By Asoka Seneviratne –
Imagine the scenario 1. The police arrest a drug king pin. All the evidence is in hand to prosecute. The word goes to a big politico about this. The politico has a vested interest. He calls the IGP or DIG and instruct not to proceed. The word goes down the chain of command and the drug lord walks away.
Imagine the scenario 2. A politico is caught red handed taking a bribe off a government contract. Evidence is all over. Police kicks the case up to AG. AG indicts. But last-minute evidence file disappears from the police. Case dismissed.
Scenario 3. The same politico is in deep trouble. AG has all the evidence to indict and throw him to the slammer for the long haul. AG gets a call not to indict or to drag on. AG fears his job security and follows suit.
And there are a lot more scenarios….
All of the above has been happening in our motherland for decades. How else can one explain the fact that not a single politico of our parliaments has been thrown in jail even though the whole nation knows dozens of them break the Law Day in and out. How many times have we witnessed AKD, Ranjan or General Fonseka openly accuse the vast majority of the MP’s being corrupt or downright criminals?
Filter it down to Pradeshiya Sabha. How many of those goons take bribes to approve a plan or a project? But how many of them have served a day in the slammer?
Then think about this scenario. A small-time street drug pusher is caught with 2 ounces of dope. Police rush to arrest and prosecute. As if that does not meet the punishment for the crime, the corrupt media goes onto expose him or her on public TV attempting to fool the masses that we are a nation of law and order. What hogwash? Laughable!
The poor guys sold an ounce of dope to feed his family. On the contrary, the drug king pin was building massive wealth some of which was shared with a politico or two. Besides he was engaged to destroying whole families into misery. The little guys goes to jail while the politico goes on to enjoy perks and privilege, all paid with people’s money that we don’t have.
Is this not what we commonly call corruption? A totally broken system of law enforcement and carriage of justice. One set of justice for the rich and the powerful, and another for the rest of us.
Underneath all this ugliness is the fear of the police to do their job in keeping with the oath! He or she must carry out the orders or risk a transfer to a remote station or a demotion. How on earth is the police going to do their job without fear or favor, if they must risk their livelihood. Why are thousands of cops on the street blocking Aragalaya? They know full well in their heart of hearts that the leadership has no mandate and the use of PTA to suppress protests is not legitimate. But can they afford to defy orders and risk their jobs?
So here comes the billion-dollar question. How can we insulate law enforcement and the justice system from political interference? The answer is simple. Any constitution we plan to introduce in the future must have mechanisms for separation of power. The executive and law enforcement must be independent. Executive branch or the parliament has no business interfering into law enforcement. Period !
Lets take the US. The attorney General is appointed by the President after being vetted and approved by the Senate. This is a huge step and a must do step to ensure the character of the AG. But once appointed there is a time cherished tradition that the executive branch will not dictate to justice department how to do their job. Justice department is independent. There were cases of violating this cherished tradition during Trump administration, but the institutions of Democracy and the free media always kicked into action to expose and prevent. Besides Trump was voted out of office during the next GE anyway.
So how can we in SL insulate the police and justice system from Executive interference. A lot need to happen. We need to introduce Primaries for election to high office thereby taking away the power of a party leader to dictate who runs. Let the man with best vision and character win ! Not the favorite of the party boss. Then we need to appoint ministers outside of parliament thereby ensuring executive branch cannot influence law making and other parliamentary functions. Remove the provision that excludes President from prosecution.
Decisions at parliamentary oversight groups over ministers and departments must be done with secret ballot. All ministers and heads of government departments must be subject to open public hearings. All government contract bids and winners must be on public domain.
COPE must be given teeth. Just mere recommendations to AG is huge waste and serves no purpose but only a smoke screen to fool transparency.
In short, any constitution must incorporate transparency into government operations unless such action affects national security.
Finally, a word about the oath taken by ministers. We all have seen these goons standing in front of the President and pledging to protect the laws and the constitution. Then in no time, they start violating that oath by corrupt and illegal acts. The party know, the leadership knows, the country knows but he continues to enjoy his privileges and perks. So how can we not conclude that this “oath” is simply a joke ?
In fairness, there are perhaps a handful of clean guys. But simple human fear of risking their own political positions keep them from exposing others. Sad !!
Finally my fervent hope is that my beautiful mother-land , after 75 long years from independence come of age, mature and with the help of the brave young generation of today, clean up our corrupt political culture and set an example to the region and the world that Sri Lankans demonstrated to the world how to build a nation into prosperity without corruption where Rule of Law reins.
They already demonstrated some of it by getting rid of two powerful Rajapaksa’s out through the back door while the world was watching. I am confident more will follow! Our nation will be that much better without them!