By Rajiva Wijesinha –
These are the final questions, with the full answers I supplied, asked by Ceylon Today in relation to the visit of Navenethem Pillay.
There are several cases which reflect a steady degeneration in Law and Order , for instance the murder of British tourist Kuram Shaikah where a PS chairman is allegedly complicit. Should not cases such as these be avoided at all costs when looking at preserving our international image?
Again, while the Khurram Shaikh case was particularly bad, and we should have acted long ago, cases of impunity should be avoided primarily for the sake of our own citizens.
Do you agree that there appears to be a trend of releasing those with political patronage and accused of criminal activity on bail while not sparing others?
Far too many people accused of serious crimes are released on bail or get unwarranted privileges in prison, whereas far too many people are remanded for petty crimes. Patronage is a factor, but not the only factor for this situation. Unfortunately we have not embarked on the radical reforms necessary in this regard, even though the President announced these in his 2011 Budget Speech – another example of his good ideas coming to naught because of incompetence and neglect.
Are we playing into the hands of countries seeking to exert pressure on Sri Lanka by allowing this trend of impunity to continue?
Yes, but it is more important to root out the initial reasons for such pressures being applied, reasons that have not been addressed. Sadly, we are one of the few countries with this level of education, which does not have serious think tanks.
The case of the British Tourist is one of many where the AG withdrew cases for ‘lack of evidence’. Do you agree with the AG’s argument or was political pressure exerted on the department to withdraw?
I do not know details, but I recall a senior member of the Attorney General’s Department telling me of such cases being withdrawn a few years back. He granted that this sort of thing had happened in the past, but claimed that it had got much worse in the time of the then Attorney General. I hope the present Attorney General, who is a man of great intelligence and integrity, will reverse the trend.
As a senior academic and MP are you not concerned with the apparent steady deterioration in Rule of Law as mirrored by these cases?
I don’t agree that there has been a steady deterioration in the Rule of Law, given that the process began many years ago. People have forgotten the impunity the country faced with regard to cases such as those of Ananda Sunil and Richard de Zoysa, the barracking of Supreme Court judges and the insults to their judgments, the indiscipline of the forces in the eighties. All these have changed for the better, but certainly more needs to be done.
How would you respond to criticism that you exhibit double-standards by defending the government internationally but criticizing it locally?
The charges laid against the government internationally which I defended it against, more ably it is generally acknowledged (including I gather by the Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions, following my analysis of Channel 4) than by anyone else, were absurd. The fact that I am no longer deployed for this purpose is a mark of the failure of the Ministry of External Affairs to understand the damage being done by these charges still circulating. The criticisms I make locally relate primarily to incompetence, which are charges I have also made in the past. Such criticisms are in the interests of the President, since he is often cocooned against the shortcomings.
You did not support the impeachment of the former CJ and have been extremely critical of the ruling UPFA recently. Why do you continue to support a government that you appear to have fallen out of tune with?
I do not remain in government, since that phrase applies to those with executive authority. I have none, but am a Member of Parliament supporting a government that, despite some shortcomings, is the best government we can possibly have at this period.
I have not fallen out of tune with the government, since I have great faith in the President’s vision, of rural development and the enhancement of opportunities nationwide, and am only sorry that Human Resources Development does not keep pace with his vision. On matters such as Resettlement and Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, as well as infrastructural development in general, I am proud of our record, as also of the work of the armed forces – which is why I was so upset by what happened at Weliweriya, since it could lead to further questioning of their role, which I think must be enhanced rather than diminished.
I think I have done more as a Parliamentarian in terms of the traditional role of Parliamentarians than any of my colleagues, who are concerned either with executive responsibilities or with constituency issues, given the imperatives of the current electoral system. My work in COPE is appreciated by the Chairman, who recently referred to the change wrought by my introduction of sub-committees. I was the first government MP to ask questions and introduce an adjournment motion in this Parliament, when some colleagues thought this was being critical, though the President has encouraged this. I think continuing with such work is important.