Opposition’s new low ‘haul others for Contempt, but never us’ | Sunday Observer

Opposition’s new low ‘haul others for Contempt, but never us’

14 March, 2021

The Opposition’s political survival these days seems to hinge on contempt — Contempt of Court, that is, and not for each other.

Opposition politicians and Opposition sidekicks in the various guises they appear such as NGO and civil society folk, etc., say that our Contempt laws are scandalous. They are making such a loud din about the fact that ‘Contempt of Court’ law is not codified, which they say leaves the Judges to do as they please when handing down sentences for Contempt, and deciding who is in Contempt of Court, and who isn’t.

Irony of ironies, no Judge has thought it fit to haul any of these agitators up for Contempt, for casting aspersions on the competencies of the Bench, or their motives with regard to any of the sentences Judges handed down for Contempt of Court. It may be that these busybodies wish to be martyred for Contempt of Court, but alas, Judges only haul for Contempt those who they believe are truly in Contempt.

Why the sudden interest evinced by Opposition operatives with regard to Contempt of Court? There is no hiding the fact that it’s because their man was sentenced to four years RI for Contempt. Ranjan Ramanayake may be a buffoon, a garrulous loose-cannon who has been caught speaking to policemen and Judges in attempts to coerce them into taking political opponents into custody. Worse, he tried to frame political opponents with concocted narratives — and the phone calls are all there on the record, and the recordings are his own.

He wasn’t sentenced for Contempt for these issues however — but for calling Judges corrupt in a fit of pique, just because he couldn’t fling his opposition political opponents in jail as he wished. None of these things matter to the Opposition SJB operatives who want the Contempt laws codified now, because their man was flung in jail for Contempt. Their visceral motivation is the same as that of Ranjan Ramanayake. They want to see political opponents in jail, irrespective of whether the latter have broken the law or not. They fought an entire election aiming essentially false accusations at the Opposition — and are therefore, invested in the cause of jailing opponents.


So, in short, now they want Contempt laws codified. That’s not in the interests of society — it’s in the interests of making a political martyr out of their man.

Where is the proof, you ask? Well, the Opposition has no genuine interest in changing Contempt laws as we know them — because last week, the Opposition SJB went in delegation before the Chief Justice, asking that the Commissioners making up the Political Victimization Commission be hauled up — wait for it, for Contempt.

This is how the Daily News reported that story:

“The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) yesterday made a complaint to the Chief Justice urging to institute Contempt of Court action against the commissioners of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry appointed to probe incidents of political victimisation. The complaint consisting of 40 signatures of SJB parliamentarians including its leader Sajith Premadasa, General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Tissa Attanayake, Lakshman Kiriella and Sarath Fonseka, was handed over to the registrar’s office of the Supreme Court.”

Now, isn’t that a jolly, dandy way of codifying Contempt, you’d think? Your party swears that the Contempt laws are unjust, and all of the pro-SJB NGOs and other lobby groups try their best to create an issue out of the ‘unjust’ Contempt laws, and call for their codification. While they do all this, they never fail to say that their man is unjustly behind bars ‘because Contempt laws are arbitrary and not codified.’

But the first chance they get, they petition the Chief Justice asking that honourable members of a Presidential Commission — former Judges themselves — be charged for Contempt, under these same ‘unjust’ laws. Or, are they unjust only for Ranjan Ramanayake and fellow SJB rankers? How did yesterday’s most fervent activists against Contempt of Court — as we know it in the law at present — become flag bearers advocating Contempt, that are goading the Judges to use Contempt laws when the Judges themselves haven’t thought to do so?


The SJB, make no mistake, is never shy in enforcing Contempt laws — as long as they are not used against Ranjan Ramanayake or any of their own. When Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara thera was sentenced for Contempt and subsequently released after a Presidential pardon, the most vocal critics were SJB types and fellow travellers.

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a transparently pro-SJB right wing NGO, challenged the President’s decision to pardon Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General Secretary Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Ther, filing a fundamental rights petition in Court. There were no compunctions — nobody said that the Ven. Gnanasara may be undesirable in our estimation, but even he deserves to be exempt from current Contempt laws ‘that are arbitrary and have not been codified.’The GMOA’s then president Dr. Padeniya was hauled before the Court of Appeal during the tenure of the previous Yahapalana regime, and guess who pressed the case for Contempt on those two occasions? It was two civil society activists very much in tow with the SJB and its politics, Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, the Convener of National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ), and Gamini Viyangoda, the co-convener of the so called Puravesi Balaya Social Movement that filed the Contempt of Court action against Padeniya.

Either the SJB Opposition types think Contempt law which according to them is bad and un-codified is bad for the SJB and not for its political opponents — or the SJB relishes knowingly throwing its political opponents to the wolves, and obtains a sadistic delight in doing so.

As for the SJB asking the Chief Justice to haul up the Political Victimization Commission members for Contempt, they forget that a few nolle prosequi actions from the AG are all that’s required to toss all those cases they are complaining about, out of Court. The PCOI (Commission on Political Victimization) has also recommended that these cases be thrown out.

The Attorney General has the power to withdraw cases before the Court, often with the permission of the Court (which is rarely refused) and in some cases he can enter a nolle prosequi, informing the court that he is not proceeding with the case, and then the case against the accused will come to an end.

For all the zealotry of the Opposition in trying to haul the members of the Victimization Commission for Contempt, they should be aware that under the circumstances in which a cloud has been cast over these prosecutions, there is ample room for the entering of nolle prosequi, or to withdraw these cases with the consent of Court.


That would be in the normal course of things if the Court and the AG so decide, considering that hundreds of nolle prosequi actions have been entered into in Sri Lankan Courts in the remembered past.

Nobody can deny the backdrop in which the PCOI on political Victimization made its recommendations. There was a witch hunt against Opposition politicians, and as an AG’s Department officer Suhada Gamlath said in a public interview, there was politically motivated coercion of officials to prosecute without reasonable cause. This makes the Commission’s findings credible for the simple fact that they have been corroborated — by Gamlath, by the phone calls that were made to Judges by Ranjan Ramanayake, and as a result of there being many amply documented incidents of the State going on witchhunts instigated by the then Government, by digging up swimming pools etc., and unearthing nothing except pairs of rubber slippers.

The SJB Opposition may not like the faces of the PCOI Commissioners because they stand in the way of their pet project to jail political opponents — but their position that these Commissioners were guilty of Contempt of Court — an offence they are campaigning against — is so overtly political, as is their cynical political campaign against Contempt, which helps them in another matter, that of martyring of their fellow political coverage.

This dual cynicism, and this mealy-mouthed hypocrisy of decrying Contempt and advocating Contempt in the same breath, and furthering both causes simultaneously to cynically jail political opponents, is wanton hypocrisy at its most egregious. It’s amazing the Opposition can plunge such enormous depths in this — their new nadir.