13 August, 2020

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Wishing The North’s Chief Minister Well

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena -

As he embarks on his official duties in this month of October 2013, Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council and former judge of Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court C.V. Wigneswaran must be left in no doubt of the hopes reposed in him by Tamil and Sinhala moderates despite extremists who revile him post-elections.

Overheated election rhetoric appears to have given way to a saner approach as signified by the Chief Minister taking oaths before President Mahinda Rajapaksa even as he was increasingly criticized for doing so from within his own ranks with some particularly ugly manifestations.

Forthright tendencies

The Northern Province now has as its provincial head, a man distinguished by specific traits, one of which certainly is the tendency to speak out, quite regardless of the heat that this may endanger. This forthright tendency was well seen in his tenure as a superior court judge during the particularly controversial Sarath Silva era (1999-2009).

In an aside, it is no doubt amusing to see retired Chief Justice Silva gravely expounding on the proper function of a court of law and the judicial role as we saw this week in relation to the recent delivering of a Supreme Court judgment under the State Lands Recovery of Possession Act (1979), when his own stewardship of the Court was marked by unprecedented public controversy from which the judiciary never really recovered.

Indeed it was none other than the present Northern Chief Minister who, just after his retirement as a Supreme Court judge, spoke of a constrained judicial environment where ‘errant politicians and policemen who should not have received any patronage from the judiciary were perceived as important persons and original court judges were compelled to comply with orders illegally issued to protect or pamper such errant offenders…,’ (Justice on a Razor’s Edge, The Sunday Leader, October 31st, 2004).

Politicians in sports and judges in politics

And when dissenting voices were rarely heard from the Bar and still less from the Bench, Justice Wigneswaran defiantly stood out from unappealing judicial mediocrities who grumbled in private but meekly acquiesced in public to the highly authoritarian tone of the Silva Court.

One of the more piquant asides was when parliamentarian Arjuna Ranatunga’s fundamental rights application asking that he be allowed to contest for the post of the president of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board was heard for leave to proceed before a Bench presided over by the former Chief Justice and numbering also Justice Wigneswaran. Ranatunge was contesting a regulation promulgated by the Sports Minister under the Sports Law No 25 of 1973 prohibiting a politician from becoming an office bearer of sports associations on the basis that it was discriminatory.

In marked contrast to the other sitting judges, Justice Wigneswaran’s emphatic observation was that ‘I do not approve of politicians entering the sports arena.’ At the point that this remark was made, entering politics as a retired Supreme Court judge would undoubtedly have been the farthest from his mind. Close to a decade later, as this former judge becomes the North’s Chief Minister, it is ironic to see the twists and turns that life may bring.

A proverbial last hope

From that perspective, this is someone who is uniquely placed to differentiate himself from the cacophonous babble that passes for the political process today. Indeed, beset by a disastrous Opposition and repeatedly hit over the heads by a Government which has turned the notion of the Rule of Law upside down, Sri Lankan liberals (or at least those who still doggedly remain in this country) may well see him as a proverbial last hope for the majority as well as the minorities, provided that destructive ethno-centric politics are minimized in the process.

In general, his persona lends itself to this expectation. In the early days of his retirement from the Bench, Justice Wigneswaran’s comments on the degeneration of Sri Lanka’s judiciary were characteristically pungent. In that 2004 media interview, his prophetic comments which reflected much of our own thoughts, foresaw the calamitous collapse of the Sri Lankan judiciary in 2012 when a sitting Chief Justice was forced out and the military brought into the heart of the courts complex.

His caution is equally relevant then as now; “the judiciary must not be filled at its higher echelons with executive-pliant officers who have had very close relationships with the executive and the legislature….unless recruitment of judges and the process of judicial administration undergo radical change, I see the judicial process becoming a question mark.”

A common issue of the role of the law

In 2013, as he assumes office as Chief Minister of the Northern Province, Sri Lanka’s judicial process has gone far beyond being a question mark. Its role as a separate and independent branch of government has been undermined as never before. In the North, the lands of the Tamil people are being seized under the twin prong of the government’s militarization and development drive. In the East, even as the Sampur agreement is signed by Sri Lanka this month reportedly with potential heavy burdens to consumers, the displaced people of Sampur lament bitterly. In other parts of the country, marginalized Sinhalese farmers are being evicted from state lands and private lands are being sold to foreign companies with fat commissions to local politicians. The role of the law has receded into the background.

These are unpropitious times indeed for honest men and women, let alone a former Supreme Court judge whose integrity was unimpeachable, to function in politics. And true enough, the transition from the judicial to a political role can only be hedged about with thorns of a particularly prickly kind. Regardless, Sri Lankans who recall what this country once was with profound regret as well as helpless anger can only wish him well.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    Wish all his work FAIL.

