JO Challenges Court Order for WW

Let court decide WW’s case

A big ha ho is being made these days over the arrest and remanding of National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa, with even demonstrations being planned by the Joint Opposition. Weerawansa was arrested on a court order, obviously after a thorough examination of his case by the judge. The JO, as is its wont, has seized on this opportunity to gain maximum political mileage and has even gone to the extent of challenging the court order.

It is indeed strange that not much noise was made by the Joint Opposition following the arrest and remanding of Yoshitha and Namal Rajapaksa on the more serious felon of money laundering. Is the JO then conceding that there is sufficient material for the arrest of the junior Rajapaksas and that this was not the case in respect of Wimal Weerawansa? Ditto for the likes of Jonston Fernando, Mahindananda Aluthgamage et al.

In the eyes of the JO, they are indeed guilty and not so Wimal. If not, how can one explain the lukewarm response to their arrests compared to what we see now in respect of WW. Is it because the JO is today badly missing the anti minority tirades of Weerawansa?

We are not here passing judgement on WW. He is only in remand custody. He may, or may not be guilty in respect of the charges brought against him. This is entirely a matter for the court to decide. But what cannot be condoned is the challenge mounted against a court order by JHO stalwarts, among whom are leading lawyers.

Not long ago we saw the ugly spectacle of a court being lain siege to by a mob, led by persons in saffron. This was their way of showing contempt for a court order. Is this now going to extend to the country’s lawmakers, no less, who should know better? Weerawansa is only one among many languishing behind bars. What about the others placed in the same predicament but have not the power or influence to mobilize support of the kind commanded by WW?

There is also another dimension to the whole affair. Attempts are being made to rope in others, who are said to be complicit in the offence for which Weerawansa has been accused of. One of them, Deputy Minister to WW at the time, Lasantha Alagiyawanna, while admitting to using Ministry vehicles, is on record saying that these vehicles were used solely relating to development purposes and obtained following the laid down procedure while then Chairman of the State Engineering Corporation Ashu Marasinghe says that he had already given statements to the FCID. He is being accused by the Weerawansa front for following up on WWs orders and issuing directions for the release of the vehicles but the police letting him off.

As has already been observed in an editorial of an English weekly, a Minister is the lord of all he surveys in his domain and it is unthinkable that his orders can be countermanded by his subordinates, short of being thrown out on a limb. This truism has held under all governments since independence and this government is no exception, although there had been officials, along the way, who had stood up to irregular and illegal orders issued by the Minister, as pointed by the editorial, and left with their heads held high. Knowing Weerawansa, who is used to having his way, as demonstrated by his getting then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa evict the policemen guarding the UN compound in Colombo so that he (Weerawansa) and his mob could do as they please (the scene went viral on Social Media), it is doubtful that any official would have had the mettle to go against his minister.

The bone of contention here is the 40 vehicles requisitioned by WW from the SEC had been placed at the disposal of his relatives, members of NFF, clergy and journalists, among others. It is obvious that these personages could not have used these vehicles for facilitating development or supervising projects. It is difficult to comprehend that any of these persons could have had the knowledge or aptitude for such tasks, particularly the relatives of WW and members of the Sangha.

Hence it is reasonable to assume that the 40 vehicles, said to have been hired at a cost of Rs. 90 million to the state, had been used for purposes other than that related to the ministry and most probably used for political work, particularly that connected to WW in the Colombo district.

Be that as it may, staging protests, openly challenging court orders, have become a recent trend in this country. We saw this in Hambantota the other day. If allowed to continue unchecked, it may lead to a serious situation where the law’s supremacy itself will come to be challenged.

Drastic action should be taken, if things are not to deteriorate further. Open defiance of court orders should not be permitted at any cost. If need be, laws should be introduced to deal severely with protest leaders who act against a court order.