“And thus I clothe my naked villainy With odd old ends stol’n out of holy writ; And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.” - William Shakespeare, Richard III My cocker spaniel was named Junius Richard (JR) to commemorate an event that is etched in memory without any adoration or affection: for holding a [...]


Judgment on land: Story untold


“And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stol’n out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.” - William Shakespeare, Richard III

My cocker spaniel was named Junius Richard (JR) to commemorate an event that is etched in memory without any adoration or affection: for holding a duplicitous referendum instead of a general election to rein a 5/6 majority held in parliament for another term. During that sordid phase, carried the 13th Amendment at the behest of the Indians that made the then President look pathetic much as the hunchback namesake Richard III sketched by Shakespeare. ['And every tale condemns me for a villain'- Shakespeare]. 

As counsel in the North/East de-merger and land cases arising from the 13th Amendment, will be unfair not to posit the kings and knights in their proper squares on the chessboard, for history’s sake. A few know the background to the past.

Unpardonable, screamed the nationalists, in giving land (“this land belongs to you, this land belongs to me, this land belongs to all of us, to live in harmony’-local ditty) to a territory that included a dogmatic group that classified it as their exclusive homeland. Raise my hand in shame.

A jubilant senior lawyer Gomin Dayasri, writer of this article, leaving the Supreme Court after Thursday's landmark ruling on land powers.

Enigmatic Richard III was a two-dimensional character on stage than in life; more so on death, after his tortured torso was excavated this year, found buried under a Leicester car park, site of the former Greyfairs Abbey. Did the local Tricky Dickey devolve land to the province or steadfastly hold on to it, in his name? Was the old fox truly wily? No. Just plain stupid!
Brothers Jayewardene — JR (Dickey) and Harry — blotched a chance to exploit an unintended bounty that fell at their feet by an Indian misadventure. In failing to unravel a treasure trove that was within their grasp, if interpreted correctly: would have made them legends in their lifetime. Unknowingly saved the country: knowingly ruined it.

Astute Harry Q.C slept over it ignorantly but the lesser lawyer, elder JR, grafted from India a flawless script on Land to work on: which he blindly accepted but gave space to save the country. Bless him. We — including me — were daft and stupid in waiting for so long to dismember it. 

Owe it to a man that insisted on a revisit to the chapter on Land. Shall, gratefully, unravel that deserving name on another day: need to keep this story short.

The recent decision of Superintendent Stafford Estate vs Rasu (SC 12/2013) has created an impact similar to the finding of a deformed skull of Richard III while digging for the remains of a discredited monarch. J.R. Jayewardene stands vindicated after being cremated. Supreme Court has enhanced its image posthumously. 

As a fierce opponent to his appointment state categorically the present Chief Justice’s judgment can stand strong against any legal scrutiny internationally and locally: outstanding as he followed the guidelines offered.

The 13th Amendment shifted Land from the Centre to the Periphery — was the ready reckoner. The UNP Government nonchalantly remained silent: absorbing the lamentation of the majority. On a surface scratch it appeared to be so, an eerie silence confirmed it. Minister Gamini Jayasuriya resigned accusing the Government of deceit and duplicity in the Indo-Sri Lanka accord. Interfering Rajiv Gandhi went home after the shock and awe treatment — despised by all in the land of Ravana. The UNP Government bent backwards to slow track devolution amidst terrorism: JR died remembered as the traitorous man who sold the country.

The LTTE in possession of a substantial portion of the land was not tickled by constitutional manipulations. The TULF balancing to survive under the LTTE yoke and the Indian sway — played it opportunistically: dismissing it palpably and restating it opaquely: satisfying competing forces. The TNA shows its true intent presently; enjoying the freedom denied by former terror controllers before whom they succumbed. With the LTTE no more: they cry for the 13th they once decried (except for Anandasangaree); they have no alternate but fiddle India to regain the land lost.

The TNA should blame India for not achieving their objective — for sure they wont; Sri Lanka is their permanent punching bag: while absolving India. The TNA waited to lunge for the tape at the finishing line (where they were positioned before the judgment) and do a lap of honour after the elections with the land in their pocket. They will dare not fault the Indians for the flaw: instead pressurise to make Sri Lanka remake the lost ground. If the Indians are smart, may ask why the counsel in the case, TNA lawyer/MP, provided no legal response on his feet in the case? The place and time to lay it down steadfastly. Don’t fault him; he could say little, as JR’s transcript was word perfect.

In a hasty ill-judged ruling [John Keells case] Chief Justice Sarath Silva misconstrued the interpretation of the term Land in the 13th Amendment.

Sarath Silva was an outstanding judge contributing substantially to the rise and fall of the legal system. His judgment in the de-merger case made under pressure was perfect. None said it was faulty: JR crumbled the merger based on poor legal fiction.
The challenge to a Bill by a few Provincial Chief Ministers/Ministers of this Government in the Land Ownership Bill including a few SLFP leaning lawyers enabled the Chief Ministers to take control of the lands in their provinces [President take note, they are your lads!].

A more enlightened Bench of Justices Mark Fernando, A.R.B. Amerasinghe and S.W.B Wadugodapitiya [Agrarian Services Bill] came within sniffing distance of decoding the latent cryptography in the script of the 13th Amendment, but instead skirted around and decided to save it for another day.

That sunny day never came and the ignorant despondency persisted. The present Supreme Court walking on a guided path located the lost paradise; brought it out in its glory to public pasture.

The present judgment has restored all state lands back to the Central Government in keeping to the letter of the constitution. If justification is sought on the ‘spirit’ on which it was enacted, a pictorial will show pistols at the head and daggers at the chest. In constitutional interpretation, ‘spirit’ is in the realm of a voodoo cult and a call goes to the hocus-pocus man to tap the super natural, if such is the agenda. Say a good word and pass merit in the memory of JR, unknowingly and unintentionally passed an immaculate script that led to a distorted plot.

Every inch of this land belongs to every inhabitant, irrespective of caste or creed or conviction and has an equal right to access on parity. A taste of Tesawalamai, where discrimination still abounds is anachronistic and antiquated under the equal playing fields.

Sri Lankans emerge gloriously when they are cornered and await a pasting against the wall. Only then do Sri Lankans pick their grit and guts to respond gallantly to mend and mince. Otherwise — whether it is a legal misnomer or terrorists’ onslaught — they take it imperturbably yielding away inherent rights indifferently. As embedded in history, Sri Lanka is a triumphant nation with indefatigable people that can be bruised but not crushed.

“We don’t want to fight, but by jingo if we do: We’ve got the stuff: We’ve got the men: We’ve got the pluck to match”- [Adapted]

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