Monday, 16 December 2013
One of France’s kings was once asked about the rule of law. His infamous reply quoted for hundreds of years to define dictatorship, was “I am the state”. It is said that he was executed for his vulgar or extravagance arrogance and he was dumped in the garbage heaps of history. Yet most world leaders, with the exception of the legendary statesman Nelson Mandela, seem to have learnt little or care less about the grim warnings from world history.
As 2013 draws to a close, many legal luminaries and independent analysts believe it was one of the worst years for the rule of law and the independence of the judicial service in Sri Lanka. Not surprising, because the year began with the illegal impeachment of Chief Justice 43 Shirani Bandaranayake and is ending with CJ 44 Mohan Peiris warning that he himself had received offers to sell his independance and integrity.
An apparently disheartened Upul Jayasuriya, the outspoken President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), summed up the desperation of millions of right-thinking Sri Lankans when he cried out that if the rampant bribery and corruption, double-dealing and deception could not be stopped, then they could be legalised or there could be a ban on even speaking about the multitude of evils and injustices.
“With the country’s debt estimated to be about 6.2 trillion rupees compared to 1.3 trillion in 2005 dangerous and devastating moves are being made to raise more funds because of the unchecked plunder of the nation’s wealth”
If any more evidence is needed of the tyranny and anarchy of this era, weekend news reports provide some. While the annual assessment rates of even middle or lower class house owners are to be doubled or trebled by putting them on a capital assessment of the property value, we see the scandal of night motor races being held for the rich elites with a total exemption from entertainment and other taxes.
As a result the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) lost a huge sum in public funds with municipal officials saying they were helpless because the orders came from the Western Province Chief Minister who apparently had the full backing of VVIPs.
With the country’s debt estimated to be about 6.2 trillion rupees compared to 1.3 trillion in 2005, dangerous and devastating moves are being made to raise more funds because of the unchecked plunder of the nation’s wealth by corrupt politicians and officials from the top to the bottom. Two weeks ago the media highlighted the horrific move to destroy even part of nature to get money which had been plundered by politicians, top officials and even their criminal gangs. The State Plantations Corporation, the Jathaka Estates Development Board and Elkaduwa Plantation Limited are bankrupt and unable to pay the Employees’ Provident Fund, the Employees’ Trust Fund and gratuity benefits of the workers. So the Cabinet has given them permission to cut down tens of thousands of precious trees and pay the workers. They seem to have forgotten the legendary warning that while politics and related factors are made largely by fools it is only Nature that can make a tree.
Now we are told about a similar scandal in the Sri Lanka Central Transport Board. Last week Cabinet approval was given for the import of more than 2800 buses for the SLCTB. Here again this is being done mainly to allow the SLCTB to sell thousands of old buses and pay the EPF, ETF and gratuity benefits which politicians and officials have plundered from the workers.
These and hundreds or thousands of similar scandals are taking place because the rule of law has broken down. Subtle efforts are being made by politicians to turn the judiciary into a Government court, as seen by recent appointments and decisions. Most independent analysts justifiably believe we no longer have an ‘Aluth Kade’ but an ‘Anduwe Kade’. If the people are not made aware and if they do not act to check this trend as we saw in the Arab Spring and as we see in countries like the Ukraine,our children may find themselves not in the hub of Asia but in the hell of Asia.