My dear Rishard, I didn’t even know who you were until I heard about you last week but I thought I must write to you when I heard that you had apologised to a magistrate and to the courts. This must be an extremely rare event for a minister, which is why I thought I [...]


5th Column

It’s not I, but my telephone!


My dear Rishard,
I didn’t even know who you were until I heard about you last week but I thought I must write to you when I heard that you had apologised to a magistrate and to the courts. This must be an extremely rare event for a minister, which is why I thought I must convey my thoughts to you.

Now, don’t blame me for not knowing who you are until last week. These days being a minister doesn’t guarantee that everyone will know who you are because there are so many of them — so much so that you stand a better chance of being well known if you are among the handful who are not ministers!

Anyway Rishard, the story that I heard about your apology was quite interesting. It was alleged that you had phoned a magistrate in Mannar and told him what he should do about a case he was hearing. When he told you that it could not be done, it was alleged that you threatened to set fire to his courthouse.

The magistrate did refuse your request and lo and behold, the next day, there were thugs stoning the courthouse and trying to set fire to it. Then, you were charged with contempt of court. Being a minister, that must have come as a shock to you because ministers are not charged with anything these days!

I am told all this happened nearly two years ago. Isn’t it funny, Rishard, that in a country where a Chief Justice can be impeached within a matter of weeks, it takes two years to dispose of a contempt of court charge against a minister!

What struck me as even more interesting, however, was your apology to the magistrate and the courts. You are only apologising for the ‘unauthorised use of your telephone’, Rishard, and if that is so, it means that you never made those calls to the magistrate — and someone else did!

Now if I were you, Rishard, I would consider that to be a very serious matter. If a minister, who usually has a beefy security contingent around him at all times, cannot prevent someone else from using his telephone to make threatening phone calls, surely there is something wrong somewhere.

You don’t have a twin brother who looks like you and sounds just like you too, do you? After all, not only was the threatening call to the magistrate made from your phone, the caller sounded like you too! And having a naughty twin brother who gets up to mischief would explain everything, wouldn’t it?

Or it may be that there is a simpler explanation. Maybe your thirteen-year-old son thought he would play a practical joke and called up the magistrate and threatened him, just for the fun of it. Or maybe your pet dog accidentally pressed a button on the phone and barked into it — and the magistrate thought it was you!
Or maybe there was a more sinister explanation. Would it be possible, that this was an international conspiracy hatched by all those countries which are meeting in Geneva and accusing us of committing war crimes and abusing human rights?

For instance, they could have used your phone when you left it lying around somewhere and threatened the magistrate — so that they could then say that there was no independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka and call for an international inquiry into it!

We need to consider all these possibilities, Rishard, because you have told us that you were only apologising for the ‘unauthorised use of your telephone’ and not for threatening the magistrate and we have to believe you because as they say in Parliament, you are an ‘honourable’ member!

Anyway, Rishard, being the good ‘gentleman’ that you are, you have apologised to courts for what your telephone did and the matter should end there. What I would really like to know is whether anyone who is charged with contempt of court can now say “I didn’t do it but I am sorry anyway” and get away with it?

You may not know it, Rishard, but you have unwittingly made a great contribution to our legal history as well. In so doing, you may be joining some of your more illustrious colleagues in Parliament who have also made similar contributions, so please permit me to explain all this to you.

Why first there was Mervin with his ‘he did it to himself’ defence. Then there was young Duminda with his ‘I cannot remember anything’ defence. Then we had the not so young Di Moo’s ‘my secretary did it’ defence and now we have you with your ‘someone used my telephone to do it’ defence!

So, what else can we do, Rishard, except to thank you for your lasting contribution to our justice system and admire you for your courage in apologising to courts for something that you are supposed not to have done? With ministers like you, it is no wonder they say that we are the ‘miracle of Asia’!

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha
PS: Rishard, I don’t think you need to worry about your future as a minister despite all what you have said and done. Rauff is in trouble and the knives are out for him. If he is out of the way and with Fowzie retired hurt, you could be next rising star if you play your cards right!

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