Rule of Law or rising Rule of Power? | Sunday Observer

Rule of Law or rising Rule of Power?

The approach of a presidential election and the reality of the UNHCR Sessions in Geneva are driving this country to the frightening fantasies of both government and application of the law.

While the Mangala Budget does little to face development and growth needs of the country and people, the patterns emerging in our courts are leading to new concerns about the genuine independence of the Judiciary, which the Supreme Court displayed with pride on the Constitutional crisis of October 26; but is increasingly questioned by the behaviour of both jurists and counsel in the Chambers of Justice today.

The Supreme Court decision on the petition by former Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda to prevent his arrest over the case involving the abduction and killing of 11 Tamil persons, and the courtroom circus by Gotabaya Rajapaksa to prevent his arrests and hearing of the case involving alleged fraud in the construction of the mausoleum for his parents, are the shockers in trends in the play of law in the country.

What we see in governance is both farce and fantasy. President Sirisena has taken a step back from his move to send his own delegation to the UNHRC Sessions in Geneva. He must have heard the drumbeat of diplomacy in his ears, to have the Foreign Minister lead the official government delegation. The real farce here is the unity of thinking among the Presidential and Prime Ministerial teams on the controversial UNHCR Resolution. What both Maithripala and Ranil seek is to extend the term of the Resolution by two more years. Despite his reservations and new political trajectory, President Sirisena has had to give into the realities of governance and diplomacy.

The spread of fantasy is the stuff of politics and governance today. Didn’t we hear and read Mahinda Rajapaksa say recently how the Mangala Budget 2019 would be defeated in parliament? What happened? The former President placed too much faith in the SLFP once again. The pro-Sirisena SLFP team kept away, and the Budget was passed with a solid majority. Mahinda’s ‘pohottuwa’ team could not come anywhere near it, being able to muster mere 70 votes, not even a quarter of the House.

Another piece of fantasy these days is about the presidential candidacy for Sirisena, under an SLFP-SLPP alliance. The talks between the two parties are progressing, but the Rajapaksas are getting louder about a family figure in the run, with the heat on the former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya. President Sirisena will have to engage in serious political manoeuvering if he wants to be a candidate in the forthcoming presidential election.

The leading light or gloom in the coming presidential candidacy, none other than Gotabaya Rajapaksa, is certainly engaged in a different ‘naadagama’ — adhikarana naadagama – judicial theatrics. There seems to be no court he will avoid from the Magistrates to the Supreme, in his performances against being charged with fraud, corruption, and misuse of public funds, when he was Secretary of Defence under the Rajapaksa family regime.

The decision to disallow to arrest of Admiral Karannagoda, and the courtroom trail of Gotabaya Rajapaksa makes us bother about trends in the Judiciary. Was the system of justice that we got from the Dutch and British in any way planned for such delays in and twisting of Justice? The Attorney General and Senior Counsel, ( those Presidential tags too) have now become captains in this Mastery of Justice – Delay and Denial. It may not be far when the people will have to come out in public against this dance of madness in the chambers of justice in our country.

Recent reports of the continuing recusal of judges, the fanciful positions of the Attorney General (A six year term; the monarchic right to dissolve Parliament as he pleases), the sudden twist to not want a magisterial call for the arrest of a suspect, the pleas being made to the Judiciary not to apply the law against ‘War Heroes”, and related statements of patriotic blood boiling among senior counsel are spreading theatrics of a new and rising twisting of justice, to serve the powerful against the victims of power, who seek justice.

Will the judicial performances of today be of any help in supporting the country in the current UNHCR Sessions in Geneva? Not likely. The unquestioned and uncontradicted reports in the media of the recent pro-Karannagoda exercise in legal twisting, in a case involving the abduction and killing of 11 Tamils, is a shocker. Will this new trend in our courts not support those who call for foreign judges to play a role in our judiciary?

Can the silence in the apex Chamber of Justice on the boiling of patriotic blood, or the ability of a Navy Commander to kill at will in a war, be of any benefit to convey the impression of an independent and worthy Judiciary? The wielding of power by the powerful of the majority, especially in the halls of justice, gives a negative image of a country moving towards reconciliation after a prolonged war. The destructive capacity and capability of a Navy Commander in a war against terrorists, as praised in a hall of justice, sends a message of overarching threats to the spirit of democracy and equality of the people, the guiding lights of the Rule of Law. Are we not heading to a repeat of the Rule of Power in a much more powerful situation with unlimited hosannas to War Heroes?

With the presidential candidacy very much in the trend of politics today, there is also the issue of farce and fantasy about a citizen of the United States being touted as next performer of Rajapaksa Power. Not a single voice is raised among the Joint Opposition or UPFA members against such a person being even considered for selection, while enjoying the privileges of US citizenship. Is it not time even for a brother-leader, de facto party leader, and former President too, to tell such fraternal seekers of governance to give up US citizenship, before asking for formal announcement of candidacy? Does the fraternity of power over the people prevent it?

How long should the people be kept waiting for this presidential hopeful, Gotabaya, to announce that he has no US citizenship, assets and economic connections, at least some months before one’s candidacy is announced? Should the people not be told that he will have no control over his assets in the US, if he is elected president here—or is he to enjoy profits there and power here? Is this too much to be asked, or is the whole idea of presidential candidacy a major exercise in the restoration of anti-people power?

The politics of farce and fantasy is fast enveloping our society and country, from the ‘naadagam’ at the top to the dance of madness flowing down the lines of politics and the judicature. The country is fast moving to the frightening fantasies of governance and law. 

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