|Tuesday, 14 September 2004|
Please forward your comments to the Editor, Daily News.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Snail mail : Daily News, 35, D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Telephone : 94 11 2429429 / 94 11 2421181
Fax : 94 11 2429210
The far reach of the Lankan judiciary
The construction of a new courts complex in Trincomalee is a sound measure of the long reach of the judicial arm of the Lankan State to every important geographical region of the country.
As Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, who presided over the launch pointed out, court houses dotting the coastal region from Pottuvil, in the Eastern Province, to Kayts and Pt. Pedro in the North, clearly indicate the far reach of the administration of justice system under the Sri Lankan State. The Chief Justice further pointed out that this system has played a positive role in promoting peace and law and order in these far-flung areas.
These home truths need to be dwelt on in these times when extravagant claims are made by separatist elements about the presence of what is called an LTTE-initiated administration of "justice" system in the North-East. LTTE propaganda notwithstanding, courts complexes are continuing to be constructed by the Lankan State in the North-East in clear proof of the vibrancy of the Sri Lankan administration of justice system.
What is more, arrangements are underway to enable the Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka to conduct sittings in these geographically distant regions. As the Chief Justice pointed out, the Lankan State is "committed and dedicated to serve the cause of justice without fear or favour, free of any kind of discrimination practised even to the slightest degree."
So, the North-East conflict is no bar to the Lankan justice system carrying out its duties and obligations to the people. In fact, it cannot allow anyone or anything to get in the way of its carrying out its constitutional duties.
The continuing establishment and expansion of court houses in even the North-East, substantiates the pronouncement of the Chief Justice that justice is being administered by the Lankan judiciary without fear or favour. It gives us the greatest joy to note that the judiciary is proving non-partisan in the most difficult of situations and is holding the scales of justice evenly among the country's religious and ethnic communities, specially in regard to their fundamental freedoms.
All this proves that the Rule of Law is being firmly defended by the Lankan judiciary. The contribution of the reign of the Rule of Law to the fostering of peace and harmony, needs hardly any reiteration. It is the sustenance of the Rule of Law which fosters in the public, a feeling of confidence in the Lankan State. The steady resolution of fundamental rights issues by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, proves its continued commitment to the tenets of justice.
By saying this we do not intend to argue that all is well with the dispensation of justice in this country. For instance, Laws Delays and equal access to justice are two issues which call for remedial measures. While steady improvements are needed in areas such as these, there is no denying that the integrity of our judiciary is largely intact.
Future of policing
Fingerprinting is so passe. But even good old fingerprinting has gone digital. All you do is place your thumb on an electronic reader and the fingerprints appear on a computer screen. While police still do rely on traditional manual or digital fingerprinting, it may not be enough to crack the hardest cases. The answer - DNA fingerprinting.
DNA is the building block of life and each individual has a unique DNA make-up. The science of matching DNA specimens from crime scenes with those of suspects and victims is now 20 years old.
Now, the scientist who discovered the technique predicts Police in the not-too distant future would be able to determine eye colour, hair colour and even facial features of criminal suspects just by their DNA. The possibilities are endless, as police will be able to draw computer-based identikits for faster recognition and tracking of criminals. DNA fingerprinting, coupled with such advanced features, will also further lessen the chances of innocent people being convicted.
The research is at the "science fiction stage" but our physical appearance is largely determined by our genetic make-up, explains Professor Alec Jeffreys on the anniversary of his discovery.
Jeffreys discovered the technique to distinguish between individuals of the same species using only samples of their DNA by accident in 1984. The technique has had implications for criminal cases, paternity, identical twins, cloning and conservation and has led to life-saving developments in medical research.
Most countries maintain huge DNA databases containing the profiles of millions of convicted criminals. However, some countries have taken the controversial step of attempting to DNA fingerprint every individual, which ethicists say is a violation of privacy. They envisage that the authorities will be able to keep a tab on the entire population, Big-Brother style, through smart ID cards containing every information on a person - including DNA make-up, normal fingerprint, iris scan and facial scan.
In fact, these are now collectively called biometrics and many countries anxious to keep undesirable elements away from their borders require such biometric information on passports and at the point of entry. Again, the debate continues as to whether such measures constitute a violation of fundamental rights.
Proponents say biometrics will prevent cross-border criminal movements and help solve crimes faster. They point out that biometric-enabled documents will also help the holder in an emergency as relief workers can instantly download the required details.
Whatever the pros and cons, DNA fingerprinting and biometrics are here to stay. The technologies are still in their infancy and the best is yet to come.
Produced by Lake House