The restoration of the rule of law, the independence of the judicial and police services and the streamlining of the legal process, broadly defined as the law’s delays, were among the main promises of the new National Government. More than nine months after the January 8 silent revolution, most independent analysts are raising questions about the rate of progress --with loads of allegations but a relatively few cases or convictions. This is not a surprise because during the past few decades the rate of convictions in court cases has been only about five per cent largely because the process of gathering information and evidence has often been tied up with the red tape and rigmarole of administrative regulations.
We hope that with the appointment this week of the National Police Commission (NPC) and the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABoC), we will see a streamlining of the legal and judicial processes with even the novel, creative and imaginative skills of modern technology being fully and competently unitlised.
The NPC is headed by one of Sri Lanka’s most widely respected sociologists Prof. Siri Hettige and includes retired DIG Anton Jayanathan, M.P.H. Manatunga, Savithri Wijesekara and Y.L.M. Zavahir. The CIABOC headed by Justice Titus Weerasuriya comprises Justice Lal Ranjith Silva and Police Senior Superintendent Chandranath Neville Guruge with Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe as the Director General. Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) in a recent statement commended the CIABOC for its current proactive nature after years of suppression and political interference. It said the CIABOC based on an increasing number of complaints, had initiated several investigations against allegations of large scale corruption running into billions of rupees and involving high ranking politicians and officials, some of whom were summoned for questioning.
The NGO said about 2,000 complaints had been made to the CIABoC and commended its director general for her hard work and timely action to bring even the VIP perpetrators before courts of law and the people’s court. Most political and socio-legal analysts lament that during the past few decades the legal and judicial processes had been undermined or damaged to such an extent that most law abiding people would go to the police or the courts only as a last resort. This is a serious indictment on the whole process because in a functioning democracy the judicial or legal processes and the police need to be people-friendly. Instead, especially after the enforcement of the notorious 18th Amendment, the Police Department became politicized on a party basis as was the case with the judicial process and VVIPs allegedly saying they could influence judgments through a telephone call.
During the past few months, widespread media publicity has been given to the multi-million dollar corruption and fraud allegations against the Avant Garde company, the Rakna Lanka security services and the LTTE’s chief arms procurer Kumaran Pathmanathan while most people are asking why no cases have been filed, the media have quoted sources in the Attorney General’s Department as saying that the AG cannot file action for various reasons. It is reported that no criminal action can be filed against Avant Garde and Rakna Lanka because the former defence secretary had given them a licence to operate. So the AG’s Department says a civic activist or civic action movement needs to file a civil petition on charges of abuse of power. In KP’s case, with most people horrified by reports of what he has allegedly done, the AG’s Department has reportedly said that of more than 190 allegations made against him, some evidence is available in only about 40 cases and in those too the evidence is insufficient to be proved beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.
While justice hurried could become justice miscarried, it is also true that justice delayed is justice denied. The culture of impunity that went on the rampage since 2010 must be ended and ended now. The people won’t accept the blame culture or the blame game in situations where billions of dollars have been plundered by politicians and officials who were elected or appointed to be good stewards of our resources.