| BUSINESS| HOME PAGE | FRONT PAGE | EDITORIAL/OPINION | PLUS | TIMESPORTS
Clarion calls keep go ing out frequently these days from the country's leaders to the bureaucracy exhorting Public Sector officials to greater efficiency and commitment to work. These calls at times seem desperate in view of the slow progress made in the achievement of development goals.
Certainly it is time we woke up and took heed as time is running out.
And what better time there could be to focus attention on this matter than now when we commemorate the Fourth Death Anniversary (on 1st May) of a leader who certainly got the wheels of the bureaucratic machinery moving towards service to the people and the country - the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa.
It would seem appropriate to ponder how Mr. Premadasa was able to infuse zest and life to the public sector to achieve a stupendous volume of work for the welfare of the common masses during the twelve years he had been Minister and Prime Minister in the J.R. Jayewardene Government and three years and four months he had been the President.
As admitted by his friend and foe Mr. Premadasa certainly lived up to the sobriquet he earned as the ''Man of Action'' till his untimely demise leaving behind a trail of development projects and pro-people programmes that could yet be seen and felt as one travels about in the country. Their beneficiaries are people of all walks of life and various political hues.
Apart from his achievements in various fields of public service, President Premadasa would certainly go down in history as a leader who brought about a new orientation and outlook in the attitudes and approach of the officialdom motivating them to adopt a positive approach in looking into and solving people's problems and speedy execution of development work.
He started his crusade of reforming the bureaucracy soon after he assumed duties as Minister of Local Government, Housing and Construction in 1977 after the UNP led by late President J.R. Jayewardene was swept to power.
It was at this juncture that I, after a 15-year stint in newspaper journalism gravitated towards media work in the state sector joining the Information Department and immediately posted as the Press Officer at the Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Construction. Thus I was able to literally get a ring-side view of his style of administration and how he got about getting the work done effectively and quickly.
Soon after assuming duties of his Ministerial portfolio in 1977 he was on the look out for an efficient team of top administrators. He looked into the ''Siberia''' of the Public Service, the pool at the Ministry of Public Administration, where senior administrators not wanted by the new government are relegated to.
There he picked on two officers who possessed proven ability, one was K.H.J. Wijayadasa, who was Secretary of the Land Reform Commission (where the present President Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunga was a Director) and R. Paskaralingam, an Additional Secretary to the former Minister of Education Al Haj Badiuddin Mahmud. He brought both of them as Additional Secretaries making another former Civil Servant Mr. Eardley Goonawardene, his Secretary. He also kept on other public servants including engineers, town planners, architects who had served under his predecessor Pieter Keuneman. President Premadasa knew that appointing party henchmen to vital posts would be counter productive and would be an obstacle to the visions and targets he had set in his mind in the task of nation building and fulfilling the aspirations of the people. Many of these officers rose to the top and many still continue.
With the team of administrators picked he set about moulding the minds of the bureaucrats and professionals to the tasks ahead motivating them to approach the people's problems with a positive frame of mind pushing forward various programmes and plans he had worked out while in opposition.
Soon the pace with which his Ministry's activities were pushed ahead and his style and ability to get things moving fast was the cynosure of all. It also served as a tonic to the rest of the public sector activities as well. Soon his concepts and programmes for public welfare came to be emulated by others.
Looking back one could see that the first step he took at re-orienting the bureaucracy to attune them to work in keeping with the needs of the people, was when he summoned all top officials of his Ministry and Heads of Departments and Corporations to sit under a Tamarind tree in the backward and remote village of Badalgama in the Yapahuwa electorate.
There Mr. Premadasa told his officials his plan to develop this village with 25 new houses, a Community Centre and the basic amenities like toilets and water. He got the officials to obtain a first hand knowledge of the hardships and the degrading life the people led. He would like them to plan out and implement a scheme so that they could lead a life with self-respect and self-reliance.
In a way President Premadasa was instrumental in not only constructing of houses for the needy but also provide ownership of lands as well in the thousands of re-awakened villages and urban townships he created.
