The initial power struggle between the Executive and the Judiciary has now turned into a tug-of-war between the Parliament and the latter. The same reasons that made the two institutions flex their muscles at each other have now lead to the perpetual declarations of supremacy by those who occupy the House. Despite the proceedings of the impeachment motion against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, the debating point has now shifted to finding the more powerful one between the judiciary and the legislature.
When late President JR Jayewardene’s creation only defines the boundaries, one should maintain for the comfort and independence of the other, the creator of it ought not to be blamed for the repercussions of not declaring a champion among the three; for democracy surely does not operate that way.
Despite the many cross-talks that filled the weekend newspapers, the matter at hand seems way more acute to be simply discussed and left behind; for beyond the confusing state of affairs, there lies a more confused party—the public, whose ultimate power is constitutionally vested upon these institutions.
The country’s sovereignty cannot be divided according to the whims and fancies of anyone, despite the power he or she wields. Thus, it is the oneness of this supremacy that fuels the legislature, executive and the judiciary, which in return, are honour-bound to safeguard the fundamentals of democracy, good governance and the rule of law. Despite what the individuals who enjoy exercising this power would prefer to believe, none of these institutions are omnipotent. As much as they are inter-related and their functions overlap with each other’s they are controlled by the checks and balances placed between them. Their ultimate responsibility is for the people of this country; and it is to whom they are answerable.
One would say since the parliament is appointed from a direct public vote it could be considered the most powerful. Yet the same could be said about the executive. The modern states that adopted the rule of law saw to that the judiciary, established to exercise the judicial powers defined by the constitution, was placed away from the legislature and the executive and above the rest. With this elevation came an authority that was as scared as the sovereignty itself, for it is people’s ultimate right to justice that was thus safeguarded.
Hence, the only party that could be omnipotent is the public who makes these institutions powerful. Thus, with every question that is being posed, it is the people’s power that is being questioned.
After all, there is a fine line between the rulers and the guardians. Those who think they are the former should be reminded that their chance of enjoying the power lies in the choice of becoming the latter; for democracy does not tolerate obstinate rulers.
The country needs to emerge from this hen-or-egg situation. For, at the end of the day, both could be garnished and end up on a plate.