When Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike‘s Civic Rights were to be removed, Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe wrote to the President JR Jayewardene a very frank letter about the injustice of it all, and warned the President, that this was a step which would undermine the very basic foundation of a real democracy.
MRS SIRIMAVO R.D.BANDARANAIKE – CIVIC DISABILITY
With due respect, I am sending this letter to you regarding the Resolution tabled in Parliament to make Mrs. Sirimavo R.D. Bandaranaike subject to disability, on the recommendation of the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry.
I am appealing to you not to proceed with the aforementioned Resolution, and also not to take any further action on this matter for the following reasons :
1.The proceedings of the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry cannot be described as a fair and impartial judicial process. The reasons for saying so have been provided in the Statement issued by the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka, of which I am Chairman for the time being. A copy of this Statement would have been sent to you.
In view of this, to proceed with the Resolution in Parliament so as to subject Mrs. Bandaranaike to civic disabilities such as depriving her of her seat in Parliament and of her right to contest the general elections in 1983 or before, will be to act in a way that is neither impartial nor fair.
In the Buddhist tradition the righteous ruler must govern with both impartiality and fair-play, in addition to acting justly. Since you are a national leader who intends to build a righteous society based on Buddhist principles, the confidence many people have placed in you is at stake on this occasion.
2.Again, in view of what had been said about the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry, to deprive your chief political opponent, who alone is able to muster an effective opposition to your party in this country at the present time, of her right to sit in Parliament and to contest the next general elections as leader of her party or a coalition of parties, is to undermine one of the basic foundations of a vibrant democracy. This foundation is the presence of an effective opposition party capable of forming an alternative government.
The people expect that a national leader of your stature and experience will not so act as to undermine such a basic foundation of real democracy.
3. If this action is proceeded with, it will deepen the divisions already existing within the nation, and especially among the Sinhala people. The spirit of bitterness and desire for revenge will be further aggravated. The kind of stability you require for implementing your development programme will be severely undermined. Dissent and opposition will seek expression in ways that are extra-parliamentary; and the increasing use of the security forces will be required to maintain an outward show of stability.
The cost to rapid development, a vibrant democracy and righteous society will far outweigh the temporary gain of proceeding with the Resolution now tabled in Parliament.
Rt Rev. Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe.
[Letters to His Excellency J.R.Jayewardene 1980] Reproduced on 8 February 2021 from A selection of writings by the late Right Reverend Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe, Bishop of Kurunegala, Chairman of the Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka, published by CRM on Human Rights Day 10 December 1983. Sent by Suriya Wickremasinghe, Secretary CRM.