    Tamil terrorist traitor.

    • 0
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      Good work Kishali – indeed it is to be hoped that the TNA will set a better example and lead the way from the periphery to clean up the rotten core of Politics in Sri Lanka where two equally foul despots – Ranil Wickramasinghe in the UNP and Rajapassa in the UPFA have destroyed POLITICAL CULTURE.

      Let up also hope that now the Manmohan Singh is also going to boycott the CHOGM circus in November, David Camaron will also boycott Rajapassa and instead highlight the culture of impunity that reigns superime in Lanka – by showing how British citizen Sheik’s killer, a Rajapassa stooge remains at large..
      Britain needs to put Rajapassa on the mat for the CULTURE OF IMPUNITY – not stroke his EGO!

    • 0
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      Good stuff Kishali – Keep it coming and indeed lets hope that Justice Wigie teaches Rajapassa and his corrupt family a thing or two..

      • 0
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        I am born sinhala but die as SRILANKEN… so, I have no doubt that Wiggie would succeed also teaching due lessions to Rajapakshes. MR was bit afraid even very skeptic whether Wiggie would ever become the majority^s choice – but results made it very clear… so knowing that he is highly educated guy with lots of experience in issues through out his carrier, I dont think anything could go wrong if the rulers (rhythless) would save his life to his job as sworn before.

    • 0
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      Jusitce Vigie MUST tell Rajapassa where to get off..
      He is the only hope for the WHOLE of Lanka – SInhalaya modayas and minorities because the UNP opposition with Ranil and Sajith fighting it out is a bigger disaster and neither are fit to lead an opposition.

      SO in effect Justice Vigie will become the moral and de facto leader of the OPPOSITION, because he is more capable and honest than doddering Sambathan!

      • 0
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        Quite right ALL the politicians are corrupt and hence unable to lead a proper opposition to the Rajapassa Military Dictatorship!

        Only a clean former justice like WIgie would be able to lead opposition to the dastardly Rajapassa regime…

      • 0
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        I have no idea about the PC system in lanken politics.
        Is that true that those ministers in general have no power within prevailing paragraphs in terms of powers within those PCs ?

        Secondly, the governor appointed by the ruling regime is said to have more powers than PC minister ? Is that at all true ?

    • 0
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      Now that you have realized CM Wigneswaran is not going to deliver your Ealam dream,you accuse him of being a Tamil terrorist traitor.Why don’t you stick to your day and night Ealam dream?

      • 0
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        dont worry Max machan,Fathima is not a Tamil he is not a Muslim Either the fellow is none other than Lorenso of Lanka web a diehard racist just like you so he is your buddy,he is just posting in CT to get his payment from the handlers if you know what i mean!

        • 0
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          My handlers?I wish i had such handlers.No luck mate.

    • 0
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      not surprised you love a failed state sri lanka
      (ps low case s and low case l are delbrate, not that I expect you to understand, but for the benefit of other intellectual readers)

    • 0
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      Then it would be like your life story.

  • 0
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    • 0
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      Kishali Salute! Good stuff – keep it coming!

    • 0
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      abhaya

      Thanks

      Great comment. I really enjoyed reading it.

      • 0
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        • 0
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          abhaya

          Fantastic commentary.

          Keep it brief, then you will be alright.

    • 0
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      H ambaya;

      Michigan comments are so applicable to Michigan only.

      not for us;

      keep for your self;

      It shows how your upbringing and character.

      may be your elders were so proud of you to be so vulgar.
      keep it up for your next generation also.

  • 0
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    Dear Kishali, I know you are a sweet grand lady with a heart big enough to swallow your tongue. But…………….Do you REALLY , really wish him well? AMMA PA?

    • 0
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      Well gandha azwer (any relation to that idiot who is now bumsucking MR and was once Premadasa’s peon/translator?you seem like him), what about your behind which obviously is big enought to swallow your brain – if there is a functional grey matter, that is which I seriously doubt.

      Your poor mother – what a fate to give birth to a congenital idiot.Amma pa all right…

    • 0
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      Gandhaa saare;

      so bad smell;

      better keep away from C T;
      better wash and purge.

      This is not a place for Gandhayas.

  • 0
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    KPJ with [Edited out]

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
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    • 0
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      This is an elegantly written tribute to Mr Wigs and also a plea if he reads between the lines. What beats me is how ugly racists get their trousers or skirts in a twist when these writings appear. It would be funny – and often is. Are they incapable of putting forward good counter arguments to a point made? And do they think that abuse will stop these gutty men and women who put their opinions out there unlike most of us who hide behind pen names or as \Kishali says, “grumble in private”? Stupid.

