Ex-Judges in politics

Daily News Editorial

Controversy continues to dog former Chief Justice Sarath Nanada Silva, perhaps, a carryover from the days when he was lord and master of all he surveyed, on the Supreme Court Bench. Following a decent interval, where he was relatively silent, appearing in a political event organised by the Joint Opposition, Silva, on Monday, once again acted true to form, venturing out into a political diatribe, this time targeting Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. His bone of contention, like all the speakers at the event, including Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, was that Samaraweera was pursing with the joint UNHRC resolution with gusto, in Geneva, to prosecute the country’s war heroes, while this is no longer an issue, with even the US, under Donald trump, what with those who championed such a course of action, such as Samantha Power and Navy Pillai, no longer in the equation.

However, Sarath Silva, as is his wont, deviated from the script and took aim at Samaraweera, on a personal level, insisting among other things that Samaraweera would not have a breath left in him today to enjoy his customary drink, if not for the efforts of the valiant soldiers, who ensured peace and security in the country, so that the likes of Samaraweera could give full play to their indulgences.

Sarath Silva, no doubt, invites controversy, whenever he opens his mouth. This proclivity of his was seen even during his reign on the Bench, where, his judgements, according to many, were tainted by politics and his brash and abrasive manner intimidated counsel who appeared before his Bench. It was this self same Sarath Nanda Silva who made one of the most controversial statements when, in the run up to the last Presidential Election, he in fact did a Mea Culpa, begging forbearance from the public for not sending Mahinda Rajapaksa to gaol (This is British Spelling for Jail -TW), for the latter’s involvement in the Helping Hambantota saga, where Tsunami relief was siphoned off into private accounts. Sarath Silva also made another controversial statement, this time absolving Yoshitha Rajapaksa of money laundering, while investigations in this regard were proceeding, on how Rs. 240 million was obtained by the latter to set up the Carlton Sports Network. On that occasion, Silva made yet another controversial statement that a particular TV channel was set up using LTTE funds and so why accuse only Yoshitha.

The Television channel concerned, replayed the footage of Sarath Silva’s remarks on Helping Hambantota continuously, even dramatising it. It is ironic, to say the least, that the selfsame TV channel gave full play to Sarath Silva’s remarks at Monday’s Joint Opposition political event, clearly demonstrating that self interest had taken priority with this channel at the expense of true dissemination of news. The former Chief Justice, who now speaks of the valiant contribution of the soldiers, who made it possible for the likes of Mangala Smaraweera to enjoy a tot, due to the changed security situation in the country, it must be said, cared little for security, at a time, when the threat of Tiger suicide bombings was highest in the city, ordering, as he did, from his perch on the Supreme Court Bench, to bring back all inmates of lodgings who were evicted by the forces and taken to a detention centre in Vavunia. He was also not overly concerned about security when he chided the military for stopping office vans during their routine checks on vehicles.

Be that as it may, Minister Samaraweera, it must said, should be commended for the onerous task he is performing to rid the country of the stigma, it was under, during the Rajapaksa years. The US notwithstanding, the country has to honour its international obligations and covenants, to which it is a signatory. It is the rejection of such protocol that brought the country into the sorry pass during the Rajapaksa era that saw even a British Prime Minister censure our rulers while in the country as a guest. Are Gotabhaya and Sarath Silva insisting that Sri Lanka ditches the UN, and go our own way, just because the US has washed its hands off Sri Lanka. The President and Prime Minister have already ruled out foreign judges in the country. Besides, Sri Lanka has been granted two more years of leeway, to honour its obligations, by the UNHRC. Hence what Gotabhaya, Sarath Silva and their ilk are attempting is a political show to paint the government as the villain.

This column has made this point before and we repeat. Firm measures are called for to ban retired judges, and certainly, former members of the Supreme Court, entering the political arena upon their retirement. It is unbecoming of the dignity and majesty in which the Supreme Court is held for one of its former members to descend to the depths of plunging himself into the cesspit of politics, which today is being scorned and reviled by the public. When a former Chief Justice, no less, becomes a willing tool of crafty politicians, what the judiciary will be reduced to is best left unsaid.