Due Process Under Fire

Due Process Under Fire

Sri Lanka 71 years after the last of the invading colonials left the island continues its struggle to implement an equitable lifestyle for all its people. Although Sri Lanka is aided in its governance by a written Constitution – albeit amended 19 times thus far – the people of Sri Lanka continue to be amazed at the lack of equity for all.

Sri Lanka’s people stare and gape in wonder at the very personalised level of the abuse of due process by none other than the country’s legislators. These legislators appear to be saying to hell with the rules, the written down provisions of the Constitution and appear to be doing precisely what they want – now they have the legislative power to do so.

The Tamil speaking people, in the majority in the North of the country have waited for a very long time for their own equity to be guaranteed by the government of the day. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe combine paid a lot of lip service but did not follow up with action. The TNA who had a comfortable presence in parliament – so comfy that they ended up with the Leader of the Opposition role, held by that mature stalwart, Sampanthan. Yet the question that begs an answer of substance is what have they achieved, for their brethren?

Rajavarothiam Sampanthan soon to be 87 years old has headed the Tamil National Alliance since 2001. The elderly politician has also been the Leader of the Opposition from September 2015 until December 2018.

In so far as the gains made by the people of the former conflict areas and the North East, North West of the island, there is no gain declaring that such gains are copacetic or faultless. Quite the contrary is the case.

There are thousands of acres of land still to be negotiated from the control of the government via mainly the armed forces. There are still thousands of families who are destitute and as many who are homeless. They continue to eke out an existence through the generosity of charity from family, friends and other do-gooders. The collective might of all these alternative ‘hope providers’ is simply no match for the intensity of the challenges faced by the residents of these areas.

The TNA under Mr Sapanthan have been rather poor in terms of delivery. They have steadfastly stood behind the Wickremesinghe government especially when it mattered most to Wickremesinghe – like the vote of confidence for instance.

It is therefore astounding to say the least that the government of the day without any form of legal or constitutional modality, have decided to allocate a house for life to Mr Sampanthan.

It is public money that is being spent on a man who had led the TNA and who has hardly delivered anything of any significance to the residents of the former conflict areas. Mr Sampanthan cannot be deserving of the thanks of the Tamil-speaking people especially when the delivery-record of the TNA is so abysmally shallow. By the same token his contribution towards reconciliation, national unity and equity for his people, does not register on any radar.

The former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who has conceded his position post the Presidential election and is now reduced to that of a backbencher however has also been the recipient of this enormous departure from due process.

There is no provision in the constitution or the law for that matter that dictates that a former Prime Minister be given the privilege of a Minister’s office in the parliamentary complex. Days prior to him becoming the minority Prime Minister in January 2015, Wickremesinghe had the most minimal security detail in place. Then he was the Leader of the Opposition.

We now observe that the former Prime Minister, leader of the UNP (only just) and one-time leader of the Opposition has a vast retinue of a security detail, a couple of bullet-proof vehicles all of which is costing the hapless citizenry in the region of RS 15 million per month.

The point of us mentioning these inalienable matters is to highlight the uneven manner in which matters work at the highest levels of government.

There is no provision for an office for the former Prime Minister, there is no provision for such a vast security detail just to boost an image and there is no earthly reason why Mr Sampanthan as the former Leader of the Opposition be granted a state-owned house for the rest of his natural life.

Whoever it is who agreed to these matters has no right conferred by any provision of the constitution or law to cause additional financial burden on the state and inter alia its people simply because they felt they must sweeten the ending of power and responsibility.

It would have been an entirely different matter if these people – in this example Sampanthan and Wickremesinghe – had contributed in an outstanding manner to the betterment of society in this island. Nothing could be further than their individual accomplishments. For brevity we may say that their “did good list” is itself brevity at best: hardly anything.

Sri Lanka cannot expect to progress much further if our politicians presume that state resources are meant to be disbursed at their individual whim and fancy to the detriment of laid down due process.

Those who accept these state benefits must surely realise that they have no natural right to be at the receiving end of such peoples generosity especially when they have failed the people ever so spectacularly.