10 June, 2023


With No Rule Of Law, Return To Fear & Uncertainty

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

When we are ruled by the law, contracts can be freely entered in the confidence of enforceability. We can drive on the streets knowing that the police will not harass us so long as we drive properly. Indeed, we even have some protection from murderers and criminals in the confidence that they will be punished for harming us. What our institutions buy through proper procedures will be priced best. Our properties will appreciate since the rule of law is conducive to happy living. Our children will be with us instead of fleeing abroad. Alas, rule by the law seems to evade us Sri Lankans.

Impunity for War Crimes

As the Friday Forum states, “The President and Prime Minister in particular, have an important responsibility for leadership” in upholding the rule of law.” They have utterly failed us.

UNHRC Resolution 30/1 (A/HRC/30/L.29) which our government under the President and Prime Minister cosponsored and passed on 29 June, 2015, reads that the Council

“Recognizing that the investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes in Sri Lanka requested by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 25/1 was necessitated by the absence of a credible national process of accountability

“1. Takes note with appreciation of the oral update presented by the United Nations High Commissioner […], the report of the Office of the High Commissioner on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka and its investigation on Sri Lanka requested by the [HRC] in its resolution 25/1 [Footnote  2] including its findings and conclusions, and encourages the Government of Sri Lanka [GoSL] to implement the recommendations […]; 

“6. […] affirms in this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the special counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators;”

Footnote 2 refers to A/HRC/30/CRP.2, the Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), detailing the atrocities by our armed forces and the LTTE. This report has therefore been endorsed and appreciated by our government and our judicial deficiencies accepted.

After the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 the President insisted that Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and integrity weren’t compromised, and stressed that the new journey started on 8 January must be persisted with, shunning extremists.  Ranil Wickremesinghe said at the same time that the passage of the US resolution and the international community uniting for Sri Lanka were key for the country’s future wellbeing.

Now, however, the President boasts (Daily Mirror 4 March, 2017) to the SLFP executive committee that he had shown his ‘backbone’ to the International community by rejecting UNHRC Chief Zeid bin Ra-ad Al Hussein’s recommendation for a hybrid court to probe war crimes allegations in Sri Lanka. If the President truly has a backbone, why did he cosponsor 30/1? Did the President and PM lie in promising what they had no plans to do? Having done nothing, are they trying to buy time and still lying because in the new cosponsored resolution, they are calling upon GoSL to “fully implement” measures that are outstanding from the 2015 UN resolution? 

The Monitoring and Accountability Panel of renowned foreign legal experts established to monitor compliance with Resolution 30/1, recommended that Sri Lanka be referred to the International Criminal Court if it failed to take steps to implement the Resolution, including establishing a hybrid war crimes court with the participation of international judges and prosecutors (Daily FT, 02.03.2017)

The initial reaction of GoSL to the final report of its Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation (CTF) amounts to a cynical and reckless repudiation of the stated aspirations of Sri Lanka’s citizens (EIN Presswire, 28.02.2017). As a Tamil, I wonder if we have a future in Sri Lanka.

This new resolution seeks to buy time but nothing in the original goals is changed. The President is again promising the UN international judges. This is local politics as elections may be upon us soon. In the meantime, a senior official said to me “the President is not listening to those who voted for him and the government is being run by the John Seneviratnes and S.B. Dissanayakes who were with President Rajapakse at the last elections and never voted for Sirisena.” Will the Seneviratnes and Dissanayakes ever vote for Sirisena?

Impunity for National Heroes?

Major advances in the rule of law through the Nineteenth Amendment were undermined when Sirisena forced the head of the bribery commission, Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe, to resign, saying he publicly condemned her for the prosecution of three retired admirals and the former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa with “disgust,” and that “military commanders who led the successful campaign to crush separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009 should not be humiliated by bringing them to court” (EconomyNext,17.10.2016.)

National Heroes have impunity for murder and graft. Tamils can be murdered by them with impunity.

The Commissions and the Law

The Police Commission’s Chairman has resigned giving unbelievable reasons but I reliably know that he quit because he faced obstacles that prevented him from delivering. Today we have an Election Commission with no elections to conduct. The government which has to announce the dates, is trotting out excuse after excuse. The Election Commission has heard strong rumours that even Provincial Council elections will be postponed and is seeking legal advice on how to respond if that happens.

Everyone seems ignorant that there is a Commission; even the Parliament that created it and reporters.  The Select Committee under the Hon. Thalatha Atukorale summoned the Chairman and officials to learn of their views on overseas voting. They do not seem to know there are two Commission members.

