fooling around writing crap.

        • 9
          1

          cont

          At least the Rajapakses got some just deserts for their murders …….. but protected by Ranil they are still living in the lap of luxury in the best government houses. What have these lowlife fuckers (this is deliberate: people who wouldn’t hold Rajapakses/Ranil responsible for their murders, will try to take me to task for bad-language! :)) ) done to deserve such government/peoples’ largesse? ………. Robbed and bankrupted the country and heaped unspeakable misery on the people?

          Unless people chase away this thieving, uncultured, immoral, shameless scum of the earth Ranil and his click away ……. the country is doomed.

          What comes then might be even worse ……. but worth it. For the long overdue change.

          • 11
            1

            Poignantly said! I echo the pessimism. Perhaps hitting rock bottom and building anew is the best bet.

            Not surprisingly, Prez. RW, essentially a Rajapaksas’ appointee, ain’t going after them or their accomplices and has flip flopped on positions including the 2015 UNHRC Resolution 30/1 which the MS/RW government co-sponsored.

    • 3
      1

      Poverty in the USA: Being Poor in the World’s Richest Country ….. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f78ZVLVdO0A

      Are they better off than the poor is Lanka?

      In the mean time, saviour of the common man, living it up in the USA. …….. Tears in Bandarawela …… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44G987ueFX0

    • 4
      0

      Nimal F,
      Nothing – ADD OR RETRACT!!!????
      PERFECTION AT ITS BEST!!!??? KARMA!!???

  • 0
    0

    Late but Still Not Too Late
    Even the old laws if honestly done sri lanka will be on good direction they misused and fraud and made the country bankrupt.
    They are both meant to suppress protests, both verbal and on the ground and make laws benefit for them

    • 1
      0

      RBH59,
      You are right we don’t need new laws or bills but we need change the attitudes and actions from those who implement the laws and bills.For example the President has almost have a power of a king who is also educated person and able to understand what is good or what is wrong. Unfortunately our president is doing nothing against corruption. For example during the aragalaya period they found several million cash in the president’s office. So far the public does not know what happened to the money.

  • 1
    1

    My teacher once told me “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. I often wonder what he meant.

    • 0
      0

      Was that a hint that one of the two was a dog!

      • 0
        0

        NATHAN,
        —————-Or BOTH!!!???

  • 2
    1

    political rights is not even the 10th most important thing for average Sri Lankans it is how to fill their belly. It though is the most important thing for most of the old babies on this site

    • 7
      0

      a14455,
      “Political rights is not even the 10th most important thing for average Sri Lankans it is how to fill their belly.”
      What difference does it make!!!????
      We have lived for 75 years since Independence without it!!!??? ALLTHE MUSKATEERS were same, even identical, Thuppahi, 3rd Grade, ‘Criminals and Crookes Unlimited’, begging us to call them “HONOURABLE” – DEVOID OF ANY HONOUR – AND SOME EVEN RESORTING with Request to address them “Uthumanani”!!!???
      Never believed in the period of the entire Christendom any even in their FOOLISHNESS did call such imbeciles adducing such terminology!!
      However, this is DIFFERENT – SRI LANKA – POST 2004, WHEN THE CIRCUS FROM DEEP SOUTH PERVADED the PRISTINE KINGDOM OF KOTTE, SRI JAYAWARDHENAPURA!!!!??? That’s the singular difference between “Kotte Rajadhani”, pre 1495 and Medamulana Walauwe, Post-Colonial, especially with Malaysian Input Genealogy!!!
      “POLITICAL RIGHTS” HAVE BEEN MORTGAGED ON YOUR BEHALF BY THE FAMILY TO UGANDAN BANK, available for your use only in early 2048!!!??? PATIENCE, IS A VIRTUE UNPARRALELED BY ANY OTHER!!!???
      Sri Lankans PRAY!!!??

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