By Savika Manawadu –
Ministers G L Peiris and Mahinda Samarasinghe state that the government of Sri Lanka has no faith in the inquiry into human rights abuses undertaken by the UNHRC. They claim that Sri Lanka has an independent, robust justice system to inquire into any such allegations and any international inquiry into human rights abuses in Sri Lanka lacks credibility.
Given the total control of the Judiciary under the grip of the Executive President, it is quite natural that the same question arises in the minds of the right thinking people of Sri Lanka, particularly those who respect their social obligations.
People know that the Chief Justice, Dr Shirani Bandaranayake lost the ‘pleasure of the Executive President’ for refusing to approve certain bills presented by the government (the Divineguma bill, giving the control of Public Finance to Minister Basil Rajapaksa and the amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code, that permitted unfettered power to the police to keep a suspect taken into custody for 48 hours).
People know that the CJ’s firm stand as the head of the Judiciary to uphold the peoples’ judicial power, and her refusal to undermine the Judiciary by giving into the President’s demand to meet him at the President’s Office, cost her the office of the Chief Justice. Her removal from office was blatantly unlawful and it was reaffirmed by two judgments delivered by both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, which ruled that the removal of the CJ and the process followed by the government to remove the CJ, was manifestly unlawful.
Further to the unlawful removal of the Chief Justice, a person with a dubious character, Mohan Pieris, was appointed to the office of the CJ. It is a pity that the whole nation now faces the ignominy of this appointment, as it is now being challenged before the UNHCR.
Further to the appointment to the office of the Chief Justice, Mohan Pieris, absolutely subservient to the Executive, declared in public that the Rule of Law and Good Governance are just nice words, not seen in practice any where in the world. He further stated that whatever good work the government does the international community cannot be made happy about the human rights records of Sri Lanka. This deplorable statement made as the Chief Justice and the statement made about the separation of power, which Mohan Pieris declared only an impracticable norm, clearly demonstrate the total departure of the current regime of its obligation to uphold Separation of Power, the Rule of Law and the Good Governance.
The appointment of public officers from the Attorney General’s Department to the Supreme Court, which is currently over crowded with those appointments, now directly functions under the Executive President (except two career judges – Rohini Marasinghe and Chandra Ekanayake) and has made things worse.
It is now learned that the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Amaratunga is also to be filled by another stooge from the Attorney General’s Department, handpicked by the Executive President with scant respect or regard to the independence of the Judiciary, and prospects of the career judges who refuse to compromise their integrity.
In this backdrop it is quite natural that the people of Sri Lanka have completely lost their faith in the Supreme Court, because those who have appointed from the Attorney General’s Department continue to be subservient to the Executive President and have betrayed judicial power of the people that they exercised on trust. They have made their allegiance to the President obvious by joining the Presidential Secretariat as advisors after their retirement.
Thus, the people have every right to be concerned about the sad state of the judiciary in this country, that is readily prepared to betray the ‘judicial power of the people’ simply to satisfy the greed of one unruly individual, the Executive President. Yet, this government wants the international community to believe that Sri Lanka has a robust and absolutely independent Judiciary.
In the given climate, as the Judiciary has been totally belittled under the current regime, with no remedy available in the local justice system, any right thinking person would agree that the international community has every right to probe alleged human rights abuses taking place in Sri Lanka in an international tribunal that respects the basic norms of justice.
The current regime must accept total responsibility for lawlessness and take corrective measures to restore the pride of the judiciary, permitting it to discharge its role as the watchdog of the people against any individual, including those who hold high profile public office, on trust.