Many government politicians and supporters rightly claim that the alleged conversations between United National Party (UNP)MP Ranjan Ramanayake and certain police officers and judges would erode public confidence in law enforcement authorities and the judiciary.
The irony is that it is the same politicians and pro-government media that give wide publicity to what is said to those conversations which would definitely help erode public confidence.
Their claim is undisputable. But they are keener to politically-exploit the situation rather than to preserve public confidence in police and the judiciary at a time when an important national election is in the offing. Therefore, they might consider especially those conversations which are said to be between MP Ramanayake and some of the actresses as godsends. However, there is no point in blaming them. The reality is that any politically-conscious person, even one most genuinely concerned about public confidence in police and the judiciary, is extremely curious to know what transpired among the controversial politico and said police officers, influential judges and celebrated actresses. They are keen not only to know but also to share them with others – a process that would erode public confidence.
There are so many unanswered questions in this whole episode. Police that raided Ramanayake’s residence at Parliament Members’ official housing complex in Madiwela on January 4 seized a hoard of CDs which are said to have contained recordings of telephone conversations between him and several police officers. The mainstream and social media started playing recordings of telephone conversations purportedly between MP Ramanayake and certain police officers and judges from the following day onwards, claiming they were ones seized from the MP’s residence.
"There were many incidents in the past that manifested the influence by politicians on the law enforcement mechanism to file cases against their adversaries and to withdraw them"
Although MP Ramanayake accused the police of releasing the CDs – seized and sealed to be produced in court – to government politicians, police denied his claim. Meanwhile, a story surfaced to the effect that a trishaw driver handed over a parcel containing CDs to the police claiming an unidentified person left it in his vehicle, suggesting they were those now in circulation among politicians. If that were the case, the question arises as to how items in police custody end up in the hands of politicians.
Whatever the case may be, one fact is indisputable – mainstream and social media started to play these CDs after MP Ramanayake’s house was raided. It is said that CDs containing some 125,000 voice recordings had been seized from the MP’s residence. He claimed that he recorded phone conversations as part of his campaign against corruption so that none could retract later on. There may have been such recordings but one cannot expect government politicians to release them as he discussed in the audio tapes concerned the crimes allegedly committed by members in the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime.
However, his argument does not justify in anyway speaking to police officers and judges on cases being investigated into and recording such conversations. He has clearly influenced them in certain cases and there is a danger of those recordings being used to blackmail those officers and judges – earlier by him and now by both him and government members.
Besides, it is difficult to imagine the purpose of recording conversations the MP had with actresses and others which exposed his immoral conduct. Going by the alleged number of conversations recorded, he seems to have recorded all telephone calls he made and received, suggesting something was wrong with the soundness of his mind.
However, MP Ramanayake is not the only politician in the history who had influenced the police and judiciary, had clandestine relationships or spoke ill of his own party leaders, as government politicians attempt to suggest. In fact, the introduction of the so-called independent commissions in 2001 through the 17th Amendment was a result of the outcry against a history of such influence and pressure by politicians on the police, judiciary and public service. Yet, the influence and pressure have continued even after those commissions were instituted.
To recall some of the past incidents of such influence, the conflict between President J.R. Jayewardene and Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon was well-known then, which ultimately resulted in an impeachment motion being presented against the CJ. During the tenure of the same President, there were instances in which the residences of Supreme Court judges were stoned by goons with the blessings of the government.
There were many incidents in the past that manifested the influence by politicians on the law enforcement mechanism to file cases against their adversaries and to withdraw them. For instance, former minister Lakshman Seneviratne joined hands with former ministers Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake when the latter broke away from the UNP led by President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1991. Then, Seneviratne was charged with the murder of a person who had been killed two years ago. When he rejoined the UNP along with Gamini Dissanayake in 1994, the Attorney General informed court that he would not proceed with the case.
"Going by the alleged number of conversations recorded, he seems to have recorded all telephone calls he made and received, suggesting something was wrong with the soundness of his mind"
Former DIG Premadasa Udugampola was charged with bringing the government to disrepute during President Premadasa’s tenure as he had claimed through an affidavit that there was a vigilante group called ‘Black Cats’ that killed many people during JVP’s second insurrection in 1988/89.
He left the country and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Later, the case against him was withdrawn and he was even given a top-post in the Ports Authority when he returned to the country after President Premadasa was assassinated by the LTTE in 1993. The only thing he did was submitting another affidavit claiming the facts in his first document were wrong.
In her book titled ‘Hold Me in Contempt’ published last year, former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake who was impeached by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime explains how she came under pressure by the government. Former President Maithripala Sirisena too accused his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration of phoning judges from Temple Trees. He once said a former Chief Justice requested him not to unseat him, promising to give rulings in the government’s favour.
The gazette notification which established the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) during the last regime was an open manifestation of the government’s influence on the police. It in fact legalised such influence. It says complaints would be forwarded to the IGP for investigation by the secretariat established by the subcommittee under the patronage of the premier. In addition, special complaints are directly forwarded by the Cabinet subcommittee to the DIG in charge of the division. Can this subcommittee be expected to forward complaints against the members of the government?
Despite this history, Ranjan Ramanayake’s influence on judges and the police cannot and should not be justified. However, we live in a society in which anybody with political clout can do the same as he did. As veteran journalist Victor Ivan said, he should be commended for exposing and proving this degeneration of society, though unwittingly.