The Rajpal Abeynayake Column                     By Rajpal Abeynayake  

Editors, Select Committees, AG and stupid black-coated men
The black coated Brahmins of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka now want to haul journalists before the Supreme Court for contempt! The Speaker meanwhile has referred to the Attorney General the suggestion by another black coat that "a Select Committee to probe the conduct of the CJ is not constitutional''!

But back to the BASL's Bar Council black-coats for the moment. Their words deserve to be treated with the contempt that's deserved -- and then dismissed with the contempt that's deserved for better measure…

The fact that the Speaker of Parliament has referred the CJ's Select Committee matter to the Attorney General shows that there is a process that has been initiated in the House regarding the CJ. This follows two previous impeachment motions against him.

That should show clearly to anyone except the obsequious, hopelessly ingratiating and insular black-coats of the Bar Council, led by that specially controversial Ikram Mohamed PC, that the CJ's conduct is not a matter that has been exclusively the purview of the press or the gentlemen of the Editor's Guild. It is a subject - - whether the grovelling ineffectuals of the Bar Council like it or not - that is now in the public domain.

If it is not in the public domain, why has Wijedasa Rajapakse, a prominent frontline black-coat himself written to the Speaker and asked that the Select Committee proceedings against the CJ be reconsidered? If he sits at his typewriter and sends off a letter to the Speaker on the CJ, then isn't he also conspicuously drawing attention to the CJ's conduct? Is he also then culpable of conduct that could be in contempt of Court, according to the BASL's regular balladeers and bleaters??

Ikram Mohammed's words to the effect that certain Editors be hauled for contempt of court before the Courts of law of this land certainly had their timing right. There was no doubt that he was saying Editor's should be hauled up for contempt because they have been writing about the latest episode involving the Chief Justice that everybody in this country including the Speaker of the House does not now know about!

Now how cheap this is, is seen from the fact that it is his own Court -- or the Court that he wants to protect - - that's in jeopardy if there is any question mark that hangs over the CJs' integrity and conduct. It's this that needs to be put on the crosshairs and scrutinized, and the CJ cleared if there is no wrongdoing on his part. Nobody so far as we know has asked for the CJ to be drawn and quartered on this matter.

All that has been asked for by the Members of Parliament and some of the Editors is that the matter be investigated so that the good name of the CJ - - and by extension that of the Courts of law of this land be cleared.

But this is read by the self appointed Imam -- sorry Ikram of our Courts as a matter of contempt of Court on the part of the Editors, and then of course the Bar Council in its now repetitively brilliant wisdom of endorsing this that and the other whim of various people, is supposed to have endorsed his sentiments. Without any resolution but by some process of divining the opinion of the rest of the members of the Bar Association, one might add.

Well I for one - - a Member of the Bar Association also to boot -- - reject the Bar Council's contemptible assertion, and would say to these worthies, for the sake of Johannes Voet (or any other potentate you may genuflect before in these days) come off it!

The Courts are to be protected and venerated as temples of Justice, and you should be resolving that the Editors and the members of the fourth estate who have been in the forefront of the campaign to protect the Courts be applauded, feted and decorated. How do you protect the Courts? By ensuring that they are not just clean but are squeaky clean. If there is any personage in those Courts that has any taint or any allegation against his name, then clear him of such taint to maintain the integrity image and credibility of the Courts. What is anybody who has nothing to hide afraid of?

The Bar Council's grovelling attitude on the contempt matter can be discerned by some of the following bald facts: (a) It was the Chief Justice himself in writing to the IGP who put this whole matter in the public spotlight saying that there is a police conspiracy against his name. No wretched Editor did that. The CJ himself did that. He put his case in the spotlight. Then the press got his letter to the IGP in their possession, and they asked the CJ whether it can be carried in the papers, and he said "yes, go ahead be my guest.'' So according to the BASL's logic that the press is bringing the Courts into contempt and disrepute, the CJ himself should be charged for bringing himself into contempt?

This is why when words such as contempt are used by the BASL President, this ‘gentleman’ who uses such words must be careful to ensure that the way in which he uses them does not place him beneath the contempt of the public. Also (b) laws of contempt do not debar anyone from seeking to ensure that Court remains a respected institution.

One way of ascertaining that Courts remain a respected institution is by ensuring that the judicial process is subject to reasonable scrutiny by civil society, mass media and any other interested persons/parties.

There is a book called 'Stupid White Men' that has been written by Michael Moore one of George W.Bush's fiercest critics in the United States of America. Rumour is that he is taking time off from the US and coming here to this backwater in Colombo for some rest and relaxation, while writing a book called 'Stupid Black Men.' Omigosh no, that is 'Stupid Black-coated Men.' I leave it to you to guess of whom he will be writing….

But this is what Michael Moore has to say on page 12 of the book 'Stupid White Men.' He says about a US Supreme Court case involving George Bush's election, "…..and Eugene Scalia, the son of Justice Antonio Scalia, was a lawyer with the firm of Gibson, Dunn and Carter --- the very law firm representing Bush before the Supreme Court!

But neither Thomas nor (Judge) Scalia saw any conflict of interest, and they refused to remove themselves from the case. In fact when the Court convened later, it was Scalia who issued the now infamous explanation on why the ballot counting had to be halted: 'The counting of votes that are of questionable legality does, in my view, threaten irreparable harm to the petitioner (Bush) and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he (Bush) claims to be the legitimacy of the election.''

That encapsulates the modern attitude to contempt of Court. Moore calls a US Supreme Court judgment of George Bush's election flawed, ridden with conflict of interests, and infamous!! Was he hauled up for contempt? No, instead Bush invited Moore as a guest of honour to the White House to sit next to the Chief Justice. As you grovel these days before your potentates, can you cram that also into your head Mr Ikram Mohammed??

(The writer is a black-coat…oops, Attorney at Law.)

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