By Janith Thilakaratne –
It is already passed a week after the removal of the Chief Justice Dr Shirani Bandaranayake who still alleges to be the legitimate Chief Justice of Sri Lanka. But I wonder why other than a few websites and newspapers; we no longer can hear any news regarding that crucial issue Sri Lanka has gone through. It seems to me that this is like a ‘Stage Drama’ which at the end we all greet with applause and go home till a new drama comes to the stage.
There are few after effects that we must highly consider that happened after this removal. Even though Dr Shirani Bandaranayake alleged her legitimacy, it was a wise decision she has taken to leave the official residence and the chamber. As it is reasonable to presume that if she had not left, then the government would have taken steps to withdraw her which could have been harsh like the manner they arrested Mr Sarath Fonseka right after the 2010 Presidential election. It is the position of all those in Sri Lanka who believe in democracy and the rule of law that Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake is, and continues to be, the lawful Chief Justice of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. But still how the Sri Lanka Police made sure that she would not make a public statement within the residence and outside is hilarious. We all observed through media how a senior police officer explained to the media that they could not even take a media statement outside the official resident, giving the lame excuse that it is a high security zone. But a few days prior to that, day and night protests were conducted outside the official resident of the Chief Justice with vibrant music, and on the day the parliament passed the impeachment Police turned a blind eye allowing them to celebrate by eating Kiribath (Milk rice) and lighting of fireworks. It is a popular secret that Sri Lanka Police is just complying with the orders, albeit how is it possible for a man who wears the uniform after taking of an oath that he would commit to protect the law and order of the country, to degrade his conscience by licking the boots of these in power, just to be loyal to get a promotion or just to keep what he has already got.
After all we should not forget about the allegations leveled against our former Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake. The Judiciary is a separate body from the other branches of a State since there should be an independent and impartial umpire to decide the actions taken by the elected legislature and executive. Judges do not engage in politics and she should not do so either. But if we have a look at the judicial history after 1978, it is not that difficult to understand that the government or mostly the executive president has always appointed judges to the superior courts who they think to be vulnerable to their commands. So as to make sure the legitimate reviewer, would not declare anything against them. But we can be proud that we had justices in the superior courts like Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon, Justice Mark Fernando, etc., and today also we have justices like that and they were revealed during the process of impeachment. It is hard to include Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake into that respective category, because she is one reason for the ultimate power holds by the president, since she supported the 18th amendment and all the government decisions. So finally she had become a victim of her own accord. But I would like to remind that this is not about an individual, but as a whole the independence of the judiciary that is in jeopardy and that’s the issue we all have to give importance to.
Arguing about the impeachment procedure is no longer useful as I think. Because the unfairness and injustice of it being continuously reiterated by the International Organization, International Bar Association, and world recognized judges like Justice C.G Weeramantri and almost all the other distinguished legal professionals except a few government puppets like Professor of Law G.L Peiris.
So I have no intention of arguing about it. But how the things are moving after the removal is not sound at all. Firstly the appointment of the new Chief Justice is rather tragic. Reasonable people allege Mr. Mohan Peiris is a person with an unpleasant history in the legal profession. During the tenure which he worked as the Attorney General he withdrew many controversial cases relating to the government ministers and politicians. And in the same time he fulfilled the requests of his family and friends without any hesitation. Also he is the one who created controversy by informing the United Nations in a deposition defending the government’s human rights record that a missing Ekneligoda was alive and well, living in another country. A person with such history being appointed as the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka would not do any good to the country but it will further lead us to the miracle of Asia.
On the day(15th of January), when the new Chief Justice was appointed, the entrance to the Supreme Court was closed and when the lawyers asked under what law it was closed, they had no answer to give. Further media personnel were not allowed to enter the premises. Even though the lawyers protested and demonstrated that there was no law to prevent the journalists from entering the premises, Sri Lanka Police simply ignored the question and continued surrendering to the higher command given to them.
This decision of President Mahinda Rajapakse is nothing but another landmark on his path towards being the sole dictator of Sri Lanka. Someone who has no respects for law and do not have any shame and fear cannot be stopped. The particular point that such person gets power is the tragic moment which terminates of the democracy of the country. Appointing Mr.Mohan Peiris as the Chief Justice shows that President Mahinda Rajapakse need to assure to the citizens that no one can stop him or go against him.
It is no longer a secret that President Mahinda Rajapakse had several discussions with Superior court judges, high court judges and members of the BASL before and after the appointment to make sure they all support him. Now the BASL is silent and judiciary is functioning as if nothing happened. But the few prominent lawyers who actively engaged in the struggle to secure the independence of the judiciary are being threatened by a group that identified themselves as a patriotic taskforce. Simple outcome of all this is that, we the citizens of Sri Lanka have two options. One is to be loyal to the Rajapakse family and to get treated as patriots or go with the own conscience and be another victim of a clandestine death or be stigmatized as traitors.
The behavior of puppets of President Rajapakse who serve in the parliament as the representatives of people should be highly criticized in the process. Their misbehavior demonstrates their ignorance of the law in the country. And I am wondering about the fact that currently we have politicians in parliament who are more educated and know the law better than superior court judges. The person who made that statement is not anyone else but the most patriotic minister in the Parliament Mr. Wimal Weerawansa who would say anything to please the president.
But after all no one can think or recognize what we should do. As per the recent interview given by former editor of the Sunday Leader, Frederica Jansz, we all do not want to be heroes or heroines “, “My children need a Mum and not a heroine””, so for the sake of the job, security of family, we all decide to keep the mouth shut and just be happy with what we have for the sake of being so. So what we need is a change in the political culture of Sri Lanka, till that we would never be able to stop the journey of Rajapakse family towards the sole ownership of our motherland. As Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake herself left her official premises she managed to say few words, “Please look after the three of us” which are symbolic of the fear that prevails now. Now we all need to plead “Please look after Sri Lanka”.
To read Sinhala translation click here
*Janith Thilakaratne, Student, Faculty of Law, University of Colombo