By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
The Rajapaksas, those Wonder-Brothers, have wrought another miracle. They have beaten Usain Bolt, hollow.
The impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake deserves to enter the annals of world history and the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest impeachment proceedings, ever.
The impeachment motion was handed over to the Speaker on 1st November 2012. The Parliamentary Select Committee was appointed on 15th November 2012. The PSC commenced impeachment hearings on 23rd November 2012. The PSC, sans its 4 opposition members, concluded its hearings on 7th December 2012 – though this fact was not formally announced either in parliament or outside. The truncated PSC handed over its impeachment report to the Speaker on 8th December 2012.
The PSC completed the impeachment hearing in 14 days and prepared its report in less than 24 hours!
Such breathtaking efficiency! Such dizzying speed! Bravo!
If there is any justice in this world, the seven UPFA members of the PSC, who did such a stellar job on behalf of their Masters, should receive top-notch ministries at the upcoming cabinet reshuffle. And they should always be found innocent, ipso facto, by the Rajapaksaised-judiciary which the impeachment aims to usher in.
117 Rajapaksa serfs signed the impeachment motion, even though they were not allowed to read it. 7 Rajapaksa serfs conducted an impeachment investigation, knowing that they must find the CJ guilty as charged, irrespective of evidence. The same seven Rajapaksa serfs concluded the investigation without even informing the parliament and placed their signatures on a pre-cooked impeachment report, with the pre-decided guilty verdict.
All was done on the orders of the Rajapaksa liege-lords, who took care to keep themselves officially insulated from the impeachment process, while ordering their serfs to do the dirty work from behind the scenes. Interestingly, revealingly, neither Uncle Basil nor Nephew Namal signed the impeachment motion.
The Rajapaksas could have taught the inquisitors and the witch-hunters a thing or two, about speedy and unnatural injustice.
A Regime sans Shame or Justice
The final outcome of the impeachment drama was never in doubt. The Rajapaksas are hell-bent on getting rid of the CJ; therefore the UPFA majority in the PSC would have found her guilty as charged, with or without evidence.
Still, had the Rajapaksas so wanted, they could have handled the impeachment process with at least a pinch of restraint and a touch of finesse. For instance, the PSC Chairman could have agreed to the removal of Ministers Rajitha Senaratne and Wimal Weerawansa since they could have been replaced by two other invertebrates. Or the CJ could have been given the five week period she asked for to prepare her defence, since whatever evidence she came up with would not have mattered an iota to the final verdict. Or the Opposition’s request for a pause in the impeachment proceedings during parliamentary vacation could have been acceded to.
All these concessions could have been made without jeopardising the Rajapaksa goal of impeaching the CJ. Being nuanced and restrained would not have prevented the Rajapaksas from achieving their heart’s desire of getting rid of Shirani Bandaranayake and appointing a completely supine acolyte to that position. In fact had the Rajapaksas cloaked their inflexible goal with a nuanced approach, they could have generated a genuine public debate about the impeachment and gained themselves some badly needed legitimacy in international eyes.
But the Rajapaksas did the opposite. They used their two-thirds majority in the PSC with the finesse and the accuracy of a cudgel wielded by a mammoth, über-strong but ham-handed ogre. Their seven PSC-stooges rejected every single request made by the CJ and by the opposition members. And by acting in such a blatantly unfair and unjust manner the Rajapaksas exposed the impeachment for the travesty it is, to their own discredit.
Did the Siblings think that the CJ would not fight back? Did they assume that that the legal fraternity would be too divided to rally round the CJ and that the civil society would maintain its usual somnolence, in the company of the political opposition? Did they hope to use the likes of Wimal Weerawansa, Rajitha Senaratne and Dilan Perera to reduce the CJ to a weeping wreck, too demoralised to fight back? Did they believe that a suitably chastised CJ would gratefully accept an offer of freedom from persecution and another job – and fade away into oblivion?
Are the Siblings too inane to realise that their original script looks extremely out-of-place in the new conjuncture created by the CJ’s determination to resist and the growing sympathy and support she seems to be gaining from the legal fraternity, the polity and the civil society? Don’t they understand that the impeachment travesty will undermine their credibility nationally and destroy whatever is left of their reputation internationally?
The UPFA majority in the PSC, left to its own devices, would have delivered the guilty verdict the Rajapaksas wanted in a far more credible way. But that is not how the Rajapaksas rule. They want things their way. And their way is the way of the Humanitarian Operation; ensuring zero-civilian casualty not by taking precautions but by imposing a blanket censorship and labelling every dead Tamil (man, woman, child or baby) a Tiger.
Under Rajapaksa tutelage the impeachment was transferred from a constitutional act into a political chainsaw massacre, with blood and gore galore. And the message it sends is clear: if you stand in the Rajapaksa way and not only will you be removed, but you will removed in a manner which maximises your pain, your suffering and your humiliation.
Obviously the Rajapaksa idea of a proper trial is exactly the same as the Rajapaksa idea of a proper election – a manifestly biased process with prearranged outcome, characterised by power-abuse and impunity.
Anti-democratic and unjust conduct has become a visceral habit of the Rajapaksas, something in their political-blood. The Rajapaksas abuse power blatantly and act with manifest injustice during any election, including the ones they can win very easily. It is as if they have forgotten that there can be other, more intelligent and less destructive, ways of achieving their goals.
According to Greek mythology, Zeus sent two gifts to mankind to help men in the task of governance: aidos – shame – and dike – justice. That the Rajapaksas lack both qualities is clear from the manner in which the impeachment process was conducted. (Ministers Wimal Weerawansa and Dilan Perera treated the CJ with uncouth rudeness because that was what their puppet-masters expected them to do. Had they been told by the Rajapaksas to treat the CJ with the deference her position demands and the politeness which is due to every human being, they would have done so. Their ‘brief’ was the opposite – confound and demoralise the CJ by subjecting her to verbal abuse).
Rulers who have neither a sense of shame nor a sense of justice can plummet to the lowest of depths, unhesitatingly and repeatedly. For them everything is permitted. Such leaders are a disgrace to the country they rule and a danger to the people whose destinies they control.