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Without restoring the rule of law there is no way for Sri Lanka to achieve any progress

Image: the CID would have arrested Gamage in double quick time if she had not been a government politician.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, presenting the government’s policy statement in Parliament, on Wednesday, waxed eloquent on the need for what has come to be dubbed a system change, and promised the youth a secure future. He is not alone in doing so. There are other government and Opposition politicians who have endorsed the ongoing campaign for overhauling all existing systems to bring about national progress. But their calls for an overall system change smack of vapid sloganeering.

Action must be taken to make the systems already in place work properly before changing them. They have become dysfunctional mostly due to unbridled politicisation, corruption, bureaucratic lethargy and the subservience of the public service to the political authority. Most problems this country is currently beset with boil down to one issue—the collapse of the rule of law. This fact needs no further elaboration, and the despicable manner in which the police are handling State Minister Diana Gamage’s dual citizenship case bears ample testimony to it.

Colombo Chief Magistrate Prasanna Alwis, on Thursday, told the CID that if there was evidence that Gamage had violated the Immigration and Emigration Act, there would be no need for a warrant to arrest her. When he asked whether the State Minister had furnished false documents to obtain a passport, the CID chose to remain silent. Lawyers appearing for the plaintiff, told the media subsequently that the CID was trying to hush up facts pertaining to the case in favour of Gamage. This is a very serious allegation, which has to be probed.

Needless to say, the CID would have arrested Gamage in double quick time if she had not been a government politician. The police arrest even poor schoolgirls over minor offences.

If charges against Gamage are proved, she will lose her parliamentary seat, but that will be the least of her problems, given the severity of the offences she is alleged to have committed under the Immigration and Emigration Act. Every politician knows which side his or her bread is buttered, and does not scruple to act out of expedience rather than principle to safeguard his or her interests. Gamage, who was appointed a National List MP of the SJB, switched her allegiance to the government, and has since been rewarded with a state ministry. She has been a vociferous defender of the government and President Wickremesinghe. No wonder the brave CID officers chose to keep mum in court.

The partiality of the CID and the Attorney General’s Department to government politicians stinks to high heaven. Their kid-glove approach to crime as regards offenders with links to the government in power is, however, not of recent origin. We are reminded of how the CID and the AG’s Department opened an escape route for Mervyn Silva, when he was a minister in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. Criminal proceedings were instituted against him over ‘check kiting’, and it was an open-and-shut case, but the AG’s Department and the CID manipulated it in such a way that he got away with his crime.

All Presidents have abused their executive powers to help wrongdoers including criminals and thereby helped strengthen the argument for the abolition of the Executive Presidency albeit unwittingly. President J. R. Jayewardene pardoned Gonawala Sunil, a notorious rapist cum contract killer, and protected other UNP thugs who stoned the houses of the Supreme Court judges. Sunil joined the personal staff of Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was a minister at the time. President Ranasinghe Premadasa became a patron of many underworld figures such as Soththi Upali. President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had a notorious murderer and extortionist named Beddagana Sanjeewa in her security division; he was appointed a Reserve Sub Inspector! Her security officers functioned as shock troops. President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave presidential pardons to a murderer and drug dealers, and protected underworld characters, who did political work for his government and attacked his opponents. President Maithripala Sirisena, who promised good governance, pardoned a convicted murderer, and had no qualms about joining forces with the thieves of public funds despite having given a solemn pledge to bring them to justice. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also did not scruple to give a presidential pardon to a military officer serving a sentence for murdering a group of Tamil civilians during the war. The tradition continues; the AG’s Department and the police remain under the President’s thumb.

There is no way Sri Lanka can achieve any progress unless the rule of law is restored.

Saturday 11th February, 2023/ The Island 

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