Posted on October 19th, 2017

Editorial Courtesy  Ceylon Today

Sri Lanka has two conventional forms of inquiring into high stake criminal allegations: one is to conduct a mainstream Police investigation, which more or less would result in a lackadaisical inspection that might or might not result in justice being served. The second form is the Inquisitorial Commission which encompasses all aspects of law and order in the country, into a nice and cute goodie bag but would ultimately have only one purpose: reporting to the Head of State and give recommendations as to what should be done with regard to the matter. Unbeknownst the fact that these Presidential (previously Royal) Commissions of Inquiry were introduced in 1948 and is old as our Independence, it’s widely accepted that these Commissions are more efficient in completing their designated tasks. The end results of these Inquisitorial Commissions however, hold no weight at all.

We have seen the likes of the Commission of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure, following the end of the Tamil separatist war. The Commission was mandated to investigate the facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the ceasefire agreement made operational on 27 February 2002, the lessons that should be learnt from those events and the institutional, administrative and legislative measures which need to be taken in order to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the future, and to promote further national unity and reconciliation among all communities. The Commission’s report was not widely accepted due to its bias towards the local military forces.

The Udalagama and Paranagama Commission’s probing violations of human rights and complaints regarding missing persons shared a similar fate. While some Commission reports recommended that cases be taken up to a Special High Court and Truth Commission, others simply died down due to political interference and utter negligence. Even the 2012 Welikada Prison riots and the ensuing massacre of inmates resulted in several committee inquiries, various Police investigations, a singular and less recognized Prison Commission of Inquiry which yielded no results.

The findings were never made public and no prosecutions were launched. The current Unity Government came to power on promises that it will investigate and punish the perpetrators of these crimes but little has been done. As of now, it has only succeeded in delaying the long drawn process of meting out justice for cases such as the Welikada Prison riots that are currently stuck in the Appeal Court. However, if you ask the authorities, the case is ongoing. And that seems to be the case; it’s forever stuck in a time loop that has forced it to be on going, but immobile at the same time. In this current context, the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing the issuance of Treasury Bonds of the Central Bank seems to be the only hope that restores our faith in the system. With competent Commissioners who are seemingly unwilling to bend before political pressure and similarly proficient officers of the Attorney General’s Department and officers of the Criminal Investigation Department, the public has received a large amount of information about the connections that people in power have. When compared to the two, Committee on Public Enterprises, inquiries the numerous Fundamental Rights cases taken up at the High Courts, this Presidential Commission of Inquiry has made public much evidence of wrongdoing that leads us to believe that a strong case for the prosecution of several individuals on a number of charges is possible.

The Commission which wrapped up official hearing of evidence last Tuesday (17) is confident that adequate information has been collected to compile the final report. And to be honest, this has been looked forward to since the establishment of the Commission nine months ago.

If that final report, which will be handed over to the President, is neglected and lies on a shelf somewhere gathering dust, it would certainly be a tragedy.

The Unity Government’s leaders, who came harping on law and order, justice and peace, right now cannot afford to ignore that public outcry that is destined to rise if nothing happens at the end of this long and public inquiry.

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