Law of the land should prevail
It is not often that we editorialise
on a given issue for two weeks running, especially
when it concerns one individual, but this week, we
feel we must, as President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his
government moved to rein in maverick politician
Mervyn Silva, stripping him of his ministerial post
and suspending his membership of the Sri Lanka
Freedom Party (SLFP).
Last week, we posed the question as
to why Silva was being treated as a sacred cow, and
was allowed to act with impunity, bringing
Parliament, the Courts of Law and the Police into
disrepute. We also asked whether one law applied to
Silva and another to lesser mortals, the average
citizens of this country.
We pointed out that, allowing Silva
to continue in the manner that he sees fit, was
seriously eroding the credibility of both the
government and the President. In that sense, the
President’s actions this week, were welcomed by the
right thinking segments of society although, we must
note that there are still those who are willing to
stage demonstrations asking for Silva’s
This week, we make haste to point
out that the ‘punishment’ meted out to Silva, hailed
as it is in this country, as a first step on the
difficult road to good governance, would be a mere
formality in most other nations. Nevertheless, it is
an important stride in the correct direction, and
must be recognised as such.
The opposition has of course, pooh-poohed the latest
development, saying it is an eyewash, and predicting
that Silva would be restored to his former glorified
state, in the course of time. While the opposition
makes haste to condemn, we would refrain from
arriving at such judgments prematurely. However, we
daresay that such notions have arisen only because
there are precedents of such a nature.
May we also point out that, although
the decision to strip Silva of his office and
suspend his party membership is welcome news, these
are incidental events in the entire episode, where
the maverick former minister resorted to tying a
Samurdhi official to a tree, for allegedly being
absent at a meeting convened to discuss the
eradication of dengue in Silva’s political domain,
the electorate of Kelaniya.
The essence of our argument last
week was that the Rule of Law should be upheld, and
that Silva should be dealt with according to the
Law, just as the average citizen of this country
would be, had he committed a similar offence. To
date, we have not heard of any such developments.
It is argued that every individual in this country
must have equal protection from the Law. By the same
token, the Law must prosecute every individual with
equal zeal, if they are believed to have broken the
Law. We can elaborate our argument with three ready
examples: Mervyn Silva, General Sarath Fonseka and
Kumaran Pathmanathan, alias ‘KP’.
Silva, until last week, appeared to
enjoy untold liberties with the Law, as we have
discussed in these pages. General Sarath Fonseka,
the country’s most decorated war hero until a few
months ago, is now on trial. KP, a criminal wanted
by Interpol and the financial kingpin of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is now in
detention, but the authorities have yet to charge
him and put him on trial.
We are not for a moment suggesting
that General Fonseka is above the Law, just because
he commandeered the Army at a time it crushed the
LTTE. Indeed, if he has committed offences in the
process, he should be brought to justice. But the
Law should pursue and prosecute the likes of Mervyn
Silva and KP with the same alacrity. When that does
not happen, the confidence in the ‘system’ is
eroded, and the government is accused of dispensing
justice in an arbitrary and selective manner.
Of course, many would succumb to the
temptation of prejudging Mervyn Silva. He runs the
risk of being found guilty until proven innocent,
because his reputation precedes him. That is a price
he will pay for the alleged sins of his past, and
because the overwhelming body of evidence stacked
These are times when the spotlight
has been focussed on the government, vis-à-vis its
commitment to human rights and good governance.
Taking action against Mervyn Silva maybe only a
speck in the larger canvas of international affairs,
but it does send a message to the world at large,
that the powers that be in this country are alive to
the concerns that are being expressed regarding the
perceived violations of civilised norms.
In this process, we hope Mervyn Silva is not a mere
sacrificial lamb. Instead, we would want it to be a
giant leap in the attitudes of this administration,
even if it is only a small step against a small man.