The Sunday Times Editorial

14th April 1996

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What's in that b'day cake?

While joining the nation in lighting a candle for Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike on her 80th birthday on Wednesday, we would like to reflect today on the so-called Sirima resolution which was passed in Parliament last Monday after some amusing political hoopla.

As a birthday gift to Ms. Bandaranaike, the government presented and steered through Parliament a motion which declared that the 1980 Parliamentary resolution stripping Ms. Bandaranaike of her civic rights "ought not to have been passed" because an appeal was pending in the Supreme Court.

Former President, J.R. Jayewardene, the mastermind behind the 1980 resolution, has heaped scorn on last Monday's motion, saying the government was giving an empty box to Ms. Bandaranaike for her birthday. What he apparently meant was that Ms. Bandaranaike had already been given a pardon by the UNP Government in 1986 and so last Monday's motion in legal terms meant sweet nothing. The old fox is as shrewd as ever. His role model Lee Kwan Yew had obviously conditioned his mind about the importance of what is euphemistically known in Singapore as "continuity". Bluntly it means one-party rule. So despite opposition from four senior ministers, Mr. Jayewardene went ahead with the move to put his main opponent out of politics. Through this the astute JR also split the SLFP - forcing Vijaya and Chandrika Kumaratunga to go their own way. So we had an SLFP(B), an SLFP(M) and an SLMP.

Analysing last Monday's resolution in another dimension, the former controversial Justice Ministry Secretary, Nihal Jayawickrema has accused the Kumaratunga administration of only compounding the injury and injustices caused to Ms. Bandaranaike and others including himself through the Special Presidential Commissions of Inquiry Act of 1977.

Mr. Jayawickrema, who also was stripped of his civic rights after being found guilty by the SPC of abuse and misuse of power feels the present government has given the mildest rebuke possible to what he sees as the most retrograde political manoeuvre in Sri Lanka's Parliamentary history.

More than many if not all who are in office now, Mr. Jayawickrema would have known the inner workings of that whole drama because he also was in the dock. Mr. Jayawickrema says that to say the 1980 resolution ought not to have been passed because an appeal was pending in the Supreme Court is absurd. He believes the appeal referred to was a non-issue.

What Mr. Jayawickrema, the UNP and many independent analysts are calling for is a repeal of the whole SPC Act which paved the way for the whole preposterous injustice against Ms. Bandaranaike and others.

We do not say that the Bandaranaike regime in the 1977 era acted very justly or fairly. There were some terrible blunders. Of the three independent national newspaper groups then, one was taken over, the other was sealed and the third was sent crashing out of business. Like the Anamaduwa doctrine of last week, we saw the Attanagalla doctrine then. Political opponents who went to the Bandaranaike kingdom for a peaceful protest were attacked and chased out. Monkey tricks were played with the judiciary, the Justice Minister himself referring to "my judges". At that time, whatever he may say now, Mr. Jayawickrema also behaved so arrogantly that the Chief Justice once ordered him to leave the front seat during a ceremonial sitting of Court. The life of Parliament was extended, while queues, quotas and corruption increased.

For whatever injustices and blunders committed in the 1970-77 era, the Bandaranaike Government was judged before the court of the people, convicted and thrown out of office. There was little or no need for an SPC Act then to carry out what was largely a political propaganda show that was full of character assassination and calumny. There was no need for it then, and there is no need for it now. For all its ills and evils the UNP also was judged by the people, convicted and thrown out in 1994.

What's more if abuse or misuse of power, undefined as it is, could bring seven years civic disability to politicos, we would have hardly any left.

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