Courts the only hope in lawless Lanka

by W. G. Chandrapala

(September 19, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Labour Minister Mervyn Silva once again displayed his arrogant behaviour at the opening ceremony of second flyover bridge in Kelaniya where the Minister was seen assaulting the cameraman and the journalist of Sirasa TV who had gone there on an invitation from the government to cover the event. The photographs and the video footage telecast by the media clearly showed the Minister attempting to grab the camera of the Sirasa TV crew.

Earlier at the same place when the first half of the flyover bridge was opened the Minister behaved in the same manner and threatened the Sirasa journalists to leave the place immediately without any photographs being taken even though they had been invited to cover the event.

The Minister behaving in this manner in public has become a regular occurrence. It was a similar situation at the Rupavahini. His continuous harassment of media personal seems to be directly backed by the government and he appears to be used by the ruling party for getting their dirty work done. Legal action so far has not been taken by the police against his previous offences.

When considering the Supreme Court judgment delivered against the Secretary to the Treasury who was found guilty in the privatisation deal of Lanka Marine Services Ltd., that incurred heavy losses to the government, many believed that following the judgment he would resign from the post. But it did not happen even though he was fined Rs. 500,000 by the Supreme Court.

Can a public servant continue to be in service after he has been convicted by a court, in this case the Supreme Court? Why doesn’t this rule apply to everyone in the public sector? It is clearly evident that the public service including the police has been politicised due to non-appointing of the Constitutional Council and Independent Commissions. Even though the present Public Service Commission and Police Commission appointed by the President are currently functioning, their independence is questionable when considering the way they were appointed.

It is needless to say that the police officers will not be able to act impartially unless a truly independent Police Commission is set up. The government seems to be dragging its feet on this issue since everyone in government knows well what would happen if the Constitutional Council is set up.

Corruption, malpractices and abductions are increasing day by day due to the breakdown of law and order in the country. On the other hand chairmen and other high officials who were found guilty of corruption are re-appointed to government institutions without an inquiry being held into the charges against them.

The former Bank of Ceylon chairman who was allegedly accused of violating normal tender procedure in connection with renovation work at the Nugegoda Branch of the Bank of Ceylon incurring an unnecessary loss to the bank was appointed as chairman of the CEB. Again many corruption charges were levelled against him. Although the President allegedly asked him to resign from the CEB he has been appointed to the Insurance Board.

Coming back to Mervyn Silva’s non-stop attacks on journalists it seems that he is enjoying full immunity. The so called Ministerial Committee that was appointed by the President to look in to the problems of journalists also seems to be incapable of handling this issue.

I would like to remind those concerned of the comments made by CJ a few weeks ago when the fundamental rights petition in connection with the non-appointment of the Constitutional Council came before the Supreme Court. He said that no one was above the law. The citizens of this country must be thankful to the CJ for taking note of the prevailing lawlessness in the country and making this landmark judgment.
- Sri Lanka Guardian