Overloaded ass, prosecute the plunderers

Daily Mirror Editorial 

Even in the basically democratic world, it is widely admitted that the law is an ass, it later became a rich person’s ass and now it is an overloaded ass.   

According to figures compiled by the Justice Ministry, the number of pending cases is staggering and shocking. The statistics up to September 2016 show that there were about 750,000 cases pending in courts because of the complex, long and sometimes bribe-ridden procedures. There were 535,000 cases pending in the Magistrate Courts, 3,486 in the Supreme Court, 4,817 in the Court of Appeal, 5,890 in the Civil Appellate High courts, 16,811 in the High Courts, 167,945 in the District Courts, 5,048 in the Labour Tribunals, 175 in the Board of Quazis and 5,376 in the Quazi Courts. 

An equally widely known fact or principle is that justice delayed is justice denied. So judging by the number of cases pending at different levels it is apparent that the documentary and other procedures are denying justice to hundreds of thousands of people mainly the poverty-trapped and helpless people.   

The longest delays are in testamentary cases, some of which drag on for more than a decade. Besides causing quarrels or a breakdown in relationships among members of extended families, these testamentary cases are known to have turned many lawyers into millionaires and this may be one of the main causes of the laws delays. 

These figures are more significant today because during the past two weeks most of the headlines have been about legal issues or court cases arising out of the reports by the Presidential Commission which probed the alleged bond scams in the Central bank from February 2016 to March 2017 and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Serious Acts of Fraud and Corruption (PRECIFAC).   

The reports were presented to Parliament on Wednesday and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya later announced he had called a party leaders meeting on January 22 to discuss what parliament could or should do. 

Meanwhile, the President is speaking out strongly as he has seldom or never done before. At an Elpitiya local council polls meeting on Wednesday evening the President announced the latest news directly to the people there. He told them he had come to Elpitiya after summoning a meeting with the Attorney General, the Governor of the Central Bank, the Chairman of the Commission to Investigate Allegations Bribery or Corruption (CIAOBC), the Presidential Secretary and other officials. 

Mr. Sirisena said he had given them orders to work out a speedy procedure through which those named in the commission report could be prosecuted and the billions they had plundered recovered. He said he had asked the AG to work out new laws so that the plundered billions could be recovered fast and used for the benefit of the people to whom the money belonged. The President vowed that action would be taken against politicians and officials, whatever party they belonged to or whatever ranks they held or were holding.   

Until now there have been lots of promises and pledges but little action so much so that most people are sceptical or cynical and some even do not want to vote at the February 10 elections. Therefore we hope the President will put his tough words into action and that in the coming weeks or months we will see VIP politicians or officials facing judgement and justice in courts with the procedures being expedited for jail terms to be imposed and the plundered billions to be recovered.