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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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
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.
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?".
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.