Standards in Public Office
The week has seen an unprecedented spree of sacking and resignations - from the world famous BBC hierarchy to the Athurugiriya adventurist to the Bar Association heads - as much as it has seen the stubborn refusal to budge by others even though there is overwhelming reason to throw in the towel.

In London, the media moghuls of the respected BBC quit in the face of the questionable findings of a one-man committee. They just did the right thing and went home. In Colombo, the President of the Bar Association also did the right thing. Caught in the eye of a storm swirling around a botched attempt to circumvent the course of justice, he has, by quitting, redeemed, somewhat, the errors he is alleged to have committed.

Two magistrates are already on the dock, and the Supreme Court is quite rightly moving in to arrest what has turned the judiciary, the legal profession and the rule of law into a mockery in recent weeks. So much so, that on Friday, a High Court judge made a reference to what it all means to be a member of any profession - the need to temper one's selfish pursuit of economic success by adhering to standards of conduct.

The foregoing refers to a case involving a high profile figure in the national canvass - someone who holds the twin posts of Chairman of SL Telecom and SL Cricket. It is correct that the underlining principle of the rule of law is that ' all persons are innocent until proven guilty'. It is a difficult choice for any individual to stand down especially if one genuinely feels that he or she is being the victim of some political or personal persecution.

To resign would then only be playing into the hands of the very persons who are persecuting you. The Attorney General's Department is not without precedence in instituting criminal action against persons when their own officers have said there was 'no case'.

The Telecom chief's case was indeed blown out of proportion originally- the alleged crime not fitting the hype, but the turn of events thereafter has only made things so bad that it is no longer an issue of one man's case now, but that where the entire Rule of Law is at stake. Take another example if you like - that of the country's Public Trustee.

The Public Trustee - the very name, denoted the significance of his job - is being investigated for corruption. Today, he is on a million rupees bail and his passport confiscated. This is what has become of the custodian of so many Trusts.

The Public Trustee's conduct - and the protective shield that has been thrown around him by politicians of various hues, sadly reflects what Sri Lanka has come to be - 56 years after Independence. Years before our Independence, in the 1930s, six State Councillors were investigated for the first time for bribery. Another Councillor was asking for the six to resign. One of the six interrupted to ask; " Even if they are innocent?".

The speaker - S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike - responded " yes, even if they are innocent", and went on to explain the rationale that those in public life must be beyond reproach. The moral of that story holds good to this date.

No. 8, Hunupitiya Cross Road, Colombo 2. P.O. Box: 1136, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
Tel: 2326247, 2328889, 2433272-3. Fax: 2423922, 2423258
Editor - editor@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
News - stnews@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Features - features@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Financial Times- ft@sundaytimes.wnl.lk
Subs Desk - subdesk@sundaytimes.wnl.lk,
Funday Times - funtimes@wijeya.lk

No. 48, Parkway Building, Park Street, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka
Tel: 0115330330, 0115330808, 0115330808. Fax: 2314864
Email: adve@lankabellnet.com


No. 47, W.A.D. Ramanayake Mawatha, Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.
Tel: 2435454, 2448322, 0114714252. Fax: 2459725

Back to Top  Back to Index  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to