      • 0
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        CHANDRA;

        IT IS NOT SO AS you say or as \Kishali says, “grumble in private”? not Stupid also.

        there are some, who comments on these treads to satisfy the governing masters [ rajapassa clan] and on the payroll of them.[getting taxpayers [us] to pay them].
        and abuse the good offer of CT.

        as we oppose the present Jarapassa’s so called GOOD, IMPARTIAL, PEOPLE FRIENDLY,F king GOVERNANCE,
        and we are living in Sri Lanka, not like you guys in green pastures,
        so we have to protect from THEIR GOONS.
        THEY ARE MONITERING WHO OPPOSE THEM.
        we do not support UNP, JVP,LTTE, BBS, this Senaa, that senaa, Balkayas or any Ps.
        but expect something good for the country and people.
        so your assumptions are partially Wrong.

  • 0
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    I wish Justice Wigneswaran the best as he is at the help of affairs in the North. May he and Sampanthan redirect the course of Sri Lankan Tamil politics to a more constructive phase where the people’s livelihoods improve and the dignity is restored. May all blessings be upon him. We await an improved standard of governance in the North.

    Thank you, Kishali for this article.

  • 0
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    a quick edit – it should have read ‘helm of affairs’.

    Justice Wigneswaran had the highest number of preferential votes in Jaffna. That alone is testimony to his popularity.

  • 0
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    Its still too early.Just wait till Viggie feels comfortable enough to ask for his rightful share of the cake. Only then we will know how genuine these fake liberalists like Chandra are. They are comfortable tolerating the minority as long as the minority remain happy with the DanKudu given to them. But the moment Viggie asks for his 50-50, he will be made a Veggie. We have seen it all before where the oh-so innocent and peace-loving Chandras and Chandrikas become communal Chandiyas in a lightening flash.

    • 0
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      I fear that the vernacular speaking Viggie will face the dirty mouth
      of MR in the process of some arugument, when things will change. I
      hope not.

  • 0
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    A very laudable article.I trust, as Srilankans both Singhalese and Tamils we have been given an opportuity by the good lord to grasp with both hands a great chance for PEACE.In this exercise the President as he said he was the President of all Communities,can prove himself as such and has a chance to go down as a statesman forgetting and forgiving all that has gone before.He will find a partner in Mr Wigneswaran a great and noble person to bring amity and defeat divisive forces on both sides.Journalists like Kishali can add strength to this unity by encouraging both leaders and guide them towards Peace and amity.All must take a leaf out of the life of Mandela,Bishop Tutu and Afrikaaner leaders to forgive.Singhalese and Tamils must have the large heart to forgive each other.After all we are one familt and in all families we have problems but we try to forget and live together.

  • 0
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    Great article Kishali.The country needs outspoken leaders like Justice Wigneswaran. Let us hope and pray his political career continues to prosper and he doesn’t fall prey to the thuggery that has deprived Sri Lanka of great ambassadors of democracy and human rights such as Lasantha Wickrematunge.

  • 0
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    Bala
    Tamils have never been considered as belonging to one family and the history is testimony for that. Nalla Paambu has spitted it out very eloquently. Mandela, Tutu and africanner leaders moved forward only when the right decision was made by the ruling regieme. Asking Tamils to forget the past is suicidal but to forgive is humane and it can only be requested once the amends are made.

  • 0
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    Well written Kishal. With the assumption as Chief Minister, I think there will be change of hearts and good understanding especially between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. If C.V.Wigneswaran invites the President for Deepavali in Jaffna that is a good sign.

  • 0
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    Can these anti Sinhala Buddhist brigades offer better wishes than the Prez who presented Vellala Wiggy with a statue of Lord Vignesar, from Prez’s own Shrine room.

    With Lord Vignesar watching over, Vellala CM shouldn’t have any problems running the show with the Prez promising every assistance.

    That is only if BTF, TGTE , Sambandan and their Western backers back off and let the CM a free hand to enhance and fast track the current development in the North and nd propel the war widows and the non Vellala rurals in particular to get on par with their brethren in Colombo.

    • 0
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      appata siri Sumana’wathie talking in support of wiggie,but we can see the double toungued talk there so your slip is showing mate or should i say ‘your amude’ hahahahahaahahaha!

  • 0
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    There is no question that history is in the making and we hope it’s for the better. Curiously, these elections signal something that the Tamils have wanted for decades and for the first time it’s been given to them legitimately. Let’s enjoy the honeymoon. It can all turn sour if GOSL turn the screws and suffocate the PC or even worse if the TNA implode with in-fighting. One can only agree with the author, that whatever the outcome maybe, the best man is in the ring not only for the Tamils but also for the Sinhalese!

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