21 May, 2024

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Prosecuting Crimes Requires A System Change

By Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

In the context of Sri Lanka, a crucial question arises: Does the country still possess the capability to effectively prosecute crimes? This query can be raised for numerous reasons. However, even before delving into these underlying issues, one glaring reality has become evident to the people of Sri Lanka in recent years: a perceived lack of commitment on the part of the state to fulfil its obligation and utilize its power to prosecute crimes, regardless of any hindrances. This observation is widely shared among the public, who witness a multitude of crimes, including heinous acts against individuals or groups, such as the victims of the Easter Sunday Massacre, as well as pervasive corruption that has paralyzed the entire economy.

Furthermore, Sri Lanka grapples with various other grave crimes associated with the underworld, such as drug trafficking, which spawns numerous additional offenses committed by criminal elements. Additionally, there are allegations of serious crimes involving high-ranking officials from institutions like the Sri Lankan Police Force and intelligence services. Even senior politicians themselves face consistent accusations of wrongdoing. The sheer number of unprosecuted cases is staggering, eclipsing the comparatively few successfully prosecuted crimes. The disparity between these two categories highlights a much deeper issue: the state’s approach to its duty to prosecute crimes and safeguard its citizens. Perhaps, the prevailing non-prosecution scenario can be seen as a reflection of the attitude demonstrated by former President JR Jayewardene, who publicly stated that individuals must take responsibility for their own security – effectively abdicating the state’s obligation to prosecute crimes. In fact, such a statement qualifies its maker as someone complicit in criminal behavior. Any political leader who undermines or ridicules the state’s duty to prosecute crimes poses a significant threat to the very existence of the state itself.

A state can only endure to the extent that it recognizes certain actions as crimes that undermine not only societal stability but also the stability of the state itself. It is not an exaggeration to claim that political leaders who neglect their duty to ensure the prosecution of all crimes perpetrate a far graver harm than terrorists or criminals. Terrorism is understood as the unlawful actions of those who oppose the state and seek to undermine its authority. In response to terrorism, the state possesses the power to employ both the justice system and armed forces. However, when those who represent the state undermine its operations and jeopardize stability within the community, society, and the state itself, there is little force capable of countering such a monumental threat. Therefore, political leaders who undermine the state’s power to prosecute crimes inflict greater damage than terrorists or criminals. This is the gravity of the situation currently faced in Sri Lanka, where the stability of the country is threatened from within by a state that neglects, disregards, and undermines one of its primary responsibilities: the prosecution of crimes and the protection of its citizens.

What compounds this situation is that it is not solely the result of individual leaders’ attitudes but rather a broader set of structural changes that have occurred within Sri Lanka, affecting the nature and function of governance itself. The primary reason for undermining the role of prosecuting crimes is the need to create an environment that facilitates widespread corruption and abuse of power. Consequently, the underlying principles and philosophy of governance in Sri Lanka have undergone a fundamental transformation. State institutions have been tampered with to enable an environment where certain individuals or groups can engage in fundamentally criminal activities, yielding enormous profits within a short span of time. Facilitating this group’s interests becomes the primary objective of governance. Consequently, agencies responsible for prosecuting crimes find themselves subjected to immense pressures and manipulations, rendering it virtually impossible for them to operate in accordance with the law. Officers who attempt to fulfil their lawful duties as prescribed by Sri Lankan law are exposed to serious threats, including threats to their lives. Numerous instances have been reported where officers have allegedly been murdered or subjected to other forms of punishment due to their attempts to carry out their duties as required.

Hence, there are underlying shifts in the principles governing the country’s governance and the functioning of its legal system. Non-prosecution of crimes stems from this larger transformation, which lies at the root of the massive economic crisis plaguing the nation and the inability to mobilize effectively against this destructive force. Overcoming this economic crisis necessitates a robust ability to prosecute crimes that undermine the economic and political systems. If the prosecuting function is not permitted to operate with utmost strength, the persisting crisis in Sri Lanka’s economy, governance, and society cannot be halted.

One of the most potent weapons in fortifying the state and society’s capacity to combat the economic collapse in Sri Lanka is to implement systemic changes that eliminate the obstacles impeding proper prosecution of crimes. This includes ensuring thorough investigations into crimes and reevaluating the functioning of the prosecutor’s office, which operates under the purview of the Attorney General’s office, in a manner distinct from its current state.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    5

    The Title was sufficient enough to warn me that reading the article would be a waste.
    .
    In the absence of comments from the readers, I decided to take up the mundane task of reading it.
    A couple of picks:
    … utilize its power to prosecute crimes.
    Prosecuting crimes come AFTER catching the thief. Prosecuting crimes come WHEN preventive measures have failed.
    Do we have nascent preventive measures? Is there a system of checks and balances?
    … Even senior politicians themselves face constant accusations of wrongdoing.
    Agree. But, for you to be credible provide instances. Or, else, it’d be an eye wash!

