Ranjan Ramanayake’s release and the cases against him on Contempt of Court certainly raises many issues about how our legal system covers or addresses the subject of Contempt.


Lucien Rajakarunanayake

Ranjan Ramanayake’s refusal to accept any official position shows a commitment to independent action after gaining limited freedom from imprisonment.

The limited freedom that Ranjan has received with no civic rights is in fact a huge insult to one who has been an active politician elected to parliament by the people with a huge mandate.

The whole principle of release from prison is giving the person the ability to carry on what has been one’s system of living. The absence of civic rights to Ranjan is a denial of his system of life – politics, representation of and service to the people – that prevailed before he was sentenced to prison by the Supreme Court.

Ranjan’s present release and the cases against him on Contempt of Court certainly raises many issues about how our legal system covers or addresses the subject of Contempt.
The reality is that we do not have a Contempt of Court legislation passed by our Parliament, through 74 years of independence. Such legal delays are not confined to Contempt of Court, but several other important areas of action – social, economics, and human rights too.

Our immediate neighbour India, which completed 75 years of independence last week, has shown a major difference. India has moved away from the colonial clasp and brought in good legislation to serve the citizens, and also confine the Courts – Supreme Court included, on the requirements of justice in dealing with the power of the Courts vs the power of the People.

Here are just two major examples. In a case where a Justice Karnan had consistently committed criminal contempt, scandalized several judges and accused them of corruption and impartiality,.. The Court held him guilty for criminal contempt of court and sentenced him to 6 months imprisonment.

In another case, where Prasant Bhushan, a lawyer, was charged under contempt proceedings, directly scandalizing the administration of justice… He was found guilty of criminal contempt and a fine of Rupee 1 to be paid by him, in failure of which he would be punished with 3 months imprisonment and debarred from practicing law for three years.

What Ranjan Ramanayake suffered in the last two years, facing his four-year term of imprisonment, and five years in another case, makes the complete mockery of the justice system in Sri Lanka. While the courts are respected, they should not be the sole deciders on crime – whether contempt or any other, but be guided by legislation.

This is not an issue that affects Ranjan alone. It affects all our citizens, and exposes the failure of our legislature, and political parties – leaders and members to address key issues facing the citizens of Sri Lanka.

This failure to improve legislation in many areas of activity, and keep our police and other aware of proper legislation, was shown in much activity by the personnel who were handling the Aragalaya activists at Galle Face and elsewhere.

The major ridicule of the Police was seen last weekend when a senior Police officer sought to put a stop to some Argalaya activists, who were carrying on a kite flying protest against the government’s the anti-democratic process. The Police officer wanted the activists to stop flying a large kite that was made in the image of President Ranil Wickremesinghe. He could not explain to the protesters the law against such kite flying, and had to move away with some verbal threats to the kite flyers.

“…the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) being used against citizens who entered the President’s House, in a land that’s far away from the terrorism that brought that law.The mockery of democracy is much bigger because this country has told the world that the PTA would be removed, and a more peaceful law brought in.

Ramanayake certainly faces a very big task in trying to be a peaceful and active citizen, when his citizen rights are curbed, and fighting for wider freedom has the danger of another crooked play by our so-called legal system, managed by a poor and inactive legislature.

There is an urgent need for the people to be contemptuous of the enjoyment of colonial standards by courts of law in the absence of calls for democratic legislation on the rights of the people.Ranjan’s battle for tomorrow is certainly the battle of the People!

Courtesy:The Island