Judicial process impaired, scant justice- Bishops

[TamilNet, Sunday, 15 April 2001, 12:48 GMT]
"Ordinary citizens who are suffering have scant hope of obtaining even elementary justice at the hands of the traditional guardians of law and order. People have the perception that the judicial process too has been impaired", said the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka Sunday in a statement issued to the press Sunday.

The Conference urged government and opposition leaders to set up independent commissions for the Police and judicial services and for conducting elections to restore good governance in the island. The statement, however, was silent on the nature of a settlement to the islandís civil war, reflecting the deep fissure in Sri Lankaís Catholic Church along ethnic lines, the genesis of which some analysts attribute to the indigenising initiated by Vatican 2.

A statement signed by Bishop Owald Gomis, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka, and Bishop Malcolm Ranjith, the Secretary, was issued to the press Sunday.

The following is the full text of the statement:

"We, the Catholic Bishops of Sri Lanka, have been watching with dismay, for some time, the moral decadence and break down of law and order in our land. A culture of violence has been escalating with each successive government for the past two decades and more. Now it has become the order of the day.

Ordinary citizens who are suffering have scant hope of obtaining even elementary justice at the hands of the traditional guardians of law and order. People have the perception that the judicial process too has been impaired.

When we think of the unprecedented election-related violence and vote rigging in the past 2 decades or so, we have to conclude that the present day national disintegration is clearly linked to a flawed electoral process and a governance of the country that is based on expediency rather than on justice and fair play.

Any attempt, therefore, to arrest this national malaise should necessarily be connected to the cleansing of the electoral process and to the setting up of structures necessary to ensure good governance.

Here we confine ourselves to mentioning some of the minimum safeguards needed to ensure cleaner elections and a transparent government, even though we are aware that these safeguards by themselves, would not totally eradicate all evil practices.

As a first step then, it is of paramount importance to set up statutorily - and that without delay - four important commissions, namely: -

  • 1.Independent Police Commission
  • 2.Independent Public Service Commission
  • 3.Independent Elections Commission
  • 4.Independent Judicial Service Commission


A truly independent conducting of elelctions vis-a-vis the exercise of powers deemed to belong to the Executive President even during election time has also to be ensured. In this regard we can learn from countries like Bangladesh, which have constitutionally provided for the conducting of major elections under a caretaker government.

The rising crescendo of voices in Sri Lanka today calling for the setting up of the four above mentioned commissions immediately would appear to reflect a deep desire on the part of the people for justice, transparency and impartiality in governance.

As responsible leaders who have the good of the country at heart, we have to declare that all future elections ought to be conducted with the four independent commissions' set up and functioning.

We then call upon all our political leaders, both in government and in the opposition to give proof of their credibility in good governance by setting up immediately the four independent commissions above mentioned. Only then, we believe, can true democracy, the rule of law and the restoration of peace and harmony become possible."

 

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