n our editorial last Thursday, the Dailymirror appealed to the government to take urgent and effective measures to restore public confidence in the Rule of Law using even novel, creative and imaginative ways available through the marvels of modern technology. We urge the government to prove to the people that the law is not an ass and especially not the ass of rich and powerful people who suffer from the delusion that the law is for sale and not for justice.
Thankfully the National Government appears to be moving fast to bring to justice VIP level politicians and officials who are alleged to have plundered or looted tens of billions of rupees in public money. In our editorial we referred mainly to the Avant Garde case and some 190 charges against the LTTE’s former arms purchaser Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP.
Yesterday the Avant Garde multimillion dollar floating armoury in the Galle Port was visited by senior officers of the the Presidential Commission investigating serious acts of fraud, corruption and abuse of power, state resources and privileges. The Commission’s Secretary said the investigators would be there for one whole day to check all the weapons and the charges as to who bought them from whom and for what purpose.
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) acting as a powerful parliamentary watchdog though it has only six seats, had gone to the Court of Appeal with 193 charges against KP. After weeks or months of delay the Attorney General’s Department responded yesterday, saying there was substantial evidence to prosecute KP on four of these charges. The court put off the case till November 14 and ordered that KP’s passport be impounded.
The Presidential Commission also summoned the former Civil Aviation Minister Priyankara Jayarante and SriLankan airline’s former chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe. Several months ago, a committee headed by the well-known attorney J.C. Weliamuna had probed major corruption allegations against SriLankan airline officials and reported there was substantial evidence of serious financial frauds, abuse of power and privileges not only by officials but also by members of the former ruling family.
Last Friday former minister and now UPFA parliamentarian Wimal Weerawansa was stopped at the Bandaranaike International Airport while trying to fly to Italy before dawn on an allegedly invalid passport. The issue was raised in Parliament that morning and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe assured he would intervene and enable Mr. Weerawansa to go on the trip but only if the police had not filed court action. Clearly demarcating his authority, the Premier said if legal action had been taken he could not and would not interfere. That is the way it should be. No political interference in the rule of law. The CID arrested Mr. Weerawansa and produced him in the Negombo court. Yesterday he was allowed bail and told he could go overseas if he wished to with the next hearing being fixed for May next year.
Some of these cases and major issues relating to the ethnic conflict, the devastating three-decade war and other matters are also likely to come up before the proposed council of compassion. The council, comprising religious leaders and others will base its inquires on four major factors -- truth-seeking, reconciliation, restitution and pledges or measures to ensure that such offences or tragedies do not take place again. This will be much in the spirit of South Africa’s widely admired Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the brainchild of the legendary Nelson Mandela. Through this process any offenders who come forward and tell the truth will be pardoned but there must be substantial restitution especially if billions of rupees in public money had been plundered. We hope that through these varied investigative and legal and judicial processes, we will see a rebuilding of Sri Lanka based on the virtues of good governance,
democracy and social justice.