SRI LANKA: Street protests against the denial of fair trial 

Basil Fernando

Perhaps for the first time in Sri Lankan history, many people have taken to the streets in the last few days to protest against the abuse of the judicial process and to demand fairness. Some lawyers were quoted by the media as saying, “Now, we have to demand justice from the gods, unseeing forces, as there is no justice in Sri Lanka”. The present regime has acquired the justifiable reputation that it dares to manipulate justice and have its opponents punished without regard to the right to fair trial and due process. It is proving that the executive president can, indeed, do anything, except making a man into a woman or vice versa, as was claimed by the first executive president, J.R. Jayewardene. The denial of fair trial has been both seen and felt by the people and the street protests demonstrate this frustration.


J.R. Jayewardene did not dare in his day to go all out against fair trial. When punishing Mrs. Sirimao Bandaranayaike by depriving her of her civil rights, he made sure that the case did not go before the normal courts. He created a special commission for that purpose. As regards her supporters which included Mahinda Rajapakse, Vijaya Kumaratunga and others; he use emergency laws to arrest and detain them. They were kept in detention for months but he did not proceed with their trials. Perhaps, he was not so sure that he could get he what wanted from the courts.

AHRC-ART-105-2010-03.jpgWhen Rohana Wijeweera filed an election petition against him, J.R.J. proceeded to proscribe the JVP and to hunt them down through the use of emergency regulations. What developed as the second JVP insurrection, in fact, happened in that way. It culminated under R. Premadasa into the disappearances of over 30,000 persons. Despite of the many theories put forward regarding these events, the core issue was the elimination of the political opponents of the person holding the position of executive president. Any means was excusable to protect this position. It is this same logic that has now been extended to the abuse of justice. The subversion of justice to eliminate political opponents is now deemed justifiable. It is the same old, JRJ logic, but used with even greater ruthlessness.

Now, there are street protests to demand fair trials and justice. These acts of protest demonstrate the frustrations of the people against the entire political system based on 1978 Constitution. The insanity of the constitutional thinking has now begun to destroy the citizen’s belief in the right to a fair trial.


Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-105-2010
Countries : Sri Lanka,