Any society that wishes to flourish and progress as a decent civilized one, needs to have a vibrant legal system that is alive and congruent to the democratic and just aspirations of the sovereign people. In spite of a manifest presence of imprisonable lawbreakers and uncivilized anti-social elements even among rulers who are unbecomingly casual and daft even in their public conduct and bend and defy the law at their whim and fancy, the vast majority of citizens abide by the law and wish to live in justice, peace and harmony. Though the Legislature is not under the Judiciary, legislators individually and collectively cannot subvert democracy, human rights and natural law.

As a very resilient vast majority of the people have become immune to the stinking infections of corrupt politicians just as fish are resilient to most infections, it is evident that respect for truth, justice, righteousness and goodness are more persistent among the majority of diligent and conscientious citizens. Social evil, injustice, wickedness and degenerating prejudices have not overpowered them. This is due to the matured and cultured upbringing of children and the discipline and order and the heightened sense of good and bad, right and wrong and just and unjust inculcated in the schools.

Administrative structure

A modern system of education that had developed over a couple of centuries had become an endowment to each new generation in Sri Lanka. But in 1961, selfish, ego absorbed politicians sans foresight but driven by envy, jealousy and prejudice and disregarding the sense of humanity and justice forcibly took over the denominational schools to the State defying democratic norms and human rights.

The authors of the schools’ takeover wished to crush Catholic education in Sri Lanka little realizing that these schools served all children indiscriminately. That it was done out of envy, jealousy and prejudice has been observed by Anura Bandaranaike, a Speaker of Parliament who fearlessly and courageously stated the truth. Even Sirimavo Bandaranaike had admitted during her regime to have made ‘mistakes’ which referred also to the schools takeover with its rumbunctious consequences.

The present writer has often stated that due to the undemocratic takeover of the schools and the irresponsible and stupid politicization of education, the general discipline and order in the schools and the whole public administrative structure of the country came to