Jaffna University and the Postal Rule

Another ongoing issue of lawlessness relates to the application of US Prof. Sam Thiagalingam for the post of VC. Five internal deans applied. Many were worried that outsider Thiagalingam, if appointed, may look into ongoing corruption, especially in undeserved promotions in violation of circulars. Internal staff recruits are students for 4 years, then demonstrators and finally up to 8 years on probation where they learn to respect and obey seniors who determine their degree, recruitment and confirmation. An outsider without these 12+ years of serfdom may not be obedient. Thiagalingam’s application posted well in time in the US arrived, they say, 2 days late and was rejected.

There is Standard English case-law, Adams V Lindsell from 1818, that established the rule that the date of posting is the key date of effective receipt. This was accepted by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Basnayake in University of Ceylon v Fernando [1957] 59 NLR 8. It was held that where the post is used for transmitting, the relevant party  was required to do no more than send, in due time, a properly addressed prepaid letter containing the name and address of the opposite party.

When consulted by the VC, the UGC obligingly said the Council may decide. The election was held without Thiagalingam on the ballot and three names have now been transmitted to the President for him to choose one. An unfair appointment is imminent. The President needs to be careful after violating procedure on the recent High Court appointment

It is the same everywhere including the Election Commission on receipt of applications. Administrators decide on their own authority and feel no need to study the law or even listen when the law is explained. Some Jaffna Councillors while agreeing that the UGC was wrong, felt that as UGC appointees, if they did not listen to the UGC’s opinion they could be removed. Clearly our Councils have no backbone. Reason strangely has no place in an institution that is meant to be its vanguard.

Secretaries Dr. Devanesan Nesiah and Murugeysan Rajendra

I was lecturing to the new class of SLAS cadets of about 130 on 07.03.2017 on Ethics for Administrators for their induction. I told them of Dr. Devansean Nesiah, CCS class of 1959, whose career was not progressing in a tight situation for Tamils. During the 1977- UNP regime, this Class I Grade 1 officer was merely Director of Plan Implementation under a politically appointed Secretary with ties to a typewriter company. Nesiah was made chair of the tender committee to buy typewriters for the service and asked to submit a blank, signed recommendation to the Secretary.

I told the cadets, “Many of our ministers are corrupt. It is certain you will face similar situations and become corrupted. Nesiah did not comply and was sent to the Pool. The Secretary still flies high and was appointed to the UGC.  However, Nesiah was ultimately redeemed when Premadasa introduced racial quotas and made Nesiah Secretary after a long hiatus for Tamils. This 20th, he will receive national honours from Sirisena.

I asked the cadets, “Will you succumb? Or can you take the service back to the example of my grand uncle’s brother Murugeysan Rajendra who was Secretary to the Treasury and Head of Service?” The Minister of Finance and later President had a Tamil daughter-in-law who imported an MG Sports car without duty using provisions for temporary 6-month-use. After, six months Rajendra impounded the car. The angry minister called up Rajendra and asked him, “What do you think you are doing?” Back came the calm reply, “I am upholding the law.”

Rajendra’s was a time when upright administrators could not be harmed by our corrupt leaders. By giving-in to our corrupt leaders who are everywhere, we have lost our country. It is time we told off those who govern us where to get off, regardless of the personal cost. We need the rule of law to take back our future.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    ”…. By giving-in to our corrupt leaders who are everywhere, we have lost our country. It is time we told off those who govern us where to get off, regardless of the personal cost. We need the rule of law to take back our future….”

    Prof. Hoole,

    You have summed up the root problem in SL in 2 sentences. Today, our education system is all about passing exams, & once gainfully employed, professional or otherwise, it’s then all about making money. We only have to see the caliber of some of the state university students, who are expected lead the nation into the future, to realize the potential outcome.

    Unfortunately in SL, Professional bodies no longer seem to have an ethical code of conduct for its members, or at least not practiced, & a profession is no longer considered as something that should be done with pride. Instead, it’s sole purpose is seen as to generate an income & more opportunities to do so, the better.

    There is nothing wrong with ambition & improving one’s standard of living but when it is done through corrupt means, misuse of power & depriving others the opportunity to achieve their full potential for selfish reasons, the younger generation needs to be educated that there is a more satisfying alternative than money alone. However, I doubt very much if we could establish ‘the rule of law to take back our future’ at this present time. We are too far gone but I am hopeful that, perhaps, in another generation or so, we could achieve it if we do something about it now.

  • 1

    Why don’t you explain that Res 30/1 is not just for Tamils, but for the every citizen in the country. Read it carefully. Every bit that it talks about should not be an issue to peace loving civil society, but to corrupt politicians under whose rule they all suffer.
    Damage done to the word HR by extremist Tamil diaspora and ultra-nationalist politicians is enormous.
    For example, read this:
    “Recognizing also that a credible accountability process for those most responsible for violations and abuses will safeguard the reputation of those, including within the military, who conducted themselves in an appropriate manner with honour and professionalism,”
    Direct from the Res. 30/1. Isn’t this the answer to those who claims that government is jailing “war heroes”?
    NO…you don’t want to do that. Because that will just expose your tactic to create division, to make this whole HR process a tool for division not for reconciliation.

