The legal set-ups during Rajapaksa rule, both past and present, have always attracted criticism
The other case is the unlawful detention of lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah who was working for the rights of minority Muslims
But there are those who still affirm that distributing this quantum of cloth just prior to the elections was unfair
In a country like Sri Lanka the only hope citizens have against surviving the brunt of political power is to have an independent judiciary. Layman might not be highly educated on legal matters, but when a case sees an end the verdict given must look fair in the eyes of the pubic.
The recent rehearing and overturning the verdict given on the ‘Sil Redi Case’-where two government officials were found guilty of misappropriating government funds to purchase cloth to be presented to Buddhist devotees-is viewed from many angles; both for and against.
Through the recent rehearing of this old case we came to know that the verdict was flawed, certain facts were misunderstood and the final verdict given was unreasonable. There is another school of thought that the rehearing of the case and the new verdict given adds to the image of the state worker or civil servant. From the two accused in this case one was a former secretary to the president while the other functioned in the capacity of Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TCRC). But there are those who still affirm that distributing this quantum of cloth just prior to the elections was unfair.
When the killer told them that this meeting between them was arranged due to the grace of Allah and they should pardon him, the children eventually consented to the request
For the people who practise a religion there is a deity above; that’s for the nourishment of their personal mental space which might stretch further and extend to a physical level, but stop within the boundaries of ones residence or dwelling. Beyond that it’s the law of the country which should be applicable to citizens of all faiths.
But in Sri Lanka we have what is known as a presidential pardon. The incumbent president Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the very start of his term in office offered a pardon to Sunil Ratnayake, a former Staff Sergeant of the Army, despite the accused being found guilty of 15 offenses in the famous ‘Murusuvil massacre’ in Jaffna where eight civilians were killed. Though no apparent flaws were recorded in hearing this case the president deemed it necessary to offer a pardon to Ratnayake who was convicted of murder.
Just the other day we heard reports of former Chief Minister for Eastern Province Shivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, a suspect in the murder of TNA parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham, being granted bail. He is a former terrorist and was behind bars since 2015, but the present regime thinks it’s fit to release or help individuals close to them despite those who are receiving help having had brushes with the law.
Sri Lanka follows the Roman-Dutch Law and there was a time when the island’s judiciary was hailed as independent of state interference and rated high in South Asia. But political interference starting from the time of president JR Jayewardene has made the judiciary of this country bend under state pressure. We saw the worst of this when Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was impeached by lawmakers, Rajapaksa loyalists, who signed an impeachment motion which drew 117 signatures. Among three charges levelled against her was abuse of power. She denied all these charges, but was eventually removed. Even the suggestion of she abusing power leaves us wondering whether she stood her ground and worked independently in a manner in which she strengthened one of the three pillars which a country must have in equal proportion to achieve true features of democratic political system. The legal set-ups during Rajapaksa rule, both past and present, have always attracted criticism.
Not that the Yahapalana regime functioned clean either. The flag of the Sri Lankan judicial system never fluttered even during the Wickremesinghe regime; during which Maithripala Sirisena oversaw the operations of the country as its president. The country experienced a dry run then too in terms of the law being applicable; starting with the Central Bank Bond Scam because the authorities could never bring down the main suspect in this case who is absconding abroad. And even back then the country experienced the taking of an executive decision that sent shivers down the spine of all right thinking people. Jude Shramantha Jayamaha, who was sentenced to death, was offered a presidential pardon. There were stories of a prominent Buddhist monk paying a major role in arranging the release of Jayamaha. This monk was also in the forefront of framing charges against a Muslim doctor from Kurunegala and influencing, through a fast on to death, the removal of Muslim MPs after the Easter Sunday blasts. All these go on to suggest that their are so many outside factors which influence both the judiciary and parliament in matters of great concern.
Going down memory lane there were occasions when regimes exercised caution and thought far in terms applying the law. Back in 1977 when the UNP came to power the regime, in an attempt to broaden its mandate with a period of tolerance, freed JVP Leader Rohana Wijeweera. The JVP leader was given an opportunity to enter mainstream politics and did contest the presidential elections, but lost. Wijeweera’s death, which was savage, however didn’t attract sympathy or mourners.
In the backdrop the present regime influencing the judiciary to free its close associates and tighten the screws on its detractors special mention must be made on two cases pertaining to the latter. One is the disappearing of human rights activists Lalith Weeraraj and Kugan Muruganandan. Summons were issued on President Rajapaksa regarding the duo because he at that time served as Defence Secretary. The summons were later annulled by the Court of Appeal citing an interim injunction issued against summoning the present president. The other case is the unlawful detention of lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah who was working for the rights of minority Muslims. He has been arrested without charges and denied having access to a lawyer.
We’ve seen the best and worst periods of how the law operated in this country. Given all that this writer wishes to recall an incident from Indonesia where the children of a slain mother were presented with the opportunity to pardon two killers who took the life of their mother. The year was 2004 and Evan and Haleela (Husband and wife) were caught in a bomb, triggered off by two members of the Indonesian Militant Extremist Rebel Group called Jemaah Islamiyah, when they were passing the Australian Embassy in their country. One of the killers was Dharmavan Mufto, AKA Royce. Heavily pregnant at that time Haleela gave birth to a son, while being treated for injuries. She later died due to the injuries. In later years, 12 years after the incident, the Haleela’s daughter and son were granted an opportunity to meet Royce in jail. When the killer told them that this meeting between them was arranged due to the grace of Allah and they should pardon him, the children eventually consented to the request.
Both killers were released as a result. This opportunity afforded to forgive a person convicted of murder by a party of the plaintiff offers food for thought and underscores lessons in humanity. The ruthless application of the law and the granting of presidential pardons tell a lot about a society which has moved away from religion or gives scant regard to a right or acceptable way of living.