Religion is the Poor man’s Legal system - Sri Lanka Guardian

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Religion is the Poor man’s Legal system

| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam


( March 31, 2013, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the Sri Lanka Guardian report under the title ‘We must not flex our muscles when dealing with Religions or Courts of Justice’ an excerpt from the speech by the Hon C J Wigneswaran – retired Supreme Court Judge

I have heard much praise for Justice Wigneswaran especially from our lawyer friend Mr. N.Manoharan of Hulftsdorp – the legal suburb of Colombo. Later, I came across the words of wisdom by Justice Wigneswaran in relation to the value of the Law of Thesawalamai through which we could connect to the values our ancestors had developed. The speech by Justice Wigneswaran brings out such ancestral value. The parallel of that in my family life was expressed yester to my cousin Ravi Prakash and his lovely wife Jayanthi as follows, in relation to the photographs taken naturally during a family reunion:

‘I do believe that when we photograph, the feelings of the photographer merges with the feelings of those being photographed to give it inner life and brings out Inner Light of True Love. I see so much of Pathma Aunty in you and Jayanthi has shared in this genuine family contribution and this to me is the ultimate that your marriage has been a complete experience and hence your son is naturally blessed through that completion. Most of all I feel grateful that I was able to invoke our Great Grandfather A M Pillai's Blessings on my birthday through the Chair you have in your loving home. I pray often to A.M. Pillai Thatha - including last morning when I sought the blessings of my ancestors whose structures we have inherited in common. Ravi & Jayanthi - of special emotionally moving gesture was the cake. When my grandchildren brought that with such sweet enjoyment showing in their faces - I felt that no grandparent could ask for better. I bless you both with similar experience - from the bottom of my heart. You both kept referring to how beautiful it was to see the little cousins playing together. When I watched the video last night - I realized the significance of it. Arun & Thevaki's daughter Thulasi was lovingly including Uma's & David's kids in your loving family home - confirming the successful passage of family Love through four generations.’

When I learnt through the above speech that former Attorney General Mr. Sunil de Silva was also present at the gathering of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka along with Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake who according to the Bar Association was unjustly treated by the Executive Government , I felt stronger interest within me due to my association with Mr. Sunil de Silva through our Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum Sydney.

Due to my own legal experiences here in Australia as well as in Sri Lanka, I was able to appreciate more deeply the words of wisdom shared by Justice Wigneswaran. Justice Wigneswaran’s experience with a former Chief Justice is brought out as follows: ‘In 1977 I was one of the young Lawyers who went up to the late Mr. Neville Samarakoon, Queen’s Counsel, and invited him to come forward to contest the post of President, Bar Association. He said “Leave me alone! I like to lead a peaceful life!” He went on to elaborate on what he considered as essentials to his life-peaceful, which I believe is not relevant here!

But within a few months he had consented to shoulder the mantle of the Chief Justice of this Country. Soon after at a party I asked him “Sir! You were reluctant to contest the post of President, Bar Association but Destiny seems to have designed other plans for you.” He laughed, puffed at his pipe and said “When J.R. called me and asked me to accept the office of Chief Justiceship I told him “On one condition”. He asked what it was. I said “No interference of any sort”. “He agreed. So I agreed!” he said. How thereafter President Jayewardene forgot his promise and interfered with the Judiciary and what that led to, are part of our unfortunate history.’

As a lawyer Mr. Neville Samarakoon had the duty to ensure that any agreements – especially in regards to fundamental rights were as per his profession and not social or political. The Doctrine of Separation of Powers is claimed to have been breached in relation to Dr. Shirani Bandaranaike’s Impeachment. The question that we need to ask is how strong was the investment in this doctrine but the legal profession? Some clues are in the speech by the Hon Wigneswaran who shares his insight with us. The above sharing about Mr. Neville Samarakoon confirm that the position of Chief Justice was weakened through breach of Doctrine of Separation of Powers. Recently I had reason to discipline the folks of Thunaivi – a village in Vattukottai where the first political declaration of Independent Tamil State was made. I received complaint from one of the disciplined that I was writing to the authorities that they had done wrong. I treat each of the complaints with respect – as if my political opposition had made it. Thunaivi by its very nature is a high risk area and an area from which a good proportion of youth joined the LTTE. Without such disenfranchised folks the likes of Prabakaran would not have had an army to fight for him. These folks were fighting against their local administrators who were demonstrating cultural superiority. Hence I address each of their complaints on merit basis using language that is common to both. In my response yesterday, I said if they did not feel comfortable with the wider common principles and values – they needed to stay within their own special areas where they were sovereign lords and ladies. In this instance they are sovereign ladies. To my mind, this is the separation of powers fundamental to power sharing. The relevant excerpt from my message to Thunaivi folks is:

‘Vijitha, the well educated daughter of Thunaivi Coordinator Saroja said to me with pain that outsiders had asked her whether she was not afraid to live in Thunaivi. The reason for such questions is differences in cultures. There is no harm in the existence of such differences so long as the respective groups stay within their areas of power/belief. If those outside those boundaries are more powerful than yourselves – then you are likely to be attacked and incur loss. If on the other hand you are more powerful than them – then they would lose due to attacks by you. If your children start living in the wider areas in that District, country and beyond, if they are not conscious of the appropriate conduct to live in those wider areas – your children are likely to lose. One who does not know how to live through common principles and values in those areas – would not know about the losses that are coming their way until they happen. If we are disciplined early (as I have done with you) – we do experience pain. If we accept that pain and correct ourselves – we would not incur the loss. If you are seeking to reject that pain by finding fault with me for disciplining and educating you - you separate yourself from me and thus you are separating your children from the educated. Even if we are not educated – if we have faith in the educated and show respect for them, the essence of their work and structures. We thus share naturally in their structures and values. The structure in which we invest is the first structure that we need to look towards for returns. If you place/lose something in the river – look for it in the river and not in the pond. You seem to be looking in the stagnant pond for the results that are expected from a flowing river.’

