JUSTICE, LEAVE THAT CHEAT ALONE: Despite the sterling verdicts handed down by the judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular, there may be merit in pragmatically overlooking the puerile shenanigans of a despicable coup machine? Towards stability and in the interests of restoring a more salutary status quo, there is a case to be argued for turning a Nelsonian eye on retributive justice – so that natural law (that of the voter) might take its course in the fullness, or even relative immediacy, of time – AFP
We must, if we are rational beings and not mindless beasts, treat the herd instinct with due vigour. In the week before the Incarnation of the Son of God, a Son of the Soil seems fit for Crucifixion. The UNP’s sleek bloodhounds, some crossover SLFP hyenas with tail between legs, and the Household help in the shape of the JVP are all baying for his blood.
But while Maithripala Sirisena no doubt deserves the castigation he got at the hands of the Supreme Court, we would do well to pause before we inflict a further flogging. The sting-ray’s whiplash seems to have subdued our errant head of state in at least one fundamental way. He has seen the error of his ways – with a little help from bewigged justice and bewildered judged – and bowed the knee before common sense to reappoint his erstwhile coalition partner as prime minister again.
With that said, his singular lack of decency and abysmal sense of what it takes to be a republican president cost his brand of democracy in general and our country in particular dear. From the loss of Lonely Planet’s No. 1 in 2019 to an agonised “it’s the economy, stupid!” – Sri Lanka has gone from being the prettiest girl on the beach to a pariah whom every country in the world save a brace or three would cross the road to avoid. This alone, on top of which the long hard slog to win back friends and influence financiers, deserves some serious punitive measures.
And perhaps, while the new/old/same old government struggles to get its act together and the nation-state back on track, the polity together with civil society’s more sterling institutions such as the courts could investigate measures to identify and punish those agents instrumental in our island’s mostly costly coup. But let’s leave the president out of a possible groundswell to impeach him, shall we?
Not because we love the way our chief executive has conducted himself in the past few days – after almost two months of personal madness and political mayhem. But because we love our nation-state more! And the so-called ‘democratic-republicans’ back in the places of power could or should be given a decent stab at righting the ship again.
But even the most cursory glance over a certain constitutional clause might give those hankering for justice cause to consider impeachment. And in case you don’t have your personal copy of the Constitution handy, let me drop some salient clauses in your lap. Not that the president alone is culpable of all these single-handedly, having had some stalwart support along a dolorous way.
And so, in seeking to prosecute the president, the former (fake or faux, or to be kind, de facto) prime minister and their cabal and cohort, keep these at top of mind recall:
First, a general charge, which the prez seems inclusively subject to and eminently in violation of:
“Article 28. The exercise and enjoyment of rights and freedoms is inseparable from the performance of duties and obligations, and accordingly it is the duty of every person in Sri Lanka –
(a) to uphold and defend the Constitution and the law;
(b) to further the national interest and to foster national unity”
Then, the specific provision with regard to the vacating of presidential office:
“Article 38 (1): The office of President shall become vacant –
(2) (a) Any Member of Parliament may, by a writing addressed to the Speaker, give notice of a resolution alleging that the President is permanently incapable of discharging the functions of his office by reason of mental or physical infirmity or that the President has been guilty of –
(i) intentional violation of the Constitution”
And now that the Supreme Court has held that he is ultra vires in regard to the dissolution of parliament and the calling for a snap poll, this too:
“Article 33 (f): to do all such acts and things, not being inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution or written law as by international law, custom or usage he is required or authorized to do.”
Voila. Bingo. Ergo, the baying of the bloodhounds in the post-coup thicket. But, consider this. We, on the cusp of limping back to the pre-coup status quo, could do with a nice long break from matters courtly and constitutional. The last thing a handicapped nation needs is to be hamstrung by a painful, protracted impeachment process. Best to let it go, let somnolent canines lie (let the reader understand), and let ‘natural justice’ – the power of the ballot – take its course in the fullness (and relative immediacy) of time. There is such a thing as discretion being the better part of valour – and it is not at all about the quality of justice being strained; or mercy; or any other such noble virtue as clemency. Rather the opportunity cost being minimal to a nation reeling under the hammer blows of the late not so great dastardly coup. Instead let it go.
To the president and his pseudo prime ministerial plotters: tough justice has spoken loud and clear! Rough justice a clarion call you might hear anytime soon down the campaign trail? And poetic justice if – despite the wheeling and dealing behind the scenes – some broad and unexpected political front combines forces to impeach the chief executive troublemaker after all….
(Journalist | Editor-at-large of LMD | Writer #SpeakingTruthToPower)