SRI LANKA: Proposing a way out of the societal-crisis 

After decades of engagement across Asia, and in particular, in Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries, seeking to learn about and confront the most fundamental problems plaguing our societies, the Asian Human Rights Commission has arrived at a juncture where both the root malady can be diagnosed and ways forward for society can be proposed.AHRC-PRL-007-2016-01.PNG

Using the example of Sri Lanka, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is putting forward a unique proposal, which is being presented in this manner.

The undermining of both the criminal justice system and the political system have worked in tandem to create a society-wide morass, clambering out of which is a complex task. This latest publication of the AHRC seeks to make a beginning.

“ The need to prevent the political system and the Criminal Justice System from mutually destroying each other” Read full version here.

The proposal details the fundamental features of a robust criminal justice system, which if absent can send a society reeling into insecurity and manifest an environment that encourages the basest human action, making institutions, meant to protect citizens, predatory.

But, not only features, what is also proposed are both immediate short-term measures and those that can be implemented in the long term to create a legal system that increases freedom in all aspects of life and encourages creative pursuits for the greater good of all.

Furthermore, it suggests that to solve the problems of the criminal justice system, the political system has to be squarely tackled by society, and vice versa. In seeking to bring together the complex goals of greater democratizationof the political system and theestablishment of the rule of law in countries of South Asia, such as Sri Lanka, this proposal hopes to generate a discussion that ultimately enables the people to make meaningful and fundamental changes.

In terms of Sri Lanka, the AHRC has explores in this proposal possible ways in which the criminal justice system can be improved, in order to support the attempts to re-strengthen the democratic institutions that have suffered a great setback in the last four decades. The presidential and the parliamentary elections held in 2015 demonstrated a serious protest on the part of the people against this collapse and thus created an opportunity for change.

Though the new government that has taken power has created a greater space for freedom, measures for genuine reform are still scant. Particularly in the area of criminal justice reforms, there have virtually been no policy developments to introduce necessary changes in order to undo the damage done over the past decades.

On the other hand, independent opinion makers and the civil society have not yet taken any efforts to articulate the depth of the crisis the country is facing due to weaknesses in both the political system and the criminal justice system. The civil society organisations are yet to show that they have grasped the mutual interdependence of both these systems, and that in a situation of a criminal justice vacuum it is not possible to achieve the political demands they have been making for rapid progress towards good governance.

This proposal has value well beyond Sri Lanka, South Asia, or even developing countries across the world. The hope is that it generates a discourse worldwideon the all-pervading societal crisis caused by undermining of both the political and the criminal justice system.

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