By Chandra Jayaratne –
We are living amidst media reports that forces us to question, whether the leaders in governance, who having taken the solemn oath to uphold the Constitution in the discharge of their duties in, duly recognize the rights of citizens as vested in them by the Constitution.
In the context of constitutional provisions embedding and defining fundamental rights of citizens, how could it be possible that leaders in governance, purportedly as quoted in the media, had taken public stances that;
1. Recognition medals and awards won by sportspersons competing in their personal capacity, but under nomination and flag of the country, cannot be sold or otherwise disposed of at will; and where necessary to do so, special laws will be promulgated to prevent such sales or transfers. Whether memorabilia related to significant global / national sporting events were also to fall in to this category of items, the sale of which is to be prohibited is unclear ( eg. bat/ball/gloves, wickets, hat and clothing used by a world cup wining team member). It is presumed here that despite training facilities , costs of training, fitness and travel having been state sponsored, there were no specific contracts that required such persons winning medals to hand them over or to hold them in trust for the state or at the disposal of the state. It is possible that the leader in question may have failed to get best advice as to whether the proposed prohibition of disposal of medals would tantamount to a violation under the constitution of the property rights and other rights of the sportsperson.
2. The import of some brands of pharmaceuticals, merely on the ground that the value thereof exceeds a specified maximum import price specified for that category of pharma product, being prohibited by gazette. Such prohibitions could adversely affect the fundamental rights of citizens, including right to life, if that particular drug was the only one that the particular patient could tolerate without side effects or the only drug must use to get the desired medical outcome post use out, as determined by a qualified medical practitioner.
3. A purported threat was issued by a leader to debar a person from the practice of his profession and vocation, on the grounds that he has made a false statement in quoting some incidents as reported in a published source, which statement could tantamount to hate speech or a statement made to incite violence; whereas the Constitution has provisions to allow any citizen to practice a profession of choice, so long as it is legal. The freedom to practice a profession can be restricted only in terms of a code of ethics and conducts of the profession when developed in terms of the by-laws of the profession and binding on the member.
In the back drop of the above potentially unconstitutional stances taken by leaders and subsequently uncorrected, the citizens saw the highly professional and citizen’s rights conscious action coming from the new Governor of the Central Bank and his top team as reported in the media, following what appeared to be a citizen unfriendly action proposed by the Central Bank and published in a news report in the media.
A media release quoting Central Bank of Sri Lanka stated that “CBSL will not make payments on mutilated, altered or defaced currency notes after 31.12.2017.” This news item made citizens panic and wonder what would happen to damaged notes they may acquire or posses in the future, especially where such damage was purely accidental. As public panic set in, activists started a review of the applicable legal rights of potentially negatively impacted citizens.
It is a punishable offense under the Monetary Law for “mutilation, alteration and deface of currency notes”. Willful damage to notes or utter disregard of expected good practices in storing, using and transport of currency notes must be avoided by citizens as printing and issuing of currency note with essential security is a costly exercise for the state.
However an innocent receiver or holder of such mutilated, altered, or defaced currency notes or where mutilation, alteration and defacement of currency notes are as a result of;
- Normal wear and tear
- Accidental damage ( not intentional)( eg. notes caught in the zip of a purse or notes that have got wet or altered by falling accidentally in to some coloured liquid or paint )
must have legal protection and not be denied value for such currency note. All such damaged notes must be honoured by the Monetary Authority, so long as such note is legal tender and not demonetized.
Thus a holder of a valid currency note issued by the Monetary Authority of Sri Lanka, as long as such note is legal tender cannot be denied value for such note under any circumstances unless he has been guilty of the offense of mutilation, alteration and defacement.
The Constitutional fundamental rights to enjoy owned property cannot be denied merely because a legally valid currency note is worn out or defaced or mutilated by accident whilst in use and such damage has not been due to a deliberate action by the owner.
Give credit to the leadership of the Central Bank under the present Governor, a professional of high capability and integrity, for he was quick to publicly announces that a fuller clarification will follow from the Central Bank. Irrespective decisions of a similar nature taken before and repeated even on this occasion, any worn out or accidentally damaged note will continue to valid and of value. Refer Sunday Observer of 18th June 2017 -Page 1 quoting the Governor.
This quick action, citizen friendly clarification, made without dealy and not as a result of public pressure, must be hailed and recognized, as it stands out in the context of the governance stances of other leaders reported at the beginning of this article.
Three Cheers “Again“ to the Governor of CBSL, Who Recognizes Citizens Rights!