Upul Joseph Fernando
It was the Judiciary which gave strength to Chandrika to end Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Government in 2004. When the 18(a) Constitutional Amendment which barred Chandrika from dissolving Parliament after one year went before the Supreme Court, the then Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and the bench halted it stating that a referendum was needed in addition to the two thirds majority in Parliament for that purpose.
As a result, Ranil’s Government fell. Thereafter, the Judiciary gave several verdicts that went against Ranil’s Government. In the end when Chandrika took over three ministries of Ranil’s Government, the Supreme Court gave the ruling in favour of Chandrika. Since Sarath N. Silva was appointed as the Chief Justice by Chandrika and he was giving verdicts in favour of Chandrika, civic organizations and the Free Media Movement which claimed that Silva had charges against him pressurized the UNP to introduce an impeachment on Silva.
Before a general election was held in 2001 to form a government, the impeachment motion on Sarath N. Silva was made to disappear by Chandrika. The United National Party went before the people at the 2001 general election targeting Chandrika and seeking a mandate to impeach Sarath N. Silva. Though the UNP won the election, Ranil did not work towards ousting Sarath N. Silva.
Finally, Sarath N. Silva and his bench gave strength to Chandrika to oust Ranil’s Government. Having learnt a bitter lesson at that time, Ranil who formed a government under President Maithripala Sirisena this time decided to send Chief Justice Mohan Peiris home before he started his administration.
Mohan Peiris was made the Chief Justice by Mahinda after the Court decided in favour of the impeachment motion brought against Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake. That indicated that Mohan’s appointment was not legal.
After Mohan was ousted, it was thought that Shirani would be re-appointed; Maithri and Ranil earlier assured her justice during the presidential polls campaign before coming to power. That was included in Maithri’s election manifesto too. What truly happened was that the Maithri Government cleared the road to her to have an honourable retirement, while Justice Sripavan was made the Chief Justice. That action looked an injustice caused to Shirani as she was prevented from continuing in that office at least for sometime by the Ranil Government.
Now, the Supreme Court has given a hard hitting determination to Ranil’s Government. That is by preventing the arrest of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and also by putting off the hearing off his fundamental rights petition by five months. Gotabhaya’s counsel held the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) of the police was illegal.
The Maithri-Ranil Government gets corruption and fraud by members of the previous government probed through the FCID. It is the FCID which grills and arrests suspects involved in fraud and corruption. When the 19th Amendment was to be moved in Parliament, the pro-Mahinda group in Parliament told Maithri that if the FCID was disbanded they would support the amendment. That was also mooted at the Mahinda-Maithri talks in Parliament recently. But Maithri did not implement that proposal. It was not done because the Maithri-Ranil Government assumed office to catch those who indulged in fraud and corruption and punish them.
Maithri and Ranil may have been hesitant to use the existing police machinery to try those corrupt in the previous government thinking that pro-Rajapaksa elements could be there in it.
Therefore, they decided to form a special unit. Initially, this unit gathered information on fraud and corruption and did not arrest anyone at that stage. The people who voted Maithri to power to form a government with Ranil looked disgusted as there was a delay in tracking down those responsible for fraud and corruption.
Even Maithri accepted that there was delay in bringing those responsible to book. In order to prevent a further delay a Presidential Commission on same lines was established. Some associates of Maithri even cracked at him asking whether he had been able to catch the rogues.
However, the FCID completed preliminary investigations and started to make arrests, the people looked jubilant.
But Mahinda loyalists looked disturbed. Initially they started to demonstrate opposite the Bribery Commission office to threaten it. Then they started to befriend Maithri with the view to have the FCID disbanded. When such attempts failed, they decided to go before the Supreme Court.
The people hated Mahinda’s Government because of corruption. People gave a mandate to Maithri to trap the rogues. Now, the Supreme Court has given a verdict against the FCID which operates to catch the rogues. When this government came to power it claimed there was massive corruption in the Galle floating armoury, Mig deal and at Lanka Hospitals. It said the floating armoury was a threat to national security.
When the authorities wanted to questiaon the former Defence Secretary in that regard, he has now obtained a Court Order in his favour preventing him being questioned or arrested. The application has been postponed to October. Now, what can the Maithri-Ranil Government tell the people about the massive corruption on floating armoury, Mig deal and Lanka Hospitals? Can it say that the Court had halted them? Can it ask Court to catch the rogues?
Or can it say there’s nothing that could be done?
The people in this country set a government in 2002 against the executive Government of Chandrika. But, Chandrika sought protection from the Judges appointed under her executive powers and they favoured her. This time the people have given a mandate to Maithri to catch rogues in the previous Government of Mahinda.
In a bid to stop that exercise of catching rogues, Mahinda’s brother had gone before the Supreme Court which comprised Judges appointed by Mahinda as the then Executive. Court has issued a determination in favour of Gotabaya. It was the same Court that permitted Mahinda to contest a third term. But the people took a decision at the last presidential election which said that Mahinda cannot rule thrice.