President Premadasa infused into the bureaucracy from the early stages a sense of mobility. He always exhorted the officials to go to the place where a problem lay and seek out practicable solutions in consultation with the people affected instead of seeking solutions from their offices. He also encouraged his officials who came to discuss problems to also bring up alternate solutions to them as well.
He strove hard to instill in the public service the efficiency and commitment found in the private sector infusing ideas and new technology suited to local conditions and needs.
Speaking of mobility I don't think that there is no other leader than President Premadasa who had been mobile travelling to far corners even to the remotest villages opening development schemes or inspecting the needs of the villages.
The effective and efficient manner in which President Premadasa got the bureaucracy to work is perhaps due to the constant consultation and communication he had with his senior officials all throughout the day. But the chief factor that led to smooth co-ordination and follow up action is the system he evol2ved in holding weekly conferences with senior officials of his Ministry along with Heads of Departments, Corporations and Institutions under his Ministry. Presided over by himself President Premadasa has made it compulsory that all Heads of Departments along with their Deputies and second in command attend these meetings at which all major policy decisions are given and where all new projects and projects and programmes on hand are reviewed and progress monitored.
Contrary to a general rumour that was current that he ignores the advice of intellectuals and professionals President Premadasa was one who harnessed the skills and knowledge of intellectuals and professionals to the maximum. If this had not happened how could one account for the massive construction projects and other programmes he has brought into fruition.
When President Premadasa was elected the Executive President in December 1989 he brought into office a wealth of experience and knowledge and an unparalleled work performance as Prime Minister under his belt. He had the chance of carrying forward some of the unfinished programmes and visions he had for the development of the country.
A great believer in moving the administration to door steps of the people he conducted Mobile Ministry Services in several Districts prior to making it permanent with the setting up of 200 Divisional Secretariats which today provide a host of services and facilities to the ordinary masses closer to their home towns. He was the architect of the Pradeshya Sabha system which he felt was the most viable level of decentralising administration. He had visions of giving these bodies more autonomy to manage their own affairs and development.
Just as much as there is no other leader who had matched his sheer work performance there is no other leader other than President Premadasa who had to encounter so many obstacles and sometimes insults in the service of the people.
These obstacles followed him to his ascendancy to the Presidency. When he assumed office as President the country was like a candle burning at both ends. LTTE terrorism in the North and JVP terrorism in the South. The first one and a half years of his 3 1/2 years in office as President was taken up containing JVP terrorism in the South and liberating the masses from an era of terror.
After liberating the country from JVP terror with relative calm and peace prevalent since 1991 President Premadasa was able to pull the country out of the mass destruction of state and private property the insurrection brought about and put the country back on rails of economic recovery. Unprecedented foreign aid and foreign investment poured into the country and the stock market soared to great heights with the indices soaring to over 2000 (compared to 700 now). The entire country was opened out for foreign investment with the formation of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka. Rural industries gathered ground with the 200 Garment Factories Programme helping contain youth unrest.
The economic upturn President Premadasa brought about in such a short period was such that it was regarded as the best recorded for a long period and duly acknowledged by the World Bank too. In fact Mr. Premadasa is credited with pursuing the open economic policies much more vigorously than previously which led to unprecedented foreign investment which is yet the mainstay of the economy.
It is no secret that the slide started once again after his demise and the country yet struggling to recover to the levels prevalent during Premadasa's time.
At the time he was assassinated at the May Day rally of 1993 he had been campaigning for the Provincial Councils elections. And at that election held just one and a half weeks after his death the UNP was able to win four of the six Provincial Councils losing Southern Province by one seat. Thus it could be seen that he was riding on a satisfactory popularity rating despite the campaign arraigned against him over assassinations that had the hallmark of LTTE inspired. So it could be seen that President Premadasa was ultimately beaten not by the ballot but by the bullet.
One could visualise the level of development the country would be in today if President Premadasa was able to carry forward the development programmes he had envisaged for the country.
We have always been for a sov ereign Sri Lanka without any division on ethnic lines.
A considerable section of the public from the several communities and the Maha Sangha have welcomed the agreement between the PresidentChandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the UNP they hoped that this would end the ongoing terrorist campaign in the North and the East and bring to our people a much desired peace.
