Absolutely no “law’s delay” in finding the chief justice guilty on an impeachment motion that the movers signed but never read
( December 18, 2012, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Shakespeare in one of his mature tragedies, Hamlet makes the law’s delay one of the ills of life which led Hamlet to think of suicide. In true democracies the principal end of all human systems of government has been repeatedly asserted to be in the dispensation of justice certainly the adjustment of the rights of humans as against others, the prompt acquittal of those wrongfully accused and/or the conviction of the guilty as being matters of immense interest. Law’s delays are in most advanced countries inevitable except in countries like China and Russia lacking in human rights.
In the case of the proceedings against the Chief Justice Ms Shirani Bandaranayake s done with such unholy haste and urgency not because of any apparent serious lapse on her part but because she rubbed on the wrong side of a member of the Rajapaksa dynasty, Basil Rajapaksa by a ruling thwarting their aspirations to control rural development through a Bill with archaic provisions to replace provincial councils and to do away with any prospect of any devolution of power to the minorities through the 13th amendment to the constitution which was hitherto bandied about so long to deceive the international community, especially India, that sponsored it in 1987. In fact in his budget speech, Mahinda Rajapksa revealing his hidden agenda revealed: “A change in the prevailing Provincial Council system is necessary to make devolution more meaningful to our people…..” our people meaning the Sinhalese. The change envisaged would centralize power in the minister widely known as “ten percent” and would have enabled him to make millions by way of commissions. Having amassed immense wealth quite in disproportion to any other usual manner in a climate of absolutely unparalleled corruption, unchallenged criminality and absolute political power regarded invincible being compensation for having defeated Tamil militancy, with the Sinhalese masses fed on racist anti Tamil rhetoric, it has now become necessary to consolidate their political power, their wealth and immunity by the elimination of the only remaining obstacle, an independent judiciary, though of sorts.
As a consequence, the chief justice has had to face the farcical impeachment proceedings, a comedy of errors concluded with such expedition and unholy haste marking the end of the last vestige of any semblance of democracy in Sri Lanka. In this slapstick comedy the principal clown is not minister Mervyn Silva, Weerawansa or Rambukwella but Mahinda Rajapaksa the president himself. Like the devil citing scripture he goes about the country pontificating to the ignorant masses, unfortunately the majority in Sri Lanka, that he will not brook any dishonesty or corruption in any section of the services.
In the absence of any dissenting voice completely muffled, the masses are constantly fed with stories slandering Ms Bandaranayake coming up with fables provided by the state media deifying the Rajapaksa clan. The document impeaching Bandaranayake was signed in the blank by the nearly 115 government parliamentarians and the subject matter inserted therein, subsequently, so that except those in the Parliamentary select committee (PSC), none other had read the impeachment notice before they signed it. They signed the blank document because they were ordered to do so. Those in the Rajapaksa clan eligible to sign had advisedly refrained from subscribing to the contents by not signing. Now in the face of the opposition and Bandaranake’s justifiable defiance, the President in his characteristic fashion in wriggling out of this impasse says that he himself has not read the contents of the impeachment and that a review should be held to clear his own conscience, as if his conscience is of paramount consideration in this whole episode. Perhaps, he wishes to have a good night’s sleep at the expense of that of those adversely affected. The whole episode is in fact not a comedy but in fact a comic tragedy with Rajapaksa emerging like the proverbial emperor once again with no clothes on.
Four opposition members of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) delegated to hear this matter had withdrawn. Some government members of the PSC, arising out of their own feeling of inferiority had abused Bandaranayake, tantamount to sadism not giving the respect that should at least be given to a woman not to mention the head of the judiciary. She was not allowed the basic right of her lawyers cross examining witnesses and the proceedings were not to be in the public domain which forced her to walk out of the proceedings in disgust. Some witnesses were in fact were examined after she had left the proceedings. The PSC having examined the oral and written evidence against the Chief Justice Dr Shirani Bandaranayake is said to have found her guilty of three out of the five charges investigated among the 14 charges brought against her in the impeachment motion.
President Rajapaksa in the meantime getting cold feet is said to have contacted the counsel for Bandaranayake to get her to resign and that he would give her another job. We understand that Bandaranaike is not hankering after positions especially one offered by Rajapaksa with her primary aim being vindicating her stand.
We are not claiming to be competent to pass judgment on Ms Bandaranayake’s conduct but we certainly take umbrage at the manner in which the head of the judiciary is being treated and on undermining of the principles of the rule of law of which she is custodian. In the very least the manner in which she is being treated is a violation of her rights as a human being.
The constitutions of 1972 and 1978 successively compelled the judicial officers to defend and uphold the constitution quite contrary to judicial office and against judicial conscience with executive action thereafter eroding the position of the chief justice and the judges of the Supreme Court.
Further, every day that Sarath Silva a former chief justice held office for 10 years from the year 2000 to 2010, the office of the chief justice was undermined and degraded on a daily basis. He publicly and unashamedly claimed that President Rajapaksa owed his position to him in that Rajapaksa would not have become the President of Sri Lanka being able to contest the 2005 Presidential election and come to power if the Supreme Court bench headed by him had not cleared Mahinda Rajapaksa of allegations of misappropriation of Tsunami funds. We have no reason, whatsoever, to doubt his claim. Apparently he believes that he did a favour to Mahinda Rajapaksa to be reciprocated. In the ensuing culture enabled by the constitution of 1978 where the chief justice had to constantly act to please the president at every turn believing that the Chief justice had to act at their pleasure made the position of Bandaranayake quite unenviable and untenable. Unfortunately this is the position that the concepts of the rule of law and the separation of powers have descended to with no redemption in sight.
( The Writer, editor of the EelamNation)