Justice Wigneswaran highlights ‘We must not flex our muscles when dealing with Religions or Courts of Justice. However provocative any Religious Organization might appear to be, flexing muscles at them is not the proper procedure to be adopted. Especially when such Organizations have emotive votaries not only locally but also outside our Country.’

Religion is the poor man’s legal system. If one who has faith in her/his religion – and a secular rule is applied indiscriminately to punish that person outside her / his circle of faith – it amounts to flexing muscles – and this does happen in many remote areas of Sri Lanka through Administrators who do not share in the local faith. Say for example – a Hindu with deep faith in Mother Kali is shown the government’s political muscle even after practicing the law to the best of her/his ability – and that Hindu complains at her/his temple of faith – it would naturally get carried to the next such area of faith in wider world – to Tamil Nadu and beyond where there are Hindu faith groups of considerable unity. Similarly where one invests in the Temple of Public Service – even in a remote corner of Sri Lanka through her/his job and/or duty as a citizen – and the Government muscle is flexed against that person (this happens often against expatriate Tamils returning to Sri Lanka) - the complaint from such a practitioner gets carried all the way through to the UN through the USA. I realized this beauty of faith when our former Prime Minister – Mr. John Howard (against whom I instituted legal action – for failing to consciously practice the Doctrine of Separation of Powers with a person of different faith) was through his natural path present in Washington when the 9/11 attack took place. The human legal system failed me. The Natural Divine legal system of faith highlighted to me the outcomes of my belief – that Mr. Howard was wrong and I was right in the highest court of all.

Justice Wigneswaran says ‘The attack on the temple of justice removes the only rational and non-partisan check on government and individual excesses.’ Every citizen who practices the law is part of the temple of justice. As per my experience – once we do our best through the secular system to give our contribution ‘form and structure’ – even at the cost of losing at that level – and then submit our work to the higher authority we believe in – the solutions would happen. Hence we need to retire at that point from the secular system where we are not able to work the existing structure beyond that level – and use the path of higher faith to complete our experience. This would add value to our society – even if we lose social status through our defeats. Those defeats are the drivers in regards to form that is needed by our society. They confirm the need in our society. Mine has been Equal Opportunity form.

Justice Wigneswaran shares with us - ‘Let us remember that the profession is not different from each of us. We are the profession. And the profession is us. Therefore what each of us make of our professional life is the popular image we foist on the world at large.’

Likewise our family, country, religion, workplace – every institution in which we have faith.

Justice Wigneswaran continues to highlight ‘The popular image of our profession, I could assure you, is not at all complimentary. We are looked upon as parasites drawing the life blood of the society fattening ourselves but giving insufficiently in return.’

I am able to identify with this observation through my own experiences in both my nations. When lawyers become businessmen – they naturally combine forces with other businessmen through the medium of money. This the Doctrine of Separation of Powers is set aside towards lower outcomes. I have observed some young judges trying to uphold the law prematurely and therefore am able to identify with the following passage: ‘Speaking of Judges sometimes they are found fault with for forcing settlements on parties when one of them has a very good case. Either they prefer not to labour themselves with the process of going through evidence and coming to a finding or their sole concern is to show conclusion of cases for the record.’

This is premature use of subjective powers for which we blame the Sri Lankan Government elected by majority. Further highlighted is the improper use of discretionary powers ‘Sometimes Judges are criticized for having their favourite lawyers in Court. If so and so is retained the Judge would be favourable to us, is an oft quoted comment. Due to such state of affairs Lawyers bend in half to become favourites of the incumbent Judge. They are prepared to compromise their client’s case just to receive such judicial blessings’

In one case here in Australia – the barrister representing my employer (he represented also the Prime Minister in my higher complaint ) jumped up and warned the Judge that his client was young and an adverse finding would damage her career. The barrister jumped up when the Judge asked me whether the according to me the alleged unlawful discrimination was conscious or subconscious. I said subconscious. Likewise, in the position of Dr. Shirani Bandaranaike I would say that the interference was subconscious at the beginning. To withdraw afterwards would have meant loss of jobs at the top – in both instances.

The result in my above case was that I was declared the loser. But to me I am Equal Opportunity and Equal Opportunity is myself. Hence Equal Opportunity form lost to the continuity of the form of Hierarchical Subjective Power which naturally reduces Australia’s power at the Global level. When this happens we become the natural opposition of other religious faiths that are also hierarchical in structure. Hence our share in 9/11 pain followed by Bali bombing loss.

I am very appreciative that Justice Wigneswaran is criticizing his profession and therefore himself. This is the best lesson the Sri Lankan Government could learn. Their need is to look within and identify with their own Truth. It’s when we see ourselves through others’ eyes – that we get excited about benefits and experience dejection when we lose. The true owner is equal minded in pleasure and pain. Becoming a true owner to look better or worse – is the ultimate challenge.