This is nothing new. From the inception of terrorist action in the North and East the Maha Sangha have appealed to the two major political parties in Sri Lanka to get together. Many of the Sinhala people are now happy that these two major political parties consisting largely of Sinhalese, have got together so that they could participate towards planning the destiny of our country without undue and unreasonable pressures from minority communal parities and splinter groups.
But would Sinhala aspirations be achieved by this exercise? We must study these documents in an objective and realistic manner.
The Sinhala Arakshaka Sanvidanaya has never been opposed to the devolution of power to subordinate units if it is use as a means of enabling the local people to have a greater voice in the conduct of their affairs. What we strongly oppose is the use of devolution as a device to solve a so-called ethnic question.
We must be vigilant that any devolution should not jeopardise the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the country and cause injustice to the Sinhala people.
Hence devolution should be subject to the following:-
1. Sri Lanka should continue to be a unitary state;
2. There should be no merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces; nor any re-demarcation of these provinces on a communal basis;
3. The following subjects and functions should NOT be devolved and must be retained by the Government-
(a) Defense, national security including police and law and order,
(b) State land,
(c) All ports, harbours and airports,
(d) International borrowing,
(e) Archaeological sites.
The Government should have the power to dismiss any head of a subordinate authority for misconduct or abuse of authority and to dissolve such authority for mismanagement or where the interest of the state so require.
It is our position that the whole of Sri Lanka is the homeland of all its citizens and, therefore, no redemarcation on ethnic lines is necessary. We iterate and support the broadest form of devolution subject to the conditions already stated. We the people of Sri Lanka, have on numerous occasions expressed these views but, unfortunately, the powers that be never gave heed to our views.
It is the British authorities who created this so-called ethnic problem by their divide and rule-policy we know that most European states, their NGOs and the World Council of Churches have chosen always to back the Tamil groups against the Sinhalese.
It behoves us to be of utmost vigilance of foreign intermeddling and intervention in our domestic affairs. It bodes no good for us. We also do not know what other pressures have been brought to bear on these foreign parties.
Let us now take a hard look at the documents exchanged between the two leaders. The Sunday Times of 06.04.97 gives the text of the two identical letters that were exchanged. The material portion of the text contains the following provisions which I will assume are correct. The text contains the following provisions:-
(a) The development of a genuinely bipartisan approach to the resolution of the ethnic conflict leading to the achievement of a permanent solution to the conflict. Consequently I would like to suggest the following arrangements between the PA and the UNP which I intend to put to the appropriate decision making bodies of my party for ratification;
(b) The incumbent Head of the Government will brief and seek the opinion of the UNP on significant developments relating to the ethnic conflict - both in the strictest confidence;
(c) The agreement contemplates that discussions and decisions would proceed notwithstanding a change of government in the event of the present opposition forming the government and the present government being in the opposition and there will be a reciprocity in their dealings;
(d) The party in opposition will not undermine any discussions or decisions between any other party or group, including the LTTE, arrived at resolving the ethnic conflict, if these discussions and decisions have taken place with the concurrence of the party in opposition against the background of such concurrence. On election to government either party will honour such decisions in full.
After signing the agreement the Leader of the Opposition has stated that he will act with transparency and that he will act only with the consent of his party. It has also been reported that the UNP Working Committee discussed the agreement and took the decision that the party leader would not be allowed to compromise on certain principles decided on by the party such as the unitary nature of state and its opposition to devolution of powers in regard to state lands, police powers, judiciary foreign loans etc.
If these statements are correct and the UNP has taken necessary procedural steps to limit the bargaining authority of its leader and also formally communicated this fact to the President there would be no great reason for alarm about the future negotiations since the unitary nature of our state will be assured both in law and in fact.
A considerable number of Sinhalese are opposed to the "package" submitted by Minister, G.L. Peiris because it provides for a federal state. There has been fear among the Sinhala people that in any negotiation with the LTTE, who are demanding a separate Tamil state, the negotiations will have necessarily to commence at a point even beyond the terms offered by the "package". Therefore that the UNP standing by its principle of unitary state (and its manifesto) then the President would have no power to bind the UNP for concessions to the LTTE beyond this limit. We welcome this stand taken by the UNP.
