| by Hana Ibrahim
( January 16, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The darkest hour comes just before dawn. Whether this is just another cliché or an inspiring set of words handed down from one generation to another from time immemorial, one would not know. But how else could one describe what happened on Sunday and thereafter?
The lightning speed with which the government converted Friday’s parliamentary vote into action and implemented the laborious steps involved in an impeachment motion against a Chief Justice of a country is truly phenomenal.
Efficiency is not something you generally associate with the State sector. Yet on this occasion it moved with a sense of alacrity that can only be only described as superlative. In the darkest hour, the wheels of the government machinery worked on overdrive.
This is not the first time an attempt was made to remove the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka via an impeachment process and it won’t be the last either. So much has been written by so many on this subject, both locally and internationally and the legal profession in the country has truly been tested and tried. Demonstrations have been staged and stage managed the shameless manner in which the governing party engaged its muscle power in some of these demonstrations was condemned by many but approved by some. When the battle-lines were drawn, it really did not seem to matter as to who was on the other side of the fence.
A new Chief Justice has been appointed. And a Fundamental Rights Petition filed against the appointment. The Supreme Court will have to decide what to do. The crunch time has arrived and players will be separated from pretenders now, not tomorrow or the day after, now.
The political culture of the country seems to have descended to such a low that the level appears to be more like the bottom, making one wonder to what real depths it will plummet.
All the ingredients necessary for a successful usurping of power without the victims realizing the dangers of that usurping process, are in place. An electronic medium that is being dominated by a State-controlled channel delivering lie after lie manufactured by their own vivid but nasty imaginations; a State-owned print media propagating the government line of thinking on issues, a poster campaign reminding one of ballad-sheet (Kele patthara) propaganda gimmicks – all these have contributed to the degeneration of our political culture to some baser levels.
The government cannot simply say that one has to follow the Constitution and hide behind a faulty ruling given by a Speaker of Parliament of yesteryear. The President is reported to have told a delegation of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) that “our Constitution may not be perfect, but it still needs to be followed.”
No. we don’t have to follow an imperfect Constitution. The function of the government is to do the right thing at all times. Even if we followed an imperfect Constitution, we could not have jumped to these unlawful and unconstitutional conclusions that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) and the steamroller-majority in Parliament arrived at.
If, as the government now seems to ponder, the Constitution is imperfect, then it must take corrective measures and right the wrongs as it professes from political platforms. The dangers inherent in a process that the government employed to gain its own parochial political goals may not surface today and may not surface even in the short run. But dangers are present and clear.
Human history is replete with dozens, if not hundreds of instances, where rulers have gone berserk when drunk with power. The very intoxicating nature of power seems to have taken hold of all those who occupy those high seats today. The very temporary nature of such glory and fame does not seem to act as a warning to those who wield that power today. When one thinks that political power is a carte blanch for anything and when one engages that power for the sole purpose of extending it further to enhance his or her own position and status, the end comes sooner than one could ever imagine.
For, the acceleration process takes one to a particular point after which there is only one way to go. When you reach a summit, your journey back is always downwards.
(The writer is the Editor of the Ceylon Today, where this piece was originally appeared)