nation in calamity
The murder of a Judge is a very serious thing. And this very serious
thing has now happened in Sri Lanka with the cold-blooded murder
of a Judge last Friday.The temples of justice and the men and women
who mete out justice, from time immemorial, have remained a cut
above the rest of the populace.
fact that three men could enter the Judge's private residence and
gun him down together with his police guard and then coolly get
away, is a grim reminder, if any reminder is required at all, of
the kind of country Sri Lanka has become. This was not a one-off,
stand-alone incident. The deterioration in society has been evident
for some time now.
things were coming to a head. The signs were clear. Political interference
in the Judiciary in a big way; Military deserters roaming at will
as private guards of politicians doing their bidding, including
bashing up patrons in dance halls; Police top brass hand-in-hand
with the underworld; and politicians - even cabinet ministers -
hand-in-glove with the underworld. It was a deadly cocktail for
the body politic of a small country to absorb.
was only a few months ago that some persons broke into the official
residence of a lady High Court Judge at Balapitiya at night. Not
much was heard of the action taken to apprehend the miscreants.
No signal ever went out to the underworld. It was a forgotten episode,
swept under the carpet.
an accused was gunned down within the premises of the Colombo Magistrate's
Court at Hulftsdorp. He had brought a weapon past the court security,
hidden in his sock and opened fire while courts were in session.
But at least he was apprehended.
and even bombings outside court premises or an occasional threatening
call to a sitting Judge are not uncommon in Sri Lanka. The court
precincts, however, have been sacrosanct and even hardcore criminals
respected this. Once in a way, a man of unsound mind would throw
a missile at a sitting Judge, but it had caused no bodily harm.
No one ever thought of breaking into a Judge's residence, ever.
unwritten code has now been shattered with the blast from two automatic
pistols last Friday. A conscientious Judge was felled, and with
him, another bastion of democracy and the rule of law.
and the Judiciary have been under fire anyway these days. They were
collectively character assassinated before Justice Sarath Ambepitiya
was assassinated on Friday. In one sweeping statement they were
branded as rogues. Later, attempts were made to clarify the accusations
by saying the comments were based on a report by an international
NGO and twisted by the media to boot.
are now told that only some Judges are corrupt. But in fairness
to the honest ( like Justice Ambepitiya), the corrupt have not been
named; there is only a deafening silence.
point out the fact that all professions have corrupt men and women,
not least the political 'profession', is to state the obvious. An
attempt was made to put a total gag on discussing the conduct of
the corrupt in the Judiciary, backed by sections of the Bar Association.
We were told, in no uncertain terms, that discussing the conduct
of Judges was tantamount to Contempt of Court - until those with
immunity spoke. And now, the underworld has spoken in their language.
the killing of Justice Ambepitiya, orders went out from the President's
Office to seal all exit/entry points to the city. Black-coated gentry
were seen giving orders to the Police, and the Police taking such
orders on how to conduct their investigations. It would have been
a comedy, if it was not such a tragedy.
next week, this dastardly murder may also end up as a statistic
in the Police crime records. But as we said before, this is no isolated
event. It is, but part of a whole new canker that has struck at
Sri Lankan society and the administration not just of justice, but
indeed of the country. Giving lectures to Police top brass and having
the IGP nod his head when asked whether his men and women are corrupt,
will get this nation nowhere. It is only by example that one can
galvanise society into action against the forces of evil that have
been unleashed in this country.
once, the LTTE is being let off the hook on this murder, although
they have reason to be suspects as well. The immediate consensus,
however, points in another direction. So what?
week, coincidentally, at least some public spirited citizens, have
banded together to discuss the Rule of Law and Public Confidence
in the Judiciary. Let us hope there will be no gags on them or consequences
to follow. But then again, we Sri Lankans are 'captain ' at discussions
and doing very little after that. Let it be different this time.Let
at least some good accrue from the supreme sacrifice made by an