Better Late Than Never

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 23 2021

The Election Manifesto of then presidential candidate in the 2019 Presidential Election, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, was based on the premise of rule of law and one law for the entire nation. It said, “The legal system in a country is the foundation of a civilised society and it should operate to ensure the well-being of its people. The aim of the concept of rule of law is to build a civilised society. As such, a democratic Government should never interfere with the rule of law. Our Government shall always be dedicated to protecting the rule of law and shall not allow anyone to challenge it. 

“Only one set of laws should be applicable to the entire country and the ruler as well as all citizens should abide by the rule of law. All should be equal before the law and as long as they abide by the rule of law, citizens need not be afraid of law enforcement agencies or of law enforcement officers. An environment will be created where law enforcement agencies and law enforcement officers shall also be subjected to the rule of law.” It has been 42 days since controversial former Prisons State Minister and current SLPP MP Lohan Ratwatte allegedly made threatening armed gestures at a group of LTTE prisoners at the Anuradhapura Prison on 12 September. 

But, other than Ratwatte resigning from his ‘State Prisons’ portfolio and despite the ruling SLPP Party making ‘noises’ of probing the incident, no further action has been taken against him by the ruling SLPP Government. This is in contrast to the then UNP MP Anura Daniel of the J.R. Jayewardene Government resigning his Parliamentary Seat more than 39 years ago in April 1982 upon the discovery by Customs in Colombo of undeclared gold bars and watches valued at US$ 100,000 in his baggage on his return from Singapore. 

Though, in the case of Ratwatte, charges against him on the Anuradhapura Prisons incident are yet to be proved, however, no moves have been made by the ruling SLPP to launch a tangible probe in respect of this incident which dents the credibility of both the Executive and his Government. Nonetheless, on Friday the lead story of this newspaper published under the heading ‘SC Orders IGP to Probe Lohan’s Conduct,’ to quote excerpts said, “The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday ordered IGP C.D. Wickremaratne to conduct an investigation under the Code of Criminal Procedure and on the advice of Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam into the recent incident at Anuradhapura Prison involving ex-State Prisons Minister Lohan Ratwatte where he’s alleged to have had gunpoint threatened eight LTTE suspects detained at the Prison with death. 

He’s also charged with illegal and forcible entry into the Prison with his security convoy at midnight and behaving in a threatening and intimidating manner. The order was issued when the Fundamental Rights (FR) Petition filed by eight prisoners against Ratwatte were taken up for consideration and in response to interim relief sought on behalf of the petitioners by TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran (PC).

The Anuradhapura incident took place on 12 September followed by Ratwatte’s resigning from his ‘State Prisons Minister’ portfolio three days later on 15 September due to political pressure over the incident. Unfortunately, despite outrage displayed by those in both Government and Opposition camps, Ratwatte continues to be a State Minister in the present Government. However, the credibility of the Government will be strengthened if, even at this late stage, it also orders an independent and internal probe on the Anuradhapura incident. 

This is an opportunity for the Government to show to the world that we take the rule of law seriously: That a State Minister cannot enter into one of the most secure prisons in the country, allegedly brandishing a firearm, threatening to kill a group of political prisoners, all the while making a mockery of the criminal justice system and the rule of law of this land; without fearing the repercussions. 

The people of this country are fed up with politicians and their henchmen acting with impunity. We yearn for a political culture of decency, integrity and moral uprightness. Although this maybe a distant dream, at least we hope that the disciplined society pledged by the President will be witnessed at least among the politicians of this country. That our political leaders will start leading by example. That the rule of law will be applicable for all with no exceptions. That if someone breaks the law, the criminal justice system will punish the perpetrator, regardless of power and position. We, as citizens of this country, await the dawn of such a day!

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 23 2021

More News