Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sri Lanka: Attorney General under the president

By Kumar David - Peter the Great is widely thought to be the man who transformed Russia. Before him it was a backward landmass that Europe ignored if not despised. He dragged old Muscovy, kicking and screaming, out of barbarian medievalism into modernity and empire. He transformed country and culture, industry and army; in popular imagery he created the Empire and is Russia’s greatest emperor. When cruel winter ensnared powerful Sweden’s greatest soldier, Charles XII, Peter scorched the earth, and nature and Emperor conspired to defeat Charles’ invading army in 1709 at Poltava.

Europe had to wake up; a new great power had arrived. The Chinese are arriving differently, by exporting containers jammed chockfull of durables and inviting the whole world to come ogle the 2010 Shanghai Expo!

However, there is another side to Peter which is less known; he was a man of energy and drive, but also ruthless determination and cruelty. Did you know that he had his son, heir to the throne the Tsarevich Alexis, lashed with a whip that cut flesh to the bone, on charges of treachery? Alexis died a prisoner in his father’s fortress in 1718; and more strangely, did you know that Peter himself acted as prosecutor and judge at that trial? In modern times this is like placing the Attorney General’s Department directly under the President! Three hundred years ago absolute monarchies were indeed absolute, but we are said to have moved on a bit, are we not? Well, clearly not when an electorate bestows absolute power on incumbents.

The Executive Prosecutor

There has been a report in a local newspaper that moves are afoot to move the Attorney General’s Department under the president, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), an organisation for which I have much respect, issued a statement describing the prospect as a further attack on the rule of law. The crux of the AHRC’s position is as follows:
“Since 1978 the institution of the Attorney General’s Department has been subjected to serious undermining. This has been documented by observers and human rights organisations in considerable detail. However, despite of this undermining the institution has remained an independent entity and to a greater degree the officers of the institution have tried to maintain the old traditions which go back to about 125 years. The previous attempts to undermine the institution have seriously damaged its credibility and particularly the office of the Attorney General himself has lost public confidence. However, this new move will damage the institution substantially and above all it will damage the image of the institution as it will be seen as one directly controlled by the executive president.
For reasons of presentation the AHRC has, rhetorically, retained the fiction of an AG whose portfolio “remained an independent entity”, but no honest observer familiar with its track record from Brace Girdle, the disenfranchisement of plantation Tamil workers, to the Sarath Fonseka sham, will buy that fiction. That however is not the punch line of the AHRC statement which is that the takeover will one more nail in the coffin; one more step on the road to consolidation of despotic government in the Island.
If and when the president takes over the AG’s Department expect the following.

(a) The prosecution of crooks loyal to the president and the regime will cease; today’s charade will become tomorrow’s norm.
(b) AG’s advice to the executive on constitutional matters will become an “insider trading” sham; the AG will be instructed what advice to tender.
(c) Pardons, withdrawal of cases and such like will become presidential political gambits; miscreants from drug peddlers to politically useful villain will get away unscathed.

I do not take offence at readers who yawn at these comments. It is now the norm and the usual rejoinder is “face the facts, this is reality, accept and live with it, there is nothing you can do about; this is modern Sri Lanka and if the regime wants to screw you, as did Peter the Great the Tsarevich Alexis, nobody will lift a finger.” Thanks to the overwhelming mandate bestowed by the people on the regime, the only force that could have pushed back dictatorship, the people, has instead been co-opted into service.

The tip of the iceberg

Shoving the AG’s Department into the presidential toolkit is only the start; the real deal is the constitutional sham on its way. True enough the current crop of pro-government left leaders are intellectual lightweights lacking the gravitas of the NM generation, but at one time even they did bawl their heads off about the “dictatorial JR Constitution”. Now they unabashedly cheer the extension of constitutional bonapartism to naked authoritarianism. And what’s on this menu? The Thirteenth Amendment will stay in limbo (no police or land powers) though what terminology will be agreed with the Indians so that the latter can continue to pretend that they are being hoodwinked remains to be seen. Tissa Vitharana’s APRC Reports will remain at the bottom of the presidential wastepaper basket.

The main course on the menu is a third term for Rajapaska, or the complete removal of term limits through the device of an executive prime minister. The Seventeenth Amendment will be castrated to turn elections, police and other commissions into name boards. What’s wrong with removal of term limits you may ask; if the people have confidence and desire to re-elect him, so be it you may say.

Mark my words, as sure as night follows day, once term limits are removed the next and subsequent elections will be shams, frauds, fixes; that’s how the system will work. We are headed for Gotterdammerung, the Twilight of the Gods. Those rigged elections in six years time will make Marcos blush like a Mother Theresa! With the death of democracy, maybe some day people will have to pursue those other ways in which illegitimate governments are removed. Maybe, but for now, weep not for the people; their mandate was the executioner’s certificate.

© Lakbima News

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Bookmark and Share

No comments:

Post a Comment

© 2009 - 2014 Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  © Blogger template 'Fly Away' by 2008

Back to TOP