A serious lapse in the system | Sunday Observer

A serious lapse in the system

6 October, 2019

The conduct of government officials has come under heavy scrutiny in the past fortnight with claims, counter claims and even legal action being taken against high ranking officials who are responsible for maintaining law and order, raising serious questions about the integrity of the highest echelons of law enforcement.

The first controversy arose when the presently interdicted Solicitor General and former Director General of the Bribery Commission, Dilrukshi Dias, in a purported conversation with an accused in the Avant Garde armoury case, its head Nissanka Senadhipathi, states that she filed cases only because of “dirty politics” and that she regrets filing action against Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

However, in the purported audio tape, Dias appears to incriminate herself by saying that, had she known thousands of persons would lose employment as a result of her action, she wouldn’t have filed prosecutions. For good measure, she adds that she knows “how to make the law and break the law”.

There are obvious issues that Dias needs to address. Her job was to assess allegations of corruption and file action if necessary, regardless of who is involved and who would lose their jobs and irrespective of “dirty politics”. From her own admission, she does not appear to have followed that straight and narrow path, especially when she says she knows “how to make the law and break the law”. We cannot help but wonder whether her regrets about filing action against Rajapaksa has anything to do with “dirty politics”.

Hardly had the ink dried on the interdiction served on Dias when another senior official, former Solicitor General and current Chairman of the National Authority for the Protection of Witnesses and Victims, Suhada Gamlath claimed in a newspaper interview that he too was “pressurised” to prosecute Gotabaya Rajapaksa and named two cabinet ministers in the process. Gamlath has been asked to step down from his position but has not done so yet.

It is interesting that Gamlath should make such startling statements on the eve of a presidential election, when he held the position of Solicitor General for three years under the present government. If he is the kind of officer that values ethics, morals and principles above all else, he should have given that newspaper interview, naming and shaming those responsible for “pressurising” him, the day the alleged incident occurred.

Waiting in stoic silence for three long years and then making claims that he was pressurised to prosecute Rajapaksa at a time when Rajapaksa is on the campaign trail to be the next leader of the country makes Gamlath appear as if he is trying desperately to get in to Rajapaksa’s good books in the nick of time!

This week also saw the interdicted Inspector General of Police (IGP), Pujith Jayasundera being arrested and then released on bail for allegedly assaulting an employee in 2017. Again, the timing of the actions against the IGP is interesting because it comes years after the alleged incident and at a time when he has fallen out of favour with the President under whose purview the Police now functions.

The alleged incidents related to Dias, Gamlath and Jayasundera all appear to suggest that something is not quite right in how justice is administered and law and order is maintained in this country. It seems as if, regardless of whether there was political interference or not, high officials have been lacking in character and integrity to do their jobs properly, possibly because they want to secure their positions or seek career advancement. That is a serious lapse in the ‘system’.

For decades there have been many laments about how corrupt politicians are in this country. That has almost become the norm. In so saying, we have been led to believe that, left to their own devices, public officials would do their jobs honestly and without fear or favour. The incidents involving Dias, Gamlath and Jayasundera suggest otherwise and begs the question, are the highest rungs of our law enforcement apparatus as malleable as our politicians?

These days, the opposition is pointing to the statements of Dias and Gamlath and saying “we told you so”, claiming that everything this government did was a massive witch hunt against the previous regime.

If it was, it wasn’t a very good one because not a single politician of the previous regime has been successfully prosecuted and penalised. The only persons to suffer that fate were the former President’s Secretary and the current President’s Chief-of-Staff. In fact, one of the main allegations against this government is that it did not prosecute the wrong-doers of the previous regime with sufficient enthusiasm.

The administration of justice and the maintenance of law and order form the bedrock of any civil society. We have always known that such issues wouldn’t be a priority for politicians. Now, it seems as if our highest officials administering the law also didn’t care that much about them!