We are now at the peak of the Sinhala-Buddhist mood in politics and society.
President Maithripala Sirisena has proven he could rise to the altitude of greatness in this sweeping search for ethno-religious dominance.
He gained blessings from the Hindu deity at Thirupathi leading to a post-Sinhala New Year holiday in Singapore, when the blasts by Islamic terrorists brought the carnage of Easter Sunday.
He was doing important negotiations in China, including proposals for Chinese forces to guard the Colombo Port City, Hambantota Port and the Shangri-la Hotel in Colombo, when the religio-ethnic violence broke out in many districts.
The greatness in abiding by the Sinhala-Buddhist culture was seen in his pardoning of the leader of the Bodu Bala Sena – Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thera, who was sentenced by the Court of Appeal, and confirmed by the Supreme Court for Contempt of Court, to 19 years in prison, to be served in six years.
President Sirisena is in great presidential heights in this performance of generosity. He has followed the record of President JR Jayewardene and President Mahinda Rajapaksa in this groovy pardon performance.
Some pardoning recollections are helpful. This brings us to Gonawela Sunil who was Kelaniya-based and was about the most powerful thug of his time and enjoyed UNP patronage at the highest level. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for rape. He was then in Ranil Wickremesinghe’s political arena, was also known for involvement in prison killings, and many other situations of violence.
He was serving prison sentence when Sri Lanka celebrated the Golden Jubilee of Universal Franchise – on 7th July 1981. This great event brought his pardon and release from prison by President Jayewardene. There was one little legal escape for President JRJ. The conditions for amnesty was for persons convicted for the first time, with less than 10 more years to serve, and for offences NOT including murder, treason, unlawful assembly, bank robbery, highway robbery, default of income tax payment, bribery etc., with the singular exception of RAPE. It seemed a law perfectly planned to serve Gonawala Sunil.
The amnesty exercise was quickly named ’Sunil Samava’ or Sunil Amnesty. It did not take long for this master of criminal performance in various fields, including political and prison violence, to be made an All-Island Justice of Peace!
If President Sirisena is glad to have followed this amnesty tradition of JRJ, no doubt on the special request of Ranil W of Kelaniya and UNP politics of that day, he has another example of amnesty too. That is the Mahinda Rajapaksa performance.
The wife of then Minister Milroy Fernando, Mary Juliet Monica Fernando, was convicted for a double murder. President Rajapaksa initiatives saw her life sentence commuted, and the next year she was freed on a Presidential Pardon to mark International Women’s Day. This prisoner escaped the lengthy legal process involved in obtaining the recommendation for a presidential pardon, by her sentence being commuted on the earlier presidential decision. It was a DOUBLE MURDER amnesty. What a wonderful record to follow!
Aren’t we a truly great society, and how great President Sirisena must feel in having two such amnesty precedents before him!
The latest amnesty to Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera is for the offence of Contempt of Court. What the rising politics of the Sinhala Buddhist phase in our modern society should consider is changing the laws of this land, to prevent the very concept of Contempt of Court. Why can’t the courts be disturbed, judges insulted, witnesses threatened in the Court premises. This is surely not in keeping with our traditions of Sinhala Buddhist culture, as we know it today.
It is this non-Sinhala Buddhist culture that led the Court of Appeal to pass any such sentence on this yellow robed member of the Buddha Saasana.
Amidst the continuing social crumbling in the post-Easter Carnage, it is necessary to look at how we can evade the whole process of Contempt of Court, and even worse, how a fiercely active member of the Yellow Robed body of Buddhist teachers could ever be accused of such an offence.
One way is to do away with the entire Court System. Let’s not forget that it all came from colonial power and imperialism. Why do we need to know or follow Roman Dutch Law – with its western and later Christian roots? Why do we need a democratic process – when we could do very well with our own monarchic rule and feudal traditions? If we don’t need Sharia Law, why do we need Roman-Dutch Law? We may have to think of ways to find our next king, but could it be any worse than finding our next President? Who will replace Sirisena?
With the Sirisena Amnesty granted to Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thera, it is necessary to forget the Dharga Town and Aluthgama tragedies of 2014, for which no organizers were charged, and innocence prevailed. Let’s wipe out such events from our history. Let us live in a new Age of Amnesty, where Contempt of Court is ridiculed and made a travesty of imported, colonial and non-Sinhala Buddhist Law.
Amnesty is the power of the President. Let us all say, Hail, Amnesty, and Contempt to Contempt of Court!