Thursday, 27 December 2012

CJ’s Impeachment Issue and Jeganathan’s “Ethos of Ethics”

CJ’s Impeachment Issue and Jeganathan’s “Ethos of Ethics”
It looks like the CJ vs Government Issue i.e the impeachment issue is going to be the main drama   that will dominate the political theatre in the New Year. I was reading most of the news relating to the impeachment issue of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and one of the recent articles was written by Dr Pradeep Jeganathan to Colombo Telegraph. It seems Colombo Telegraph has most number of articles printed on this issue. Dr jeganathan talks about the “Ethos of ethics” of this issue and gives some historical perspective citing certain appointment of the prime minister of Sri Lanka in 1952 aided by the then colonial era chief justice.
A subtle as he is Dr Jeganathan touched the impeachment issue as an ethics problem so as it seems.  Rest assured loyal commenters from both sides of pre-Prabhakaran old diaspora politics can be seen from the comments line. Dr Rajasingham Narendran, I S Senguttuvan that we saw in DBS Jeyaraj’s columns are commenting as usual and also I can see one “king barnnet” supporting kings that no one wanted to support right now. And yes of course “Sinhala-only” problem also brought out by some commentators as usual. The “Sinhala only legislation” was perhaps a blunder to Colombo 7 Tamils and Colombo 7 Sinhalese, but not for us the poor Sinhala lot. I am not talking about racial politics here. This was about the jack boot of colonialism that suppressed Sinhalese and Tamil masses. Sinhala only policy tried to remove that suppression of Sinhalese from the  jack boot of colonialism by allowing Sinhalese to go into government education and government jobs thereby removing the greater inequality and injustice caused by the colonial British rulers. People like us would never have had a chance to study in Royal (Where I had the privilege of meeting Student Jeganathan) and go to higher studies, or our fathers never would have had government jobs that enable them to support us to be where we are. Yes there were some disadvantages occurred to Colombo 7 and Tamils and highly privileged burger classes which later emigrated to Australia and other countries. We can see the same thing happen in Mandela’s South Africa.  Although Tamils eye favourably towards South Africa and the Mandela policies they never accepted the Bandaranayaka policy as removing Sinhalese from colonial shackles. They took that as a threat to their privileged status and started the separatist campaign. That campaign was later hijacked by the socialist leftist Tamils and we were supportive of it as well. However later on Sinhala chauvinists used the Sinhala only policy and other added measures (like education policy) to suppress the minorities exactly as the British suppressed them.  The pooere sections of the minorities suffered the most.  Then the new national socialist type movement of Prabhakaran took over the Tamil struggle we all know where it has ended.
So who are supporting the CJ?  When the Tamil intellectuals and leftists intellectuals connected the impeachment issues with national problem then there is a problem for us. As far as people of Sri Lanka concerns they do not bother about this impeachment issue as the opposition or the lawyers want them to be. As anyone would have easily predicated Pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora also supports CJ and the current opposition as they are forever against the Government anyway.  As far as I know Dr Narendran always voiced against LTTE politics together with Jeyaraj and while Ilya Seran Senguttvan was on the fence regarding the LTTE issue. Former General Fonseka was supportive of CJ and asking her to join the politics. Perhaps he was such a lonely figure now he wants at least CJ in his boat as former CJ Sarah N Silva is increasingly taking pro-government stand. The issue of the impeachment motion is a political one which was taken by the highest level of the SL government. The issue of safeguarding  the independence of the judiciary as CJ underlined in her recent speech was not a political issue but increasingly dragged to that end by the forces and individuals mentioned above who are allegedly aligning to support the independence of judiciary not to  mention the Asian human right commission et al..
It started with JVP signing the petition with Dr Chandraguptha Theunevara and other intellectuals. Soft spoken Dr Thenuvara was studying in Russia and I knew him then as a leftist representing the old left. Independent of judiciary was simply non-existent in old Soviet union where he and I studied. Anura Kumara Dissanayake representing JVP was signing the petition too. JVP affliates it’s foreign policy with China and JVP attends Chinese Communist party functions too. In short they support Chinese model. Arguably China is not a country we can take as an example of safeguarding the independence of judiciary. UNP led by Ranil Wickrmasinghe is somewhat muted in response to Impeachment motion although they seem to support CJ. They are reeling from not so friendly judgments against them by the courts of the country and judging by the opposition leader’s attitude he is on the fence. Then comes the Tamil diaspora (pro LTTE or not) mentioned earlier, exiled journalists, exiled websites and editors etc. The same lot supported former General Fonseka’s campaign for presidency too. And lost.
Most sensible approach we can see from Deepthi Kumara Gunarthane’s (DKG) vanguard (Peratugami) party and Kumar Gunerathnam’s Frontline Socialist party. DKG of Vanguard party also connect the CJ issue with the national problem and according to him if Sri Lanka can  find a solution to the  national problem these other problems may solve itself. (Please refer to:
 I doubt that but that’s what those commentators to Dr Jeganathan’s article and Dr Jeganathan himself seems to believe as well. Subtleness of Jeganthan obscured it cleverly from the article of ethos and ethics. (Ref:
Frontline socialist party’s Pubudu Jayagoda supported CJ while commenting on the impeachment issue, but he and his party seems to shy away from any street action regarding the issue.
For ordinary people in Sri Lanka this impeachment issue is not an issue as much as issue of another high rise building going up in Colombo with another higher rate Chinese loan. They have lost their daily bread to Lamborghini imports and whether the fact that current CJ would survive in her post or not, is not going to change their attitude.

