By Kamal Nissanka –
Two events occurred during the second week of January 2013 shocked the Sri Lankan as well as the international community. Both events were related two Sri Lankan daughters. One was an under educated minor, from a poor, rural background of Muttur, Trincomalee who was sent to do domestic service in Saudi Arabia and other hailed from Kurunegala , educated at Anuradhapura, Colombo and London was the 4th citizen of Sri Lanka ,destined to become the first woman chief justice of the island. Both were fallen victims of ‘unfair trials’ based on the legal principle of “presumption of guilt”
Ms.Rizana Nafeek of Sri Lanka who was born on 4th of February, 1988(Sri Lanka’s Independence Day) was an underage girl at the departure to Saudi Arabia. She was sent to Saudi Arabia to work as a house maid on a forged passport that had included a wrong birthday by Sri Lankan government authorities.
The state of Saudi Arabia is not a democracy, governed by sharia law and decrees of the king.
According to Wikipedia
“In Saudi Arabia, a judge is empowered to disregard previous judgments (even of his own) and will apply his personal interpretations of ‘sharia’ to any a particular case. Traditional tribal law remains significant. In this country judge and lawyer are part of “ulema”, the country’s religious leadership. Those arrested are often not informed of the crime of what they are accused of or given access to a lawyer and are subject to ill-treatment and torture if they do not confess. At trial there is a presumption of guilt and accuse did often unable examine witnesses and evidence or present a legal defense. Most trials are held in secret”.
“Death sentence in Saudi Arabia imposed for various crimes by way of beheading, stoning, and shooting, even by crucification. Only three countries in the world including Saudi Arabia impose death sentence to children”
At the age of 17 Rizana had to look after a three year old baby and feed him. It is alleged that the death of the infant had occurred as a result of chocking while feeding milk from a bottle. She had been taken to police and had been asked to make a statement under duress and there was no Tamil translator to make things clear at the police. The statement was a forced confession. She was physically assaulted to sign it. There was no post mortem for the body of the child who died and no evidence regarding a medical report has emerged. Her birth certificate clearly shows that she was a minor, but there was no lawyer to assist her at various stages. Finally she was convicted and held for years in the death row, Sri Lanka and number of International agencies wanted to get her released on the ground of minority but all the attempts were in vain and to our dismay Rizana Nafeek was beheaded publicly on the 9th of January 2013 in Saudi Arabia the birth place of Islam, reminding us the beheading of Madduma Bandara, the child hero nearly two centuries ago for a wrong committed by his father, Ehelepola Maha Adikarama, in the city of sacred tooth relic.
The gruesome killing of Rizana raises lots of issues. Many countries, human rights organizations and international organizations vehemently condemned the inhuman punishment.
During the same week on Friday the 11th depending on the Parliamentary Select Committee report that has been quashed by the Court of Appeal by way of a writ of certiorari on the basis of an earlier constitutional interpretation of the Supreme Court regarding non application of ”Standing Orders’ to impeach a superior court judge. The government parliamentary group passed the said illegal impeachment making noises on a self imposed concept of “parliamentary supremacy” which is alien to our existing constitution.
As in the case of Rizana, considerable pressure was mounted by Bar Association of Sri Lanka, Judges Association, International Bar Association, Commonwealth Bar Association, International Commission of Jurists , diplomatic missions, opposition political parties, social organizations and individuals on the Sri Lanka government to withdraw the flawed impeachment of Dr.Shirani Bandaranaike , Sri Lanka government adopted its own “sharia law” to get rid the chief justice, while the apex court had declared it null and void.
As in the case of Rizana, Dr.Shirani Bandaranayake also faced a trial indoor( in camera). She was insulted by the “judges” , threatened by supporters of those judges on her way to Diyawanna court house and back, finally encircled her official residence , uttered abusive words ,prepared “milk rice” ,a symbol of triumphalism in the mindset of Sinhalese. As in the case of sharia law , she was not informed who the witnesses were, not allowed to cross examine , no time was given to go through the 1000 odd papers, no opportunity was given to forward a legal defense . Dr Bandaranayake was found guilty by a “court” which has no jurisdiction to try her as declared by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. The court at least did not allow the 117 prosecutors or complainants to prosecute the case against Dr.Bandaranayake. There was no “proved misbehavior” as shown in the constitution but “judges” adopted the uncivilized, uncultured , barbaric sharia law , “principle of presumption of guilt” demanding Dr. Bandaranayake to disprove the presumption. Now she is destined to be publicly beheaded by way of removal from office. Both Rizana and Shirani were victims of flawed systems.