To proceed further if the UNP has ratified the agreement unconditionally or is such conditions were not made binding on the leader or have not been formally communicated to the President it would appear that the UNP has placed itself in peril and at the mercy of the President.
From this point onward the talks would be between the two leaders and "are in the strictest confidence". This appears to indicate total secrecy. There would be two aspects to this secrecy provision; First, the Leader of the Opposition is not entitled to disclose, the content of his talks with the President even to his own party much less to the country; Second no procedures are laid down for such discussions which have to take place under a cloud of secrecy. Such talks may be formal or even informal and, in case of differences, would be word against word.
Again, the UNP might think that a final ratification is necessary, because a fair reading of the text does not appear to contain such a condition either expressly or implicitly as it might be urged that the necessary concurrence is implied from the original ratification and by virtue of the leader in whom the party has reposed confidence in his being allowed to continue negotiations.
Agreement is contractual in nature and carries legal effect. In the construction of legal documents it is not open to a party to say "I intended this" when the words in their normal meaning say something else. In construing a legal document the golden rule is to gather the intention of the party from the actual words used which should be construed grammatically and objectively and not how a party says this was his intention. Since the agreement is now a public document with public importance and far reaching public consequence it seems that if any difference or dispute were to arise there to, it may be open for either party to go before the Supreme Court and obtain a consultative or advisory opinion in terms of Article 129 of the Constitution. The agreement cannot then be brushed aside.
It appears that this agreement was entered into by the Leader of the UNP without the consent or concurrence of the Working Committee or the party. Therefore, the UNP though its working Committee must take the necessary procedural steps - if not already taken - to publicly declare the extent of the leader's mandate to negotiate with the President. This should be formally and officially conveyed to the President. Unless it is clearly stated that the UNP will stand by its principles the UNP will run the risk of finding itself bound and saddled with an agreement with the LTTE. This may not only be completely opposed to its principles and policies but would constitute also a betrayal of the country and the Sinhala people either deliberately or through gross inadvertence.
Anyone entering a courtroom will witness the interpreter mudliyar administering a solemn oath to a witness. The witness swears in the name of the God or in the name of his religion to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. In a criminal case the destiny of the accused who stands on the dock is decided in what the witness utters as the truth.
Some years back a Magistrate from an outstation court informed the counsel that "We are all in search of the truth". Counsel retorted and said "the search for the truth is the domain of religious teachers, and today in our country there are at least four religions which are inconsistent with each other. The truth about eating flesh of animals according to the Hindu is that thou shall not eat the meat of a the sacred bull, or the cow; to the Musalmans God had decreed that thou shall not eat the flesh of pigs. The Christians eat both the flesh of bulls and that of pigs, though the Old Testament is different from the New Testament. Buddhists shall only eat the flesh of dead animals, not killed to be consumed.
Therefore, it is your duty Sir, not to go in search of the truth, but to find the person guilty or not guilty on the facts proved. But the facts are proved on the evidence of witnesses. If the witnesses lie, then the truth suffers and the proved facts are a bundle of lies.
The courts in our country had from their inception punished and convicted perjurers with imprisonment. They have never encouraged witnesses to lie and never supported them if they ever try to take that liberty. What is the position today, has the truth in courts become a casualty, like in politics.
We have heard stories of people who had been convicted and sentenced to death on evidence said to have been false and fabricated . To many witnesses in our country, the solemn oath administered by the court does not mean a thing to them. Our history is replete with such instances. In years gone by when two persons were accused of theft, and both deny it with equal vehemence, they would have to swear and immerse their finger into a pot of boiling oil. Even the thief was willing to dip the finger in the oil and take the risk of burning his finger, than to admit the offense. Without the fear of such punishment, witnesses today lie without any feeling of remorse or guilt. For them, conviction of the accused is of paramount importance. Similarly when witnesses are bought over by the defence, they, without any fear of punishment or moral obligation, go back on the truth and the accused are acquitted.
