16 December 2012

Impeachment moves into Sakvithi-Mode

Sakvithi Ranasinghe, accused of swindling clients of millions of rupees, is reported to have undressed himself in court on Friday to protest procedure.  Not everyone undresses in public in a literary sense, but many do so metaphorically.  These are days of accusation and conjecture, selective references to rules and regulations and shrill protests and counter-protests.  These are days of appearances. These are days of undressing, unwitting for the most part. 

C.A. Chandraprema, columnist for The Island and well known political analyst recently stated that the accusations of vindictiveness against the government to the effect that proceedings against the Chief Justice do appear to have some logic.  To paraphrase, he said, ‘Charges are leveled against a person and thereafter his wide, who is the Chief Justice (CJ), determines that the signature development project of the Government is unconstitutional, a determination followed by impeachment proceedings; “vindictiveness” can be construed.’
The Government has, by omission certainly and possibly by commission, politicized the process, adding credence to the vindictive-accusation.  This has led to a situation where the veracity of evidence is being question and charges are being leveled on counts of fabrication.  What is indisputable, though, is the fact the CJ’s own documents compromise her to the point of impeachment.  Her documents impeach her and moves to frill the process and turn it into a circus only robs sobriety from it and impeaches the Government on true intent. 

On the other hand, if the Government wanted a circus, it seems that those who oppose the impeachment have agreed to provide the clowns.  It has come to a point where political acrobats are being upstaged by politico-legal clowns.  Let’s talk more about appearances.
People have short memories.  The first to raise objection to Shiranee Bandaranayake was the Opposition.  This was long before the Divi Neguma Bill came up.  The shrill objectors included NGO personalities with sad, clownish and pernicious track records.  Today they attend demonstrations supporting the CJ, appearing as though they’ve burnt to cinders their ‘good governance’ handbooks.  They could, if they believe they are honest (which they are not) fault the Government for what appears to be a witch-hunt but raise queries about issue of propriety in the CJ’s behavior with respect to her many bank accounts, strange deposit-withdrawal records and interest-conflict in handling the Ceylinco case.  Instead, they appear to be playing moment-politics spurred by regime-hatred.    That’s self-stripping of a kind.

Then we have the lawyers playing kattadiya and turning the Supreme Court into a thovil-maduwa, a circus in its own right.  If the Government is finger-poking and thereby desecrating those hallowed chambers of justice, these ladies and gentlemen are but playing accessories-after-the-fact or worse, besting the Government in some strange game to turn the judiciary into a laughing stock in the public eye.   They have played political-entourage to the CJ’s manifest assumption of a political persona.  They’ve cheered the CJ and the CJ has acknowledged with tacit if not open encouragement.  
The independence of the judiciary and especially the Supreme Court, then, in this instance at least, has been damaged not by the executive or legislative but by the lawyers and judges themselves.  Self-immolation, one might call it.  It can also be called self-stripping.  How this impacts the CJ’s ability to hear cases where clients are represented by what might be called (members of) her cheering squad does not require elaboration. 
Then there are those special lawyers, those who have been retained to represent the CJ’s interest directly and those, like Wijayadasa Rajapaksa, who are batting for her outside the impeachment process.  It is strange that some of these very people have and are representing Ceylinco against the depositors who were robbed of millions and millions of rupees.  Strange, also, because of a) the CJ’s decision to) take over the case, b) the manifest leniency on the accused and foot-dragging in concluding the case in contradiction of assurances given to depositors, and c) the involvement in purchasing a Ceylinco property.   Nothing illegal about it of course but it is still hard to digest.

Politicians strip themselves often enough.  That’s not news. Here, though, we are seeing a new set of strippers, who don’t want to acknowledge stripping and would have us believe they are fully clothed. 
At the end of the day, Sakvithi Ranasinghe looks more clothed than this lot.  More honest.  And that, ladies and gentlemen is not something to laugh about. 

[Published in 'The Nation', December 16, 2012]