I would have preferred if Dr Jeganathan looked at more recent history of Sri Lanka for ethics and Ethos than colonial era. It is not for me to suggest but I can’t help pointing out that Felix Dias Bandaranayake set the trend in motion in late 70s during the dying days of Sirima Government. Independence of Judiciary eroded slowly in Island of Sri Lanka taking heavy beatings from JRJ government , RP government and CBK governments. Specially,  during the tenure of former CJ Sarath N Silva, we heard many stories of Judges and lawyers engaged in many sort of activities behind the court rooms. So for ordinary people in Sri Lanka there is nothing lost. To safeguard an independence of Judiciary there should be one to safeguard.  This is not mean to say that behaviour of the government of SL is right or I am justifying it Far from it. But I am merely pointing out the fact the lawyers can agitate against the impeachment motion and may even succeed stopping it. But very same lawyers were the ones taking money from poor clients, dragging court cases and harassing people of Sri lanka with their exorbitant charges while getting rich. Not all the lawyers but majority are. CJ’s husband was appointed to run the bank by this government and CJ herself was appointed by this government.  We all know these facts and as we can see CJ (and her family) was part of the well –oiled government machinery not so long ago. It is more like government vs government issue rather than people vs the government.  It seems to be unfair on CJ because those representing the government in parliament select committee consist of corrupted ministers according to media reports. So how can they judge the CJ did anyting wrong when they have done even worse.
Sri Lanka does not have a liberal capitalism characterised by people and businesses generally paying due taxes, bureaucrats are less corrupted, people are generally law abiding, police and judiciary are independent and governments do not interfere with judicial process.  So the solution to this problem lies with changing the entire political system rather than changing the regime. Providing a solution to national question or removing Sinhala as stage language or lamenting Sinhala only policy and giving equal right to Tamil (It is already a national language) would not solve the current problem with Judiciary and Executive. Actually I can’t really see a problem. CJ is yet to show whether she is really independent or nor. Even if she works hard to save the judiciary under the current corrupt political system she would not survive anyway.

Ajith D


Pradeep Jeganathan said...

I don't understand why you think sinhala only was a good thing in 1956? Surely it should have been sinhala and Tamil? Second I think an ethos of ethics matters everywhere. From the school teacher to the grams niladhari. Maybe SC and CJ does not interest the 'masses'. But ethics defects every ones life.

Ajith Dharmakeerthi said...

I don't think Sinhala only is a good thing for Tamils. I accept what you say 100% that it should have been Sinhala and Tamil. But Bandaranayake was rained in by Sinahala chauvinistic elements by doing so. However most Sinhalese from villages and from middle classes benefited from it. I am sorry what happened to Tamils several times since 1958. I know it is not enough. However Tamil is a state language now with equal footing at least on the paper. We have to make it a reality and it's happening. My brother's and sister's children go to Tami language tuition even to pass the exam. - Regarding the ethics - yes ethics effects everyone. However in Sri Lankan context it seems to me that you are saying Sir Alan Rose even did it so CJ might have done something wrong so leave it and government may unethical bit so leave it. Unless I am mistaken on that.

Pradeep Jeganathan said...

OK on language. But no on ethics. I am.saying we have not been clean for some time. We need to take a bath and start.again.

Kumudu said...

Tamils also benefited from teaching in the swabhasha, that is Tamil for them.

I think you are right “Felix Dias Bandaranayake set the trend in motion in late 70s during the dying days of Sirima Government.”

You also have a point in saying that the ordinary people generally feel that they are at the receiving end with regard to the judicial process. But then many ordinary people would have benefited in general by various rights cases that have been won from time to time. I suppose the idea of an independent judiciary cannot be taken in any absolute sense. The independence is relative here. As many commentators have pointed out, with all the wrong doings on the part of the CJ , if the executive has its way at least without a protest that will be heard in society, this may be the point at which we cross the rubicon, at least for quite some time. So, I suppose the point would be that with all the weaknesses in our judicial system, if it can be saved from being completely under the control of the executive then we may have some hope of balancing the power between the executive and the legislative.

You say, “So the solution to this problem lies with changing the entire political system rather than changing the regime.” I think you are right that changing the regime won’t help. But, how do you change the entire political system. What would come in its place?

Ajith Dharmakeerthi said...

HI Jeganathan, Sri Lankan society have a big problem with attitudes to different aspect of life. I don't think we have to worry about moral principals. The 4 main religions in Sri Lanka are letting down own people as well. Rot started with political system and bad governance.

Ajith Dharmakeerthi said...

Kumudu, Yes I accept the point here. " if it can be saved from being completely under the control of the executive then we may have some hope of balancing the power between the executive and the legislative."
About the political system? I don't really have an answer to that yet. I used to live in Soviet Union and I son't think that is suitable either where judicial independence simply didn't exist. I am searching the answer from people like you, Jeganathan or any other alternative thinkers and writers. There are many but collective opinion about a suitable system of governance does not exist.