Even now if there was a murder in the village where only one person in family is involved it is quite customary to accuse the entire family with the offence. Few years ago in a southern village with a family of seven, six brothers and the father, were charged of having committed the capital offence. They were arraigned before the Supreme Court presided over by Senior Puisne Judge H.N.G. Fernando. There was so much of pomp and pageantry when the Supreme Court sat in Assize Circuits in the outstations. Dr. Colvin R. De Silva was retained to appear for all the 6 accused, save the youngest of the family, the last accused. The last accused was defended by Mr. later (Sir) Ukwatte Jayasundera, a proctor who practised in Kalutara and thereafter migrated to Colombo. He later became an advocate. The evidence of the case was built around one solitary eye witness. This witness was a fisherman who was perched on a branch fishing when the alleged murder took place on the other side of the river where the witness was fishing. He gave a very vivid description of how this gruesome murder took place. He described how members of accused family living close to the river bank dragged the deceased to the river bank and killed him, by chopping his head with a sword. There were a number of injuries on the body of the deceased alleged to have been made by sharp cutting instruments.
The doctor testified as to the nature of these injuries. Before the trial commenced Justice H.N.G. Fernando summoned the Crown Counsel and the Advocates to his Chamber, and tried to persuade Dr. De Silva to tender a plea of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for the 1st, 3rd and the 4th accused. If a plea was tendered, the crown was prepared to withdraw the indictment against the other accused. The other four accused would be discharged. Dr. Colvin R. De Silva spoke to the 1st accused, the father and wanted to know whether at least he and the two elder sons would tender a plea. The moment this was suggested, the father fainted and fell flat on the floor of the cell. Dr. De Silva knew that these villagers would never agree to plead if they firmly believed that they were innocent. They were from the very beginning loudly protesting that they were innocent and the eyewitness was a false one. Dr. De Silva conveyed this to Justice Fernando and the trial commenced. On the third day the main eye witness was called. He was extremely impressive. He corroborated the entire story and did not digress in any way from his Police statement or his depositions at the Magistrate Court. Dr. Colvin R. De Silva with his stentorian voice usually asked questions which were so long that often the witness forgot the real meaning of the questions and gave answers which were adverse to the prosecution. Dr. Colvin R. De Silva, most senior lawyers say was the only lawyer who would come before a Magistrate Court and defend a cattle thief, then defend the accused charged of murder in the assizes, then with equal ease in the Court of Criminal Appeal arguing whether there was 'misdirection or a non-direction in the summing up of the Commissioner of Assizes. He was a total lawyer. His dexterity and skill had never been equaled and will never be equalled in the future. He was an Advocate par excellence. When he cross examined a witness, before a Jury, with his long hair waving and speech articulated like a well trained Broadway actor who specialises in Shakespearean drama, and his mannerisms of walking to and fro in court gesticulating, waving and pleading with his arms were a complete drama in itself. The Jury was simply overawed by this spectacular piece of theatre dramatised before them by this great lawyer.
Seldom did the Jury disagree with him and returned a verdict against him. When the crown led its evidence in chief, Dr. De Silva with all the experience at his command fired question after question at this solitary eyewitness. Everyone knew that Dr. Colvin R. De Silva had met his Waterloo. Deeper and deeper he went into the question of credibility of the witness. Better and better the witness became. His replies were curt, short and to the point. After nearly two hours of cross examination Dr. Colvin R. De Silva sat down in utter exhaustion. In the eyes of the Jury, he was the most truthful witness that had ever given evidence in a Court of Law. At the command of Justice H.N.G. Fernando the Jury was requested to adjourn to the Jury room, and Justice Fernando requested Dr. Colvin R. De Silva to impress his clients with the necessity of pleading to a lesser charge. Dr. De Silva knew that his clients were skidding into the gallows. No one could stop them. He walked up to the accused and said in no uncertain terms that he would not be responsible if all seven were sentenced to death, and this was a rare opportunity afforded to him by the Judge so that at least three or four of the accused may be free. He wanted the 3 elder brothers to plead leaving the father and the younger brothers. The moment this was suggested, the two brothers fainted and dropped on the floor of the Court with a loud thud. Court adjourned to resume its sittings on the next day.
