SRI LANKA: Will the Bar Association submit to the proposal for Case “Mismanagement”?

In his remarkable writings, Orwell reminded us as to how the Ministry of War was represented as the Ministry of Peace. Such coinage of words to mean the opposite of reality is part of the mischief in introducing repression in place of freedom. We have occasion to remember Orwell’s words of warning when reading about an announcement made this week by Sri Lanka’s de facto chief justice, Mohan Peiris, quoted in Colombo Gazette (January 28th 2014) in which he spoke of introducing judicial reforms, emphasising that case management as yet another effort in that direction.

Yet this concept of ‘case management’ appears to be nothing more than the pressurising of judges to ignore the principles of law and justice and to bulldoze their way through cases in order to bring about forced settlements. The philosophy of settlement is one of the favourite themes of the de facto chief justice who, not long ago, in a public meeting, announced that the rule of law is something that is not practiced anywhere in the world. Certainly, in his world there is no such thing as justice or fairness.

An example of this kind of ‘management’ is the manner in which the impeachment of the Chief Justice, Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake was carried out. The six hour ‘inquiry’ which was carried out in a ‘butcher style’ in dealing with matters of the highest importance in regard to democracy and the rule of law revealed how the executive, the legislature and now also, the judiciary itself made a mockery of justice.

It was that kind of justice and management that made possible the killing of 100 prisoners incarcerated in two prisons in Colombo in 1983. With those killings, the judicial approach in dealing with alleged rebels ended. It came as no surprise that after that incident, enforced disappearances became the manner in which alleged rebels were dealt with in the south, north and east. The practice of justice in Sri Lanka has come to mean all these negativities and nothing more.

Under these circumstances, it was to be expected that the government and the people of Sri Lanka did not make much fuss when in the United Arab Emirates, a 19-year-old Sri Lankan youth was executed by firing squad last week. The family of the victim complained in public that the boy had not received the benefit of a fair trial. The boy himself complained that he had been sexually molested by a friend of his employer and thereafter the incident that occurred, had been distorted to make it appear that he had committed this murder.

That the government of Sri Lanka is not concerned about fair trials for its citizens working in the Middle East has been proved many times now. The famous case of Rizana Nafeek, which is known, not only to Sri Lankans but also to the international community, remains one of the most glaring examples which show the utter callousness of the government of Sri Lanka regarding the lives of its citizens who are responsible for almost ten percent of the country’s GDP. These people today work in conditions of near slavery and do not have anybody to defend their rights. Almost 20 percent of the working population of Sri Lanka lives in similar conditions. Of course, the government can claim that this is the way the judiciary manages cases in their country. It is that ‘impressive’ way of managing cases that is now being introduced into Sri Lanka itself.

Examples of such management are reported frequently in the press. Last week there were two instances where villagers were abducted from their homes by persons in white vans and later found brutally murdered and dumped on the road side. That too is a method of management. Again, the impact that this has on the people was demonstrated last week in Negombo when a man was released on bail after being accused of murder. He was murdered himself in broad daylight when he was shot twelve times. The principle of an eye for an eye has thus been introduced in place of justice and fair trial.

Such is the new philosophy of ‘management.’ Whatever the executive, and those that work under it, including some judicial officers, wish to implement is what is imposed on the helpless Sri Lankan people. Thus, the official doctrine of the mismanagement of justice has been introduced under the purified title of management.

How will the Bar Association face this imposed doctrine? Will lawyers allow themselves to be “managed”? Will they blindly subject themselves to be treated as asses, irrespective of the ill consequences this will have on their clients? These questions are yet to be answered.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-025-2014
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Democracy, Extrajudicial killings, Judicial system, Rule of law,