But the turmoil lurking among communities has not. However, the entire nation yearns for a united, peaceful country.In such a backdrop, JPs who have ‘justice’ and ‘peace’ ingrained in their designated post, should engage in sole searching, to evaluate what they have done to help establish peace in this country. It is Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II who conferred the first ever JP post to a Lankan in the departing year of the British Raj in 1948 and on February 8 the very day the custom originally commenced back in England over a century before. The custom continued to prevail here just as many of their other traditions did. Subsequently, in the independent Ceylon, it was further fortified with a Judicial Act No. 78 and later some amendments were added to it in 1978 by the Act No 2. Appointments, dismissals and discharges are being executed according to this Act until this day. It is obvious that Sri Lanka has been in dire need of efforts of reconciliation and arbitration for the past several years than the United Kingdom would have ever needed. Therefore, it is worth questioning what kind of reconciliation efforts our JPs were engaged in, in comparison to their British counterparts. Disunity, suspicion, hatred and other negative attitudes prevailed in this country and paved the way for the emergence of a three decade long war—which halted the economic progress of this country and allowed smaller neighboring states to acquire enviable prosperity. It is true, that the authority of service of our JPs are limited to certain areas and that they do not have the same clout the English JPs had but still, the available authority was sufficient to do at least some service to the nation from a reconciliation point of view. Their status among people would have made them very effective mediators and peace makers had they hurled themselves among people whenever a spark of disunity appeared. Moreover, JPs are very well placed to mobilize people for just about any common activity. To be truly effective, JPs too should be impartial and should place the national interest as their priority putting aside personal, lingual, communal, material and ethnic inclinations. The JPs also could pledge their support to the government institutions as well as other independent organizations that are working for peace and reconciliation. In fact, JPs could do a whale of a service within their power if they are prepared to liberate themselves from their mindsets of only serving the politicians who engineered their appointments and limiting their service to just signing character certificates and affidavits and pocketing a few illicit remunerations as it happens in many cases if not all. Incredibly, it appears that people from just about every walk of life in this country have done something for the re-establishment of peace in this country but JPs. Ironically there is no shortage for unions and societies of JPs in Sri Lanka. They are being held with much fanfare. But when you take the aspect of meaningful contributions there is almost none. Should this situation linger in this sad situation indefinitely? Or should the JPs gather together and think how they could be useful citizens to their Mother Land, especially, when she needs them the most? Do not the two words ‘Justice’ and ‘Peace’ that adorn the designated name of their own post inspire them enough to stand up for the preservation of those vital requisites of the country? It is time JPs of our country started contributing for the national reconciliation in a more meaningful and collective way. Only then would it be an indication of gratitude to the nation for adorning them with this prestigious title. What can be done? All the Justices of the Peace in Sri Lanka should come under a common umbrella to stand as an influential force. Participation and assistance of intellectuals and experts in other outfits too can be sought to find the best ways to launch our activities in this regard. Constant and nationwide as well as regional dialogues, discussions, workshops, seminars etc should be held periodically to review, analyze and evaluate progress as well as to plan future activities and to determine best ways to invest the abilities of JPs to help establish unity and reconciliation among communities and to contribute for the general development stream of the country. In the meantime, the government too should broaden the jurisdiction of service of the JPs enabling them to better serve the nation and also to eliminate the negative outlook the general public has about this post and to restore its rightful dignity. Morever, the JPs should be amply empowered to arbitrate issues in their areas with a decisive power without bringing them to higher institutions such as the police, if it could be effectively helped. As it was implied elsewhere in this essay ‘Justice’ and ‘Peace’ is contained in this prestigious designation and the JPs should come out of their hibernation and prepare to work to revive these key needs of their country in any and every way they can. Therefore, let us stand up with renewed gusto and work, making up for the time we loss in inactivity. By M.H.M. Niyas J.P.(All Island)
Communication Centre for Community Development
A timely opinion. Over a period of time the dignity of the office of Justice of the Peace stood tarnished due political appoinment of persons who lack social manners and dignity to hold such position in the society. Even now the government institutions disregard JPs; the Justice Ministry in pariticular and the Government in general restore the dignity once enjoyed by the JPs and entrust them with more responsibilities to serve the people of this country.They can be monitors, and assign for volunteer works within and outside the country if need arise; I welcome the idea of forming an umbrella group for collective work at a time of need.
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