Sir Ukwatte Jayasundera, the Counsel for the youngest accused started his cross examination of the witness
Q: You have said in this Court that you are a fisherman?
Q: Your father and your grandfather had been fishermen?
Q: You have been fishing from your young days?
Q: You fish sometimes from this point and on other days you fish at various other points?
Q: You earn about Rs. 10 or Rs. 20 a day from fishing?
Everyone in the courthouse and Dr. Colvin R. De Silva himself was becoming uneasy at the type of questions that were being asked. Dr. Colvin R. De Silva wanted to whisper something to Mr. Jayasundera but could not do so as there were a number of Juniors seated between Dr. De Silva and Mr. Jayasundera, Justice Fernando himself was becoming impatient and controlled his fury lest it would make a bad impression on the Jury. The large crowd who were present in the courthouse were looking at this lawyer who was comparatively small made and did not create any impression on them. They must have thought the 7th accused who had been married to a low caste woman must have retained this lawyer as they could not afford the fees of Dr. Colvin R. De Silva. Mr. Jayasundera felt the uneasiness the Bench and his colleague felt on the questions he was asking the witness. Mr. Jayasundera who had a photographic memory, was known to recite the entire Dhammapada by heart. Mr. Jayasundera was a very humble person sans the theatrics, he was poor in court craft in comparison to the learned Doctor. Yet he knew and he was instructed that this witness was a liar, a born liar and a convincing liar. In the Magistrate Courts and even in the Assizes he had very cunningly repeated the story with such mathematical precision, no one could with hours of questioning could shake him. He was like the rock of Gibraltar. Then he looked at the witness most innocuously, wiped his brow with his handkerchief, and asked the following questions:
Q: What is the type of fish that you intended catching that day?
A: No answer.
Q: Surely witness you have been fishing for the last twenty years or fishing from the time you were ten years old. Now tell the Lordship the type of fish you intended catching?
A: No answer.
Q: If you are a fisherman by profession and if you were witnessing this episode perched on a tree, you must be able to tell the Lordship that you intended catching more than one variety of fish.
A: No answer.
Justice H.N.G. Fernando was one of the sharpest intellects to have ever adorned the Supreme Court Bench. He was furious with rage and took his wig and kept it on the table, and told the Crown Counsel, that the witness was an inveterate liar and he did not believe one word that was uttered by him. Then he stopped the trial and addressed the jury to bring a verdict of acquittal against all the accused. The accused were acquitted. The witness was arraigned for perjury. Immediately after the Court adjourned, Dr. Colvin R. De Silva took all his books and ran to his chauffeur driven vehicle. Mr. Jayasundara had a faint smile and bowed to Court and walked out. The accused and their relatives lying prostrate and kissing the feet of Mr. Jayasundera. He walked out of the courtroom and got into his 'Humbler Pullman' and drove towards Colombo. If not for the forensic ability of Mr. Jayasundera the entire family would have been hung on the evidence of an extremely clever perjurer for a crime they had never committed
As we have short memories and it is desirable to keep our memories refreshed on many matters concerning the administration of justice, it is necessary to re-enact the greatest drama of a witness committing perjury, which shook the entire fabric of our society. No one has lied with such impunity as Rohini Hathurusinghe. No one, or only a few, disbelieved her. Most of the gullible public of Sri Lanka were heard to say, "See what they have done?", "Can you imagine that these people perpetrated such a crime?". "They have given this poor girl in marriage even before she attained puberty?" "After all why should this woman lie?" "What would she gain". "If these were lies she will never have the guts to say so in front of a Supreme Court Judge". When Rohini Hathurusinghe gave evidence, the newspapers lapped it up. They gave it the widest possible publicity.
We must not forget the fact that we love to believe stories, and if these stories fit in with our imagination we believe them without doubt. The illusion created by the constant repetition of these lies are such that ultimately it is even believed by the creator. The phantasmagoria created by such lies are believed by those who have hate syndromes against whom these lies are invented. The character assassination by lies of people whom one hates is never permitted to be erased. They fight within themselves to show that the lies are in fact true.