  • 2

    Good one, Prof.

    Sri Lanka needs evidence-based hiring policies to promote Inclusion, Diversity and Multiculturalism in the Public Administrative Services, the judicial and education system. This should be official policy and not secretly done – as was the case with the Batticaloa judge.

    There should be a proper National Survey done of the Sri Lanka Public and Administrative Service and Higher Education system and enumeration numbers of women and minorities in public service at leadership and intermediate levels .

    We need DATA re, gender, ethnic and age of public servants to ascertain how representative the Sri Lanka public service is of the DIVERSITY in the country and hiring policies based on criteria of MERITOCRACY and DIVERSITY.
    Clearly, there should be affirmative action hiring – i.e. quotas for women and for Tamils who are grossly underrepresented at middle and leadership levels in State institutions at the center – National level.

  • 3

    Prof: Ratnajeevan Hoole.

    Adams Vs Lindsell ruling of 1818 and the acceptance of that ruling by our own five-judge bench of the Supreme court in 1957 was overturned by a majority verdict of the Council–UOJ.
    Perhaps,they constituted themselves as the Privy Council! Who was Lord Chancellor?

  • 7

    The UofJ VC issue is much more than a point of legal technicality of how one deals with a post that arrived a day after the deadline. There is a “we don’t want you” message being sent to outsiders, which is short-sighted and sad.

  • 2

    “……………………………An unfair appointment is imminent”

    Dr/Professor Hoole,
    You were earlier appointed by President Mahinda Rajapakse, as Vice Chancellor of Jaffna University.

    Was that appointment fair?

    • 2

      Justice (and K. Pillai)

      I am truly relieved that a few at least see through these signature blend of feigned altruistic-sounding articles of Ratnajeevan, altruism used merely as a facade that quickly morphs into self-congratulatory and self-pitying appeals (“my job”, my uncle’s job”, “my rightful $6 driver allowance to accommodate my diabetic condition”, blah, blah, blaha).

      I refrain from a detailed criticism, and keeping my fingers crossed as CT seems to object to any criticism that I level against Ratnajeevan ibn detail, even though I make those based entirely on statements that Ratnajeevan makes here in the blog, and nothing else. It is truly curious that Ratnajeevan is however somehow “blessed” (I am certain “blessed” in the operative word here for more reasons than one!) to be afforded unconstrained liberty to throw mud liberally at whomever he wishes. Below is a quick listing of those Ratnajeevan has felt appropriate to freely castigate directly or by insinuation, while self-promoting himself in the several articles over the last two months or so:

      Jaffna University faculty and admin, starting from the VC, to almost all of the staff

      Peradeniya University

      UGC and its administrators

      Chandrika (whom he claimed that he had somehow “helped” – I wonder what exactly the help was, and whether he did that in anticipation of some due return-favour. Wish he would explain)

      Any one who did not get a DSc, as they are not intellectually adequate

      Anyone who did get a DSc, as those DSc’s really were only of sub-grade compared to the one that he got

      Navalar and all Hindu’s who may harbour a fair view of Navalar

      All vellalars (because Navalar favoured vellalars?)

      Waligama for sexism (while Jeevan has no compunction degrading pipe-bathing damsels of yester-year that somehow caught his eyes)

      St. Thomas having the capacity to teach only English but not manners

      All non-Christian schools as being less-than capable in producing quality or worthy citizens, relatively speaking

      All women-folk of Katubedda

      The list goes on.

      Now, I keep my fingers crossed for CT’s not-so-unbiased censorship. Surprise me!

  • 2

    How many Americans were tried for war crimes ever for Vietnam or Cambodia where their bombs killed tens of thousands of civilians. but those bombs were sanitary and christian and dropped from 30,000 feet so it just landed oddly.

    How many were hauled up for destabilizing Libya ? How many for lying to invade Iraq and creating Islamic jihadism?

  • 1

    Prof. Hoole

    CT seems your best place to promote your self claimed greatness.

    I think most people do not recognise how you are promoting your self interest via the CT.

    All about you, your uncles, your fame.

    It does not indicate a great intellectualism and sounds very cheap advertisement.

  • 0

    Rule of law bullshit. Each institution takes the law onto its hand. There is no police in Sri Lanka there is a bunch of thieves who are now supposed to meditate. An act of a another idiot who thinks he can fool the masses. We saw how the IGP was behaving on the phone to the minister. Can a man without balls lead a police. Police commission is a joke. In essence the country is law less run by spineless men who have neither the wisdom nor the class pretending to be rulers. They are not capable of running a toilet.

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