Fri, 22 Oct 2021 Today's Paper

Lohan Ratwatte’s escapade and Sri Lanka’s skewed rule of law

21 September 2021 12:08 am - 4     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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What else could be a better illustration of Sri Lanka’s grim state of rule of law than this?


 The state minister of prisons and prisoner rehabilitation, Lohan Ratwatte storms the Anuradhapura prisons under influence of alcohol,  summons eight prisoners, who are being held under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, forces two of them on their knees and threatens them at the gunpoint. He was allegedly trying to extract a confession of their complicity in the LTTE crimes.


The following day, the spokesman for department prisons denied that such an incident had occurred, and also denied reports of a previous antic by the same minister who, also after a couple of shots had visited the Welikasa prisons in the dead of night to show his fellow revellers the gallows.  The Commissioner-General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya claimed he was unaware of the incident.

 

A proactive law enforcement mechanism would have seen Rawatte already produced before the court for grave criminal offences he is implicated with. However, it seems the police are awaiting the green light from the political hierarchy.  

 


But, as the public outcry intensified and the Colombo-based diplomats took note, the Minister resigned. But, he is still the minister of Gem and Jewelry, a portfolio he concurrently held. 


So is the Commissioner-General of the Prisons, whose sycophantic defence seemed to have been reciprocated. He has since changed the story and claims that he ordered an investigation soon after the incident. 


The Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara says he has ordered the IGP to investigate the incident. The CID is also reportedly probing the incident. That’s it.  But, in the absence of CCTV footage inside the Anuradhapura prisons, and in the backdrop of stark politicization of the law enforcement apparatus in recent times, anything can happen. 


Indeed, the police are busy arresting pesky demonstrations under the quarantine laws. Similar enthusiasm has not been seen about the state Minister of escapade at Anuradapura prisons.


Some of his Ministerial colleagues have feted Ratwatte for his ‘resignation’. Wimal Weerawansa says the errant Minister by resigning has set a ‘great example’ for the political culture. That is as low as the Sri Lankan political culture could stoop. 


A civilized state and civilized leaders would have acted differently. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president who left for New York on September 18 had not spoken out.  His ‘one-country one law’ is producing internet memes at an industrial scale under his government. Since Ratwatte’s antics in the evening of September 12, the president had six days to make amends and the world knows that a semblance of justice and fair play exists in the country under his administration. Many of his critics and even his apologists of not-so-long-ago have resigned to the belief that the system has gone to dogs.

 

Since Ratwatte’s antics in the evening of September 12, the president had six days to make amends and the world knows that a semblance of justice and fair play exists in the country under his administration. Many of his critics and even his apologists of not-so-long-ago have resigned to the belief that the system has gone to dogs.


Sri Lanka PoduJana Peramuna, the main constituent party of the ruling alliance is awaiting the return of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa from Italy to decide on the fate of Ratwatte.  He returned to the country yesterday.
This is however not just a breach of political etiquette or party discipline that the SLPP’s central committee can decide over. Ratwatte’s alleged offences constitute a criminal offence and raise serious concerns about the rule of law, justice and fairplay in the country.  The state has a duty to protect the rights of prisoners. When the inmates are threatened at gunpoint in prison by the Minister in charge of the prisons, which is a stark reflection of the abysmal state of affairs of the institutions of the state. That Ratwatte is still free and is a Minister of the government is a further vindication of the skewed nature of the rule of law in the country.


A proactive law enforcement mechanism would have seen Rawatte already produced before the court for grave criminal offences he is implicated with. However, it seems the police are awaiting the green light from the political hierarchy.  The politicization of the law enforcement apparatus over the last two years has now run its full course. No wonder that few in the country and the international community take the government’s claims of rule of law seriously.


The prison minister’s antics could not have happened in a more inopportune moment. A day later, on October 13, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet delivered her verbal update on Sri Lanka.  She observed that “the current social, economic and governance challenges faced by Sri Lanka indicate the corrosive impact that militarization and the lack of accountability continue to have on fundamental rights, civic space, democratic institutions, social cohesion and sustainable development.”

 

A proactive law enforcement mechanism would have seen Rawatte already produced before the court for grave criminal offences he is implicated with. However, it seems the police are awaiting the green light from the political hierarchy.  

 


She noted, rightly so, that the overall degeneration of the rule of law and independence and impartiality of the judicial and law enforcement organs. She noted with concerns the Attorney General’s decision not to proceed with the charges against the former commander of Navy Wasantha Karrannagoda and the presidential pardon of Duminda Silva. She said her office had already developed an evidence repository with nearly 120,000 individual items of grave human rights violations during the warpursuant to Resolution 46/1, which entrusted the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an evidence-gathering mechanism.


Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris who addressed the session via a recorded statement defended the government and rejected the proposal for any external initiatives, “while domestic processes are vigorously addressing the relevant matters.” He said the government is committed to achieving ‘tangible progress on the entire range of issues relating to accountability, reconciliation, human rights, peace and sustainable development.’


However, his ministerial colleague has yet again shown true colours of such lofty claims.  And the half-hearted and conflicting response by the government to Ratwatte’s antics has not invoked confidence in the state’s commitment to rule of law.  


Follow @Rangajayasuriya on Twitter 

 

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  Comments - 4

See Kapruka's top selling online shopping categories such as Toys, Grocery, Flowers, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Clothing and Electronics. Also see Kapruka's unique online services such as Money Remittence,News, Courier/Delivery, Food Delivery and over 700 top brands. Also get products from Amazon & Ebay via Kapruka Gloabal Shop into Sri Lanka.

 

  • sammy cooper Tuesday, 21 September 2021 01:02 AM

    it is not colonialism that is holding SL back, but the sad state of the rule of law!

    Aranwal BAnda Tuesday, 21 September 2021 06:27 AM

    We must have ARABIC law in this country try to punish these people!!

    BuffaloaCitizen Tuesday, 21 September 2021 02:53 PM

    The hoo haa on latest escapade of Lohan Ratwatte by many Sinhalese is simply due to ongoing UNHCR session and the worry

    Kumara Tuesday, 21 September 2021 07:24 PM

    The Police is waiting for a nod from the Political hierarchy for the arrest of the minister. How come the President is facing the world leaders at New York today with this kind of Sri lankan law enforcement. Don't you think he will be ashamed of it?


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