| by Hana Ibrahim
( January 18, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The US neither wasted time nor minced its words in relaying its response to the appointment of the new Chief Justice.
In what was both an echo of the sentiment of the international community and a dire warning, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, while expressing deep concern over the impeachment of Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, said the impeachment raises serious questions about the separation of powers in Sri Lanka, which is a fundamental tenet of a healthy democracy.
In what appeared to be a warning of sorts, she said: “Throughout these proceedings, we’ve repeatedly conveyed to the Government of Sri Lanka our concern that there was a lack of due process, and we’ve also made very clear our view that actions undermining an independent Judiciary would impact on Sri Lanka’s ability to attract foreign investment.”
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the shrills of the impeachment motion against the ousted CJ would reverberate on far out shores. But the danger, as spelt out by Nuland, is that the action, carried out with a sense of ‘we don’t care what the world thinks’ attitude, might come back to haunt us in the form of depleted foreign investments and much more.
Given the depleted state of our coffers and the grandiose development plans, foreign investment is a much needed commodity. But in the larger context, we can’t afford to lose the goodwill of the international community either.
But what Nuland said, and what the United Kingdom, European Union, Canada and the United Nations have said, is not a good omen for Sri Lanka or its economy.
When intoxicated with self-righteousness, rulers resort to foolish ventures without any sense of anticipation of the grave consequences their foolish ventures would entail. The impeachment of the former CJ and the appointment of a new CJ is a classic example of such thoughtless undertakings.
There is no gainsaying that rulers do take gambles. But shouldn’t these gambles be in the name of doing things right and not to consolidate their positions or hegemony?
As Nuland has said, the health of the country’s democracy is in an acute state of decay. When such decay sets in, the patient does not realize unless and until he is told by the doctor. In this case the doctors seem to be unwilling and unready to face the dire consequences of telling the truth to the patient.
Those who indulge in sheer fallacies of the nature of foreign conspiracies and influence of the Tamil Diaspora would have their day again. A warning such as Nuland’s statement would be treated as a mere intervention in the internal politics. Such short-sighted pronouncements will only aggravate the fast-declining situation from which a comeback would be quite difficult, if not impossible.
When a country is confronted with enormous problems, ranging from constitutional to governance to economic and a deep pit of lawlessness, sober minds should prevail and saner personalities should emerge and take leadership of the state of affairs and effectively install rectifying measures.
It is not too late for corrective action if the intention is present and desire is imminent. In the absence of both desire and intent, the people at large would be the depressed victims of such foolhardy following of self-glorifying policies and archaic thinking.
Modern liberalism is not just a slogan; it is a vibrant, living reality. Civilized countries adapt themselves to these emerging modern realities and effect the necessary changes so that the ruled as well as the ruler are part and parcel of the mechanism of governance. The all-powerful notion of ‘I rule and you listen’ syndrome has captured the warped minds of some of our politicians, not only those who govern, but also some of those who occupy the Opposition seats.
Chanakya, Emperor Chandragupta’s chief advisor wrote in his famous book, ‘Arthasashthra’, thousands of years ago that “the fundamental function of the ruler is to make his subjects fearless.’’ If no fundamental change takes place in the mindset of the people in the near future, we will be saddled with a population that is utterly afraid and cowardly, so much so that they would be running away from their own shadows.
( Hana Ibrahim is the editor Ceylon Today)