SRI LANKA/WORLD: Discussion on democracy and good governance in Sri Lanka 

We are presenting a discussion held on the ‘Subha Udesanak” (Good Morning) Programme, on Rupavahini with Mr Basil Fernando, Director of Policy and Programmes, Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, and popular film director Dharmasiri Bandaranayake, moderated by Mr. Chitral Perera.

In this discussion the challenges faced by the new government due to the damage caused to the justice institutions in Sri Lanka by previous governments since 1978, are being discussed in detail.

The importance of modernisation of the Sri Lankan policing system is presented as an essential requirement for the reconstruction of the country’s economy as well as repairing the damaged social relationships. The existing state of the police is discussed as a danger to the stability of Sri Lanka. The old colonial model of policing constructed in the model of Irish Constabulary, which was itself a colonial model is outdated and obsolete. The United Kingdom had reshaped its own policing system to suit a modern democracy by the introduction of the metropolitan policing system in 1832. In France, under the influence of the French revolution the conception of policing changed altogether and in all developed countries, new philosophies and institutions were created and however, in South Asia these new developments were ignored and the policing was merely used as a mode of social control and suppression of the people. It is not possible to achieve “yahapalanaya”, or good governance which the new government has made it, its centrepiece, without a thorough modernisation of the policing system.

This requires that the government make budgetary allocations for the modernisation of the policing system. Poorly paid, unskilled, poorly educated, police officers will naturally be inclined towards corruption and in any case are incapable of qualitatively contributing to the functioning of a dynamic democracy. When the police themselves become an obstacle to the rule of law, there is hardly any reason to believe that the new government would do anything better than the previous governments unless, it demonstrates its will to change by providing financial and other resources for a thorough going reform of the police.

In this discussion the situation of the Attorney General’s Department is also discussed in the similar manner. This department, has become a victim of the vicious executive presidential system. The quality of the Department has degenerated and it has become an obstacle to the promotion of rule of law. Social stability if seriously damaged when the prosecutor’s office and the chief legal advisors office of the government is damaged in this manner. It is the duty of the new government to deal with this matter with urgency.

The judicial institution was exposed as an ongoing onslaught since 1978. Previous governments wanted to suppress the independence of the judiciary and also bring down its prestige. The purpose of such an onslaught was to destroy the people’s trust in the judiciary. This objective unfortunately has been achieved. This damaged institution cannot perform the functions of a separate branch of government whose primary objective is to protect the individuals from the onslaught on their rights by the government. The present state of the judiciary is dangerously opposed to democracy and the rule of law.

How should the new government deal with these issues? Is the subject matter of this discussion. You can watch the video produced by Rupavahini, the state television channel, with subtitles provided by the AHRC at the following link;

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