Again, I repeat my caveat on Sri Lankan politics which is, in its shortest form, ‘don’t beat me up’. In this case I guess I should add, ‘don’t sentence me to hard-labour’.
“In one of the most sensational convictions of recent years, the Supreme Court yesterday jailed former minister and strongman S.B.Dissanayake for two years with hard labour after finding him guilty of scandalising, ridiculing and trying to create public hostility against the highest court in the land.
Amidst tight security, including body checks, the Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, Justices Shirani A. Bandaranayake, T.B. Weerasuriya, N.E. Dissanayake and Raja Fernando ruled that Mr. Dissanayake’s speech at a ceremony in Habaraduwa in November last year had struck at the root of the determination of justice by court by eroding public confidence and whipping up public opinion against the decision and process of the court. (Island)”
The speech in question said something along the lines of ‘we will not accept the decision of the Supreme Court’ – referring to another decision. For this he was sentenced to 2 years hard labor and banned from civil service for 7 years (?!). I’m sleepy and I only have two comments.
1. Freedom of Speech?
2. An impartial judiciary? The party claiming libel is… The Supreme Court. The judge of the case is … the Supreme Court. I’m no lawyer, but in my memory Supreme Court Justices traditionally recuse themselves from cases which directly concern them.
According to the statute, justices, judges, and magistrates should recuse themselves if they have a personal bias concerning anyone in the case, or independent knowledge of the facts in dispute; if they worked on the case as a private or government lawyer; or if they or close relatives have a financial interest in the case. (Slate)
That’s an American example, but I think the concept of blind justice is fairly clear – and important. In this case the Supreme Court is deciding on a case on which they have a obvious personal bias, since they are the party claiming libel. That is, the Prosecution’s Client is … the Judges. That makes the accused, in legal terms, completely fucked. However, the actual legal passage in question seems to read.
Article 105(3) says the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal shall each be a superior court of record and shall have all the powers of such court including the power to punish for contempt of itself, whether committed in the court itself or elsewhere, with imprisonment or fine or both as the court may deem fit.
Or, in short, the Court retains the right to arbritary censorship and tyranny. This Supreme Court has decided that they didn’t like someone’s speech, and they’ve put him in jail. I think that is wrong. I hope that this ruling will – to quote the Justices Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, Justices Shirani A. Bandaranayake, T.B. Weerasuriya, N.E. Dissanayake and Raja Fernando – “strike at the root of the determination of justice by court, erode public confidence and whip up public opinion against the decision and process of the court.”