SRI LANKA: An Open Letter to the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka

2015 Review: Seriously defective, policing, prosecution and justice systems obstructed progress towards “yahapalanaya” (Good Governance)

Despite a welcome change of government, which started on 8th January 2015, the overall performance of the Government on the issue of its most important promise of ensuring “yahapalanaya” (Good Governance), by the end of the year, people have not witnessed much progress towards good governance. Instead, extremely defective systems of policing, prosecutions, and justice systems have been the stumbling blocks against any progress being made on this most important promise of the Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasighe.

After long years of suffering under the executive presidential system, and the security apparatus developed under the Ministry of Defense of the former government, it was quite natural for people to have expected a better delivery of services through a system of good governance as the President and the Prime Minister as promised. However, what the people are continuing to experience is a virtual breakdown of the rule of law, as the main instruments of implementation of law. The policing system has not shown any demonstrable improvement. Similarly, the prosecution system suffers from the same defects as before, and the justice system suffers from extraordinary delays and failures in almost every aspect of delivery of justice.

Despite constant reminders to the Government, by many of its well-wishers of the need for radical reforms in the policing, prosecutions, and justice systems, the Government has turned a blind eye, to all such well-meaning demands.

The government even failed to declare any intention to reform its policing, prosecution and justice systems. The absence of a declared policy to achieve these reforms, has made the people sceptical about the promise of good governance in the country.

The Budget 2016, of the new Government, did not in any way increase allocations for the improvement of the basic institutions of law enforcement and the administration of justice.

Even, the limited attempts that the government has made in order to prosecute some of the members of the previous government on the basis of corruption and other serious crimes have been seriously undermined by the enormous problems that exist in the law enforcement and justice processes.

It is not an acceptable excuse for the Government to say that it has made attempts to investigate and prosecute some of the members of the former government but, the delays and other problems that exist in the justice system is something that the Government has no control over. The truth is that the Government has failed to take control of the situation and to bring about appropriate measures in order to deal with the obstacles on their way in achieving the promises that they have made as the new Government of Sri Lanka.

At this moment, there is no reason to hope for better performance on this score by this Government in the year to come. The Government has not declared any policies nor programmes, to improving its performance by resolving the problems of law enforcement and administration of justice, in the coming year.

If the coming year is going to be like the previous years, the people may find the conditions under which they live as intolerable.

The President and the Prime Minister should explain as to why they are unable to respond positively to the very legitimate demands of the people for making reforms in the policing, the prosecution and the justice systems. People have a right to know as to why the Government is unwilling to give any undertaking about the improvement of these vital areas of life in Sri Lanka. The improvement of justice systems is also vital for making any economic progress.

It is a primary duty of both the President and the Prime Minister, to explain clearly to the people about their designs to improve the situation by radically altering   the existing situation of law enforcement and administration of justice systems. People have a right to expect that the President and the Prime Minister will clearly spell out their programmes, for improving these vital areas of life, liberty in Sri Lanka.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-207-2015
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Administration of justice,