SRI LANKA: Is the legal intellect dead in Sri Lanka? 

Basil Fernando

The President of Sri Lanka has the power to frame charges and to remove the liberty of any citizen. He also has the power to return that freedom whenever he so decides.

This has been brought to light in the Sarath Fonseka saga.

AHRC-ART-043-2012-01.JPG AHRC-ART-043-2012-02.JPG
Former General Sarath Fonseka and
JS Tissainayagam

Of course it is not only the cases against Sarath Fonseka that is illustrated by this sage. There are other cases such as that of Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam who was sentenced to 20 years on fabricated charges and then released in response to international pressure.

At the Doha Economic Conference President Rajapakse has said that Sri Lanka is the oldest democratic country having gained national franchise in 1931. He failed to add that the democracy came to an end in 1978.

It can also be claimed that the common law system was introduced to Sri Lanka in the early 19th Century. However, one would have to add that this too, is very much of a hollow claim as that legal system, for the better part, no longer exists.

Sri Lankan’s one time claimed of having legal eagles. However, today no such legal eagles or legal luminaries have any capacity to challenge framed charges and to ensure the defense of the freedom of the individual by way of a fair trial.

The fairness of a trial depends on several factors such as criminal investigators who have integrity, prosecutors, meaning the officer of the Attorney General’s Department who will bow to no one but prosecute only when there are impeccable grounds to do so and when there is a judiciary which will abide only by the norms of law. The executive presidential system of Sri Lanka has dispensed with such conditionalities and the trials need not be fair anymore.

Under these circumstances it is fair to ask what has happened to the legal intellects in Sri Lanka.

What little sense is there in claiming the existence of legal intellect within a nation when there isn’t the possibility of defending the innocence of an accused before a court of law?

Thousands of students may be joining the law schools each year but is the law that they are being taught? And what is the use of whatever they may be learning?

We have raised these issues earlier. Kindly see The Phantom Limb and Sri Lanka-ImpunityCriminal Justice & Human Rights

If there is any intellect left in the legal field it is time now to question what space still exists for law in Sri Lanka. Everyone who claims to have knowledge of the law and those who earn their income from what is known as the law in Sri Lanka have the obligation to ask and answer the question as to what is happening to the law in the country and how such a stark abuse of power is possible.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-043-2012
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Rule of law,