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Hulftsdorp Hill

19th July 1998

Krishanthi case: human rights factor

By Mudliyar

The other side of Felix

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Justice Minister G. L. Peiris has said the ver dict in the Krishanthi Kumaraswamy case demonstrated that Sri Lanka adheres strictly to the tenets of law.

The essential requirement of the rule of law was equality of treatment, a concept that no one was above the law and that criminal law of the land applied to every person without distinction. He expressed the above views at the opening of two new magistrate's courts in Nikaweratiya and Wariyapola recently.

Dr. Peiris said the figure of justice symbolises that justice applies equally to all without fear or favour irrespective of the exalted status of one party vis-a-vis the other. The scales denote that the evidence will be carefully weighed in the balance in taking decision and the sword represents the sanction or punishment that will be imposed without inhibition and without regard to the personality or other attributes of the guilty party.

During the past several years, Sri Lanka had been lowered in the estimation of the outside world because it was perceived that immunities and privileges were accorded to those who broke the law" (Ceylon Daily News).

French philosopher Jacques Derrida, whose work originated the school of deconstruction - a strategy of analysis that has been applied to literature, linguistics, philosophy, law and architecture recently addressed the Asiatic Society at Mumbai on the theme, 'The State of the Lie, the Lie of the State'. He said: "Politics is a privileged space of lying and deception is well known. The lie vitiates human sociality; it causes harm, destroys the possibilities of human communication and sharing. To lie is to long to deceive the other, sometimes speaking the truth. Ironically lying confirms human freedom. And yet this manoeuvre holds the door open for the ethical question of how to exercise that freedom."

Krishanthi Kumaraswamy's rape and murder were first reported in Virakesari. It was then discussed in this column. The crime was the most dastardly act committed in the war front on a girl who was to sit her Advanced Level examination. Later the others who went in search of her were also killed to wipe out any evidence.

When the matter was reported in the English press, human rights groups quite rightly issued statements and coerced the government to hold an impartial investigation. The international community was agitated by the gruesome details of the crime and it demanded that the guilty be punished.

The police and the CID got activated. The Attorney General's department was consulted. The soldiers on duty at that particular point on the fateful day were arrested. The Military Police recorded confessions from the suspects. It was admitted in evidence after a voir dire inquiry. The court held that the confessions were made to a person in authority, and was made voluntarily. Soon the accused were produced in the Magistrates Court in Colombo, and the Attorney-General decided to indict the accused directly in the High Court and a trial at bar was gazetted. The accused were found guilty and were sentenced to death.

It was the desire of the government to prove to the world that it had a better human rights record than the previous regime. All hailed the judgment as a victory for the rule of law.

To an underdeveloped third world country like ours, it is important that the international community is kept pleased about the human rights record. Donor countries before giving us aid would have to be satisfied that the government would not unleash terror on its people.

The Tamil lobby, the Eelam lobby and other lobbies, including the local ones, which are dependent on funds from the West have successfully campaigned to besmirch our reputation as a country full of barbarians. These lobbies have been so successful in their campaign that the West has on several occasions questioned the desirability of funding a nation in turmoil due to ethnic strife.

The Attorney-General or the Solicitor General is sometimes bludgeoned with questions about our human rights record against the Tamil minority at International conferences. As long as these lobbyists are kept satisfied, we would get our aid from the West. These agencies measure our human rights violations and the respect of the rule of law on the preventive actions of the Government towards the minorities.

But what is the true human rights track record of our government? Has the essential requirement of the rule of law, of equality of treatment-the concept that no one was above the law and that criminal law of the land had been applied to every person without distinction? Or have the people who had supported opposition been scandalized, victimised, brutalised and even murdered with the help of the police, the army and the underworld? Has the law enforcement agencies given orders not to make any inquires or arrest any suspect in matters connected with political crime perpetrated by the ruling party politicians against their opponents? Let us examine the track record of the government, and decide whether the exhortations of Minister Peiris are confined to one section of society or not.

(To be continued next week)

The other side of Felix

Well, Mudliyar, I have been a fan of your column and have regarded it as a cudgel wielded against lies and deception in society and in the legal sphere in particular. As such, I was deeply dismayed by the mildness of the remonstrance you administered to Rangita de Silva de Alwis' ludicrous spray paint job (gold paint no less) on Felix Dias Bandaranaike.

Her lecture was a newly emergent phenomenon in our society. It was, shall we say, a layer cake filled with 'suppressing the truth and suggesting the false' and constituted a clear case of academic integrity 'imprisoned' so to speak.

While that is understandable, how you could. Mudliyar have let this hypocrisy go unscourged? Was it gender based affirmative action on your part? Have you forgotten the following?

(1) FDB abolished the longstanding practice of holding local government elections, local bodies were scrapped.

(2) Retrospective legislation - the CJC was introduced, the injustice of which was exposed by the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) and Sarath Muttettuwegama who voted against it.

(3)Felix attacked the CRM and its head, Raja Gunasekera, then Principal of Law College, hinting that he was a CIA agent.

(4) Lord Avebury of Amnesty International was deported.

(5) The judiciary was infiltrated with people who were notorious puppets in judicial garb while Hon'ble Judges like T.S. Fernando were excoriated.

(6) The AGs Department was subject to constant pressure and intervention by Nihal Jayawickrama,who is now a born again human rights specialist.

(7) Fred de Silva, Deputy Editor of the Daily News was jailed at Felix's initiative - and Fred's health was so weakened that he died fairly shortly after the release.

(8) Public servants were ordered not to participate in MARGA Institute seminars and MARGA was slammed as a Trojan horse.

(9) Felix showed his contempt for the legal profession and his abysmal standards by patronizing a defrocked lawyer in Kandy to name only one such questionable character in one province.

(10) He disbanded the Legal Aid Committee of the Bar Association and formed his own Legal Aid Centre and took over the BASL building built by patriots like Sir Cyril Zoysa.

(12) When the profession took cudgels against him he wanted to introduce barefoot lawyers.

(13) For the first time lawyers' clerks and touts formed a union and Felix recognized it.

(14) His philosophical commitment to democracy was such that he advocated 'a little bit of totalitarianism'.

Mudliyar, I suggest you (and Ms. de Silva etc. etc.) to refresh your memory about Felix by the simple act of reading the collection of CRM statements of from 1970 to 77.

Of all of Felix's transgressions, the most dangerous was the role his conduct played in the spawning of the armed Eelam movement. Felix jailed without trial several dozens of Tamil youths for the 'crime' of hoisting black flags against the 1972 Constitution. He released them in a hypocritical pre-election amnesty in 1976 or '77. However that was after four years of incarceration and torture. After that, the Tamil youth were no longer content to hoist black flags.

Well, Mudliyar ?

A Disappointed Fan

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