SRI LANKA: The ugliest attack in Sri Lanka’s history on the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice

The Mahinda Rajapaksa regime has resorted to the ugliest attack in Sri Lankan judicial history on the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice this week by using the state media as a slander machine and through employing the state media to introduce deliberately manufactured slanderous letters to the parliament solely with the purpose of abusing parliamentary privilege for biased purposes. The government has within its ranks, schemers of the lowest quality who have little scruple in manufacturing any lie to suit their purpose and thereafter using others to introduce and propagate such lies in the highest legislative assembly of the country, namely Sri Lanka’s parliament. It is evident that people in the state media will defy every rule in journalistic ethics to do whatever that the government demand. However the responsibility for such vile attacks lies entirely on President Rajapaksa himself for allowing such schemes to be carried out.

Sri Lanka’s judges and lawyers demonstrate next to a coffin which they said symbolized the death of independent judiciary as they protest outside a court complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012. (AHRC File Photo)

Manufacturing a slander sheet is an easy affair. Whoever allowed such a slander sheet to be put before the country’s most august forum clearly showed a high degree of unscrupulousness and carelessness regarding every form of decorum and public etiquette that is generally required in the use of materials in the county’s Parliament. This is one of the worst act of irresponsibility that has defamed the Parliament itself and the very tradition of parliamentary debate anywhere in the world. Only fools and criminals would permit the abuse of parliamentary process in this manner.

The issue in question was an attempted abduction and an attack by four unidentified persons on the Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission on 7th of October 2012. So far the police have filed reports in the courts stating that they are unable to identify the culprits responsible for this attack. And then the government introduces an unscrupulous letter in Parliament stating that it was the Chief Justice’s husband who had organized the attack because he had suspected an illicit relationship between the Chief Justice and the Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission. Yet the country’s criminal justice investigators have declared to the court that they do not know who the attackers are. Irrespective of this, the government introduces this despicable letter manufactured by one of its hatchet men to the Parliament. The question then becomes as to what precisely is the role and importance accorded to criminal investigations in Sri Lanka? Has this role been usurped by hatchet men who write unscrupulous leaflets?

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka was established on 1802. Up to this date there had never been such dastardly attacks on the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice. This marks perhaps the lowest point of Sri Lanka’s political culture when a government in power could abuse parliamentary privilege in this fashion. And it is worse when the Government’s slander machine is utilized to attack the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice.

The strategy behind the government action is very clear. The Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission in a press statement had complained that the public media is carrying on a campaign against the Judicial Service Commission and the independence of the judiciary. Then the government retaliates with a far worse abuse of public media in attacking the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice herself.

In doing this government resorts to the lowest forms of abuse by taking advantage of the vulnerability of the Chief Justice being a woman. This is one of the worst sexist attacks that we have seen in recent times and women movements in Sri Lanka together with every woman in Sri Lanka and anywhere else in the world should protest against this ugly abuse in regard to a woman holding a public office. Does this mean that every time that the government is unhappy with a woman holding public office, it will resort to this kind of dastardly tactic in order to humiliate and defame such a person? This is shameful Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. Very shameful.

In functional democracy, people would have demanded that the President himself and every one held who has participated in this shameful abuse of power, the abuse of parliamentary privilege and abuse of women should resign because they simply do not deserve to hold public office.

This episode only demonstrates the lowest depth that Sri Lanka has reached at this point of time. No nation can avoid dire consequences to its societal moral when the government at the highest level resorts to such lowest level of mean and dastardly conduct.

If the people of Sri Lanka tolerate this level of immorality on the part of the government then they should blame themselves for all the societal ills that will rise from a situation such as the current crisis that the country is facing.

The greatest societal ill that will rise from this kind of abyss is the very high level of criminality in every aspect of social life. There will be loss of respect for anything called moral or ethical in a society like this. The children of such a nation will inherit a culture that is ugly and stinking.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is aware that there are many others against whom such gimmicks are being schemed. One such scheme is to attack the lawyers who appear for just causes and oppose the government’s abuse of powers in court through the use of manufactured reports accusing them of all kinds of things, for example saying that they are being paid by drug loads. We are aware that there was an attempt to publish such a report in the government’s mouth piece Daily News last week against Mr. J C Weliamuna and another lawyer against whom the government does not agree with. It was because a particular news editor was a man who respects journalistic ethics that the report was not published. However possibly others who are willing to engage in any kind of abuse may be put in the editorial chair and publish such reports against those whom the government select to slander.

The Asian Human Right Commission is saddened by the attack on the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice. Its concern is not due to any personal attachment but due to respect for principle which when undermined, harms the very fabric of society. The Supreme Court deserves respect. The Chief Justice, whoever it is, deserves respect and the Parliament deserves not to be abused. History tells us that societies that do not respect these principles ultimately pay a high price for that disrespect.