According to Rohini Hathurusinghe the late Brigadier Wimalaratne instructed her husband one Susantha Hathurusinghe, to fix a bomb under the seat of General Kobbekaduwa's vehicle. The entire episode was videographed by others. One day her husband was watching this particular video film and she described what she saw.
Chairman (Bandaranayake):- Q: As you understood it was the bomb fixed by Susantha or some one else?
A: Not Susantha. Susantha was there. Susantha has told some one else fitted the bomb who was there at that time.
Q: Who was that ?
A: One Anil Lasantha
Chairman (Bandaranayake):- Q: Other than that bomb was any other weapon used?
A: He said so.
Q: What was it ?
A: From the vehicle behind. I do not know whether it was true or not. Susantha is there. You can ask the rest from him. I can only say what I know. He told me that from the vehicle behind he shot at General Kobbekaduwa.
Q: From where?
A: After General Kobbekaduwa fell down to the ground.
Q: At whom did he shoot?
A: At General Kobbekaduwa. He got up two or three times. He did not die after he got thrown from the jeep. After that from the vehicle behind he was shot at. This was told to me by Susantha in the presence of Brigadier Weerasekara.
The vivid descriptions she gave about the army and the names of the officers she knew and their ranks and their positions in the army, were so convincing that she managed to avoid questions by virtually abusing the lawyer who appeared and watched the interest of Brigadier Wimalaratne's family. The lawyer later produced a case record from Matara where she had been convicted. She denied it completely and gave answers implicating former Ministers and officials of the previous regime for having concocted that case. If not for the fact that the fingerprint bureau found out that the fingerprints of Rohini Hathurusinghe and the fingerprints of the accused in the case at Matara were the same, the evidence would have been accepted by those who read the newspaper reports. Rohini Hathurusinghe was later produced before the Chief Magistrate Colombo and is now indicted before the high court. When she was released from the prisons, she filed an affidavit and called for a press conference. In her affidavit she stated that interested parties had trained her and induced her to give false evidence before this commission for which she was to be rewarded.
In clause 75 she says, "gave false evidence before the commissioner as I was told I will be rewarded and because I was frightened as I was threatened."
She stated that her house was to be built for her and she would be compensated by the state.
Her daughter was to be sent to a good school for education. "But they did not fulfil their obligation".
While Rohini Hathurusinghe was giving evidence she said "Sir, I am presently in a children's home. This is the place that ruined me, I have gone there at the request of the Commissioner in charge of the probation department. I am staying there after I appealed to the Commissioner. I have to find another place. My child has no school. Now more than one year. Why should I help anyone? My Lord, let not this government do what the last government did. Please obtain some help from this government." At this stage the Chairman requested the press to publish these details in all the newspapers. The journalists very kindly acceded to the request, and due publicity was given not only to the appeal but to the entire evidence of Rohini Hathurusinghe.
Rohini Hathurusinghe even under cross examination never admitted that she lied, until it was proved by the production of the certified copy of the case record. But what is the position of a witness who admits under oath that he has lied. For a trained judge with experience the manner in which a witness answers questions, the demeanour of the witness is very important to judge whether the witness is lying or not.
The witnesses are never permitted to abuse counsel. The witnesses must respect court and a counsel is an officer of court. Then when she was finally found out, she said that she did that on instructions. It is important to note one of the Commissioners, Mr. Gamini Ameratunga, High Court Judge Badulla was not in favour of this witness giving evidence in public. Later the Commissioner resigned from the Commission. The concept of democracy survives in this country as we have a judiciary which not only functions independently but functions on a firm moral basis. What would happen by some means if this moral basis is eroded. That would be the death knell of many democratic institutions. I would reflect on a thought expressed by Lord Denning "It's only if it has a moral basis that the law can command respect."
(To be continued next week)
Continue to the News/Comment page 4
Return to the News/Comment contents page
Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to
firstname.lastname@example.org or to