Acting Above the Law and the Arrogance of Power
By Udara Soysa
Mar 24, 2010
“Come, I will make the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.

I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America,
and along the shores of the Great Lakes, and all over the prairies,
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other's necks,
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.

For you these from me, O Democracy, to serve you ma femme!
For you, for you I am trilling these songs.
-Walt Whitman (1819-1892)”
The Sri Lankan Constitution had been criticized from time to time by various political forces. The politicos that have a history of raping the law of land through terror, thuggery, corruption and nepotism find the constitution as their convenient punching bag. However, an in-depth study on the Constitution proves that it is not the constitution but the executers of the constitution who are at fault for the current law and order predicament.

Lets take the case of the deterioration of human rights in the context of constitution. The Sri Lankan Constitution, despite its apparent tyrannical outlook linked to executive presidency, clearly protects fundamental human rights of Sri Lankan citizens. The introductory chapters of the Constitution states:

“The fundamental rights which are by the Constitution declared and recognized shall be respected, secured and advanced by all the organs of government, and shall not be abridged, restricted or denied, save in the manner and to the extent hereinafter provided; and...” “11. No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

But what then is the current reality? People are tortured on a regular basis by law enforcement authorities. "Torture is a way of life at all police stations in Sri Lanka, whether the alleged crimes investigated are those relating to petty criminal offences, serious crimes or offences under the emergency and anti-terrorism laws," according to a statement from Asian Human Rights Commission.

Last week, according to a report from the media, the Colombo Additional Magistrate charged the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) for not adhering to a court order. By not adhering to court orders, the Terrorist Investigation Division clearly shows the arrogance of power. Is the Terrorist Investigation Division above the law of the land? Is this a fault of the Constitution? The answers are clearly negative.

This is not merely a phenomenon that existed in the current administration. The Lion King mindset of “I just want to be a king” existed in Sri Lanka for decades. In an all time classic on Sri Lankan Democracy, the publication – Sri Lanka: The Arrogance Of Power, Myths, Decadence & Murder, by Rajan Hoole articulates the pathetic state of law and order in the “motherland”/”murderland” during 1980’s.

“Jayewardene had become the king he wanted to be. But his throne was shaky. The North made the King nervous. The South seemed subdued only by taking away the legitimate and visible outlets for the discontent that was seething below. Something needed to be done about the North. But a weak and decimated SLFP was unlikely to think responsibly. It was even more likely to capitalize on communal sentiments. This left Jayewardene with a tempting option, although it was approached more instinctively, hesitatingly and not always consciously and deliberately. That was to play the communal card itself in a big way, tap the worst instincts of the Sinhalese, and create a diversion by the UNP by becoming the unchallenged champions of the Sinhalese.” – (Count Down to July 1983)

The rest indeed was history. Sri lankans for decades suffered and reaped the ills that were sown by the attitudes of then J.R administration. Nearly hundred thousands of valuable lives were sacrificed. Sri Lanka cannot afford for such tragedy again.

What is the solution for this crisis of political forces going beyond the law? What is the solution for this arrogance of power? Is it a constitutional change? The answer is negative. In the current political context, we cannot expect honesty from any political party. A constitutional change is aimed more so at maintaining one party or, one-man political power, than bringing a positive change for the country. The solution for this crisis does, however, lie in bringing about such system that will positively impact the country and respond to the democratic needs and basic human rights of the citizens. At present, it is necessary to establish and activate constitutional commissions for an independent law enforcement structure that would champion more transparency and less corruption. This is the ultimate need for the protection of democracy in Sri Lanka.