    • 0
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      Dear Nathan,
      .
      This article has appeared on the 14th, and your comment has appeared on the 15th. So, as you say, you waited some time for a comment to appear before saying something, and I’m very glad you did. What you say is always interesting.
      .
      I also saw the article with no comments, then yours appeared, and was the only one displayed for some time, and then the other two that I now see, (from Captain Morgan and Douglas, both regular commenters) appeared.
      .
      All is “relative”. It is true that the author has not provided “instances“. But then it becomes necessary to see who the author is:
      .
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil_Fernando
      .
      At the bottom of that Wikipedia entry, you will find “External Links” to an array of information about Hong Kong, where we are told that Basil (older than me) has worked.
      .
      I have never met Basil, but I recognise much that I do “know”. So, there are all too many “instances – a confusing array of them.
      .
      It’s good that you commented, but this Basil is clearly no humbug!
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V), etc!

      • 1
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        Dear Sinhala_Man,
        I have said nothing to the discredit of Basil Fernando, have I.
        He has a duty to submit the evidence should he desire his article to be effective.

        • 0
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          Dear Nathan,
          .
          Many of us are honest and truthful – you, me, Basil Fernando. I haven’t met either of you. I know not only the “facts” about him, but he’s also been taught by my GA.Q. English teacher at Aquinas, M.I. Kuruvila.
          .
          Kuruvila was thought to be a Sinhalese by many, but he had been born in Kerala. I looked him up in his Dehiwela home many times. Then he died.
          .
          I looked up his Sinhalese wife, (Lynette?) after his passing away. Probably met all three daughters. Definitely met his son-in-law, Professor Ajith Abeysekera,
          .
          https://www.sjp.ac.lk/news/retirement-ceremony-for-distinguished-professors-of-science-faculty/
          .
          Who was a member of the Symphony Orchestra – I can’t remember what his instrument was. I’d heard him at concerts.
          .
          But I have forgotten much; I can’t be totally wrong because I’ve seen some of these things for the first time – right NOW.
          .
          You have unwittingly delayed my response here!
          .
          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/post-civil-war-the-defrauding-opportunities-of-wars-end/
          .
          Yes, many are honest, but others play tricks on us. They will know if the cap fits them.

          • 2
            1

            Dear Readers,
            Don’t you feel that SM is an expert at hanging on to some people’s gossip?
            Who praises him for that abusive behavior? Topic is all about – “Prosecuting Crimes Requires A System Change”

            I start biting my nails…… aiyyoooooooooooooo..

          • 4
            1

            SM,
            “I looked him up in his Dehiwela home many times. Then he died.”
            I wouldn’t have thought you were capable of that. 😵‍💫🤯
            .

            • 1
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              Time 2:33
              .
              “Kuru” was a wonderful man. I can’t remember when he died – of old age. If there is life after death, he must be an angel.
              .
              I may have taken him a gift after working in Oman. Can ask his son-in-law Ajith. I noticed his contact details some hours ago, when on the desktop
              I’ve already said in a comment on the Hoole article that there is this power outage. Must be owing to the rain.
              .
              As I’ve already said, I owe a lot to Kuru. Memory returns.
              .
              He read through my Peradeniya dissertation in 1985. It was on Sean O’Casey, a playwright we both revered. Readers can read up in Wikipedia and elsewhere.
              .
              I will submit, and await the inevitable Red Thumbs Down.
              .
              Who puts them in? I can’t be sure, so I must hold my peace.
              .
              Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V)

            • 2
              1

              OC, please help me.
              the author’s note is something else and can you tell us why you are all talking about “Mr. Kuruvilla and his death”?
              :
              What does the article have to do with the TOPIC?
              PISSU SM as usual diverts thought for no reasons. It must have been connected with his MENTAL STATE.

              He is always like that. Similarly, I had a German teacher (in mid 90ties) who didn’t know what the topic of his lesson was, but he spoke something else. Arab students were teasing on him. That reminds me, whenever I read something from our self-proclaimed learned Sinhalese man.

