Bitter mangoes
Posted on October 25th, 2018

Editorial Courtesy The Island

An elderly woman who has pleaded guilty to stealing 19 mangoes from her neighbour’s garden is to be sentenced by the Anuradhapura Magistrate’s Court shortly, according to a front-page news item we carried yesterday. Immediately below it was our lead story, which revealed an attempt by the Foreign Ministry to obfuscate the issue of the government’s failure to have former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran’s extradited from Singapore over the bond scams. These two reports shed light on why there has been a severe erosion of public faith in the judicial process.

The police continue to draw heavy flak for being inefficient. This criticism is unfair, in our book. Our guardians of the law easily compare with the best in the world where efficiency is concerned. They have hit headlines by swooping on schoolgirls for stealing small sums of money or a few coconuts. The problem, however, is that their high octane performance is conspicuous by its absence when the offenders happen to have links to the government in power.

The police—the CID, to be exact—will have a hard time, trying to explain why they have not considered the fraudulent acquisition of Treasury bonds as serious as the theft of mangoes, in dealing with suspects. The CID did not make an effort to arrest Mahendran or prevent him from leaving the country even after a presidential commission probe had exposed his involvement in the bond scams. The stable door having been kept wide open, an attempt is purportedly being made to bring back the horse that was allowed to bolt.

Meanwhile, it is up to Singapore to decide whether to send its citizen, Mahendran, here to stand trial, or not. If it does not, it will only be strengthening the hands of the critics of the Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA). There is the danger of some Singaporean professionals who are to be brought here under the SLSFTA fleeing the country after committing serious offences a la Mahendran. If they do a Mahendran, Sri Lanka will just have to grin and bear it. The Opposition says Mahendran is one of architects of the SLSFTA. If so, he will jeopardise that pact by not coming here to face legal action against the bond scams.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition vowed to restore the rule of law and depoliticise the legal and judicial processes. But, some people still remain too big to be caught. The police who usually go out of their way to have suspects remanded for petty thefts do not object to bail being granted to government MPs who are responsible for serious offences such as abductions and attempts to revive terrorism.

The Opposition claims it has lodged many complaints of bribery and corruption against some government grandees, but they have not been probed. The FCID (Financial Crimes Division) steers clear of ruling politicians and their cronies for obvious reasons. High speed trials are being conducted only against some Opposition big guns, accused of abusing power and public funds. Government politicians and their kith and kin are ‘more equal than others’ before the law.

The police have handled some accidents involving government politicians in such a way that a wag says the yahapalana ministers and MPs never get sozzled to the gills, much less ram their SUVs into wayside lampposts; it is the damned lampposts that get drunk, stand in wrong places and get knocked down by the squeaky clean government worthies!

The ordinary public has not benefited from Justitia remaining blindfolded; she cannot see her scales being tilted in favour of the powers that be. It looks as if the time had come for her to tear off the blindfold, see for herself what is happening and use her sword against those who meddle with the judicial process.

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