        • 1
          2

          Nathan,
          .
          “effective?” – What’s that?
          .
          I’ve grown old; I’ve almost stopped bothering. I tell the truth as I see it.
          .
          I hope that others will understand, but what can I do if they don’t.
          .
          Something like that may apply to Basil Fernando.
          .
          But not really. If you examine his life and work, he probably cares deeply. If he were to put in too much detail, nobody will probably look at what he writes.
          .
          At least our present comments will persuade others to look – and in the process recognize that there are serious observations that matter – and others that don’t.
          .
          I respect you! I have no need to call you “Nathan Uncle” like some others who must now ingratiate themselves.

          • 3
            2

            Sinhala_Man,
            It is strange that an English language Teacher would ask, –
            “effective?” – What’s that?
            .
            When something produces the intended result, it is effective!
            What does Google say? I don’t care!

          • 2
            3

            Dear Nathan Uncle,
            SM usually touches things from wrong end. I hope you will not mislead by him. He is highly biased with JVP led NPP for no valid reasons.
            :
            Believe or not, that is the truth about him. he worships AKD, but many of us dont. He hates RW to fall on good books of JVP supporters, but we dont. He is not authentic at all.
            .
            My way is more or less based on true teachings of buddha. Buddha asks, just because you hear things, please dont consider them as truths.
            “what you think, you become.
            what you feel you attract.
            what you imagine you create “
            .
            Look at SM and you will see it in him than anyone else.
            .
            SM’s interpretations are really controlled by his little knowledge about the human behaviour.
            He is more naive and judgemental than being honest.
            If he would be put above, he would do anything and everything to him or her. He is more interested in gossips about a commente rather than what he or she says. This is beyond my bearing.

            He heroworships Dr HOOLE for no good reason yet today. . But the truth is Dr Hoole was equally complicit not having acted professional enough in his tenure as a member of former election commission.

            • 2
              2

              Idiot! LM!!
              .
              Which Dr Hoole?
              .
              We are talking here about Rajan, the elder brother who was my classmate at Gurutalawa. I now know Ratnajeevan as well. They both have Wikipedia entries – both done by Jeevan. Rajan cares little for such honours.
              .
              Do you realise how little you know about what really matters. Clearly, we live on two totally different planes.
              .
              “Nathan Uncle” is on my plane, YOU much lower.
              You cannot even begin to understand us.
              .
              I’m hungry. Must eat something. There’s food in the fridge, but I don’t want to open the door.
              .
              I hope you realise that I’m blaming the power outage on Zeus & his pals, not on your pal, Ranil.
              .
              Btw, many of the vitamin lozenges that you sweetly
              couriered to me are still there, outside the fridge. . But that’s not what I need as food.

              • 2
                1

                Dear Rational Readers,

                “Which Dr Hoole?”
                .
                This question alone proves the IQ level of the so-called English teacher (BA graduate at the age of 35); sinhala_man who does not know SINHALA at all.

                Everyone knows who was a member of the Election Commission, but not this jerk who is going to fool everyone talking about prominent figures in this country ??????????????????????????????

                . Who does he think this person is? To me, he is a complete idiot who does not know what he is talking about (KOHEDA YANNE MALLE POL ANSWERS)

                No point of wasting time on this gossip man.

                Uncle Nathan don’t crown SM, he doesn’t deserve it. He is misleading this nation on and on.

    • 2
      2

      Dear Mr Fernando and rational thinkers,
      .
      Many of our people are champions of preachers. Do they practise what we preach ? Can many of average lanken see them infront of a mirror ?

      What is real system change? Don’t we see some tangible changes after the and ARAGALAYA ?
      We lived in anarchy in Sri Lanka under Gota S Presidency but Ranil wiped it out like an iron man… didn’t he? Why do we tend to reject apparent truth?

      other than that,
      Who should change? If not the thinking of people.
      What should be changed? If not the society
      How can it be if people’s thinking style is not ready to change??????

      Legal systems, legislators, judges, lawyers, and other professionals almost everywhere have a lot in common, namely that they are not serious enough about anything.
      First, people must change their attitudes to their basic thinking.

      It needs to be changed by a paradigm shift. Period.

  • 2
    0

    “Prosecuting Crimes Requires A System Change”

    That is not likely to happen because the immediate result of a System Change would lead to all the past and present leaders (that is, presidents, prime ministers, ministers, members of parliament and senior government officials) being arrested, prosecuted, and sent to jail.

  • 1
    2

    “Prosecuting Crimes Require A System Schange” – NO!

    Mr. Basil Fernando: You, also say: “…a perceived lack of commitment on the part of the state to fulfill its obligations and utilize its powers to prosecute…” This assertion does not justify a “System Change”. The “Systems” are there, but what is lacking, as you say is the lack of “Commitment” and “Failure” to utilize the powers that are already in place.

    A good example. Yesterday (13th May) the court hearing resumed as regards the case of the “Abduction”; “Disappearance” and demand of “Ransom” of the “11” youths in 2008. It was revealed that THRE former AGs have decided to prosecute Vasantha Karannagod – the then Rear Admiral of the Navy. However, in 2019 the present AG decided to DROP Karannagoda from the “Accused” list.

    Is there something wrong with the “SYSTEM”? NO. It is the lack of “Commitment”, moral obligations, and utter disregard and abuse of the “Powers” vested in the positions of the persons responsible. That is what needs to be corrected. Bring LIFE to the existing system by making those responsible ACCOUNTABLE for what they do.

  • 3
    1

    Mr. Fernando – Thank you for the essay. Yes I agree with you that the state has neglected its responsibilities of prosecuting crimes. Then I agree with Douglas too, for disagreeing with you on the idea that we need a system change – two words, that are loosely defined, and in my opinion that have been used to imply many different ideas, since of late. Douglas is right when he state that we do have adequate systems in place to adress crime and corruption, but idea that the state lacks commitment is somewhat misleading. It gives the impression that passivity is the problem, which definitely is not the case, like Mr. Fernando has mentioned the state itself is corrupt and has been seized by criminals and those who aid and abet them. Basically what we have is a government of the Criminals, by the Criminals, and for the Criminals. Hence it is wushful thinking that they would prosecute crimes. They are actively promoting crimes. Criminals like Basil Rajapaksa, Ravi Karunanayake are the masterminds of these criminal operations, while people like G.L. Peiris who is considered as Sri Lanka’s foremost legal luminary, actively support them.

    • 2
      1

      Continued from above…
      .
      While this is condition of the two major parties, the conduct of opposition leaders lile Sarath Fonseka and Eran Wickramaratne isn’t much dufferent either. I once had some hopes about upcoming leaders like Patali Champika Ranawaka, but he too seems to have been corrupted by those who are in higher positions. I believe he is a little gullibleand the promise of becoming the head if state is too much of an allure against maintaining one’s integrity. Hence what we need is leaders who are not only not corrupt but who are also not corruptible. I tend to think the phrase the ‘system change’, refers to ‘the way’ we govern, not necessarily systems of state that in place for governance, which like Douglas has said adequate to prosecute crimes. What we lack is leaders of a calibre, that are honest, sincere, and ethucal in their conduct and are immune to corruption. Finding such leaders is the challenge. Corruption and crime has spread like the plague and taken root and has become endemic.

      • 2
        2

        Thanks, Ruchira.
        .
        I didn’t take long typing the response to “Nathan” into the relevant “comments box” with only three comments visible.
        .
        I submitted my comments, and then I found that in those few minutes these two comments had come in.
        .
        A new set of complexities has been introduced with the development of digital technology. Most of the time we are responding to people whom we have never seen. It is, therefore, incumbent on us to be at least respectful (antonyms, “rude”, “brash”, “insulting”, etc).
        .
        Panini Edirisinhe

        • 1
          0

          Deer Panini – Good to hear from you. I hope that I have not stepped on anyone’s toes with my above comments. I have never had problems communicating with people I’ve never met. For more than 25 years internet has been my home. I have communicated with many different people from many parts of the world via the world wide web, from Candian sex workers to retired Chemical Engineers from god knows where. Some of the best friends I have come to know I have met online, both local and foreign. Some of them have gone out of the way to help me even without ever meeting me in real life. I may not have even survived certain calamities I went through during recent years if not for their help. But this place by far is the most uncivilzed place that I have come across. Goes onto show why we are such a messed up nation. I apologise if my above comments were disrespectful to anyone here. But if you are commenting on my reference to your friend GLP, I’m sorry to disappoint you, he has turned a crook himself, and decided to help criminals, while attempting to sabotage innocent law abiding citizens lives. Hence truth must be told, however unpleasant it is. The coming elections will be a turning point in this country if the old dogs win, hopes of living a decent life on this island, are best abandoned. An organized gang of criminals are attempting to seize power. GLP has decide to extend his support to them. Shame on him.
          .
          Have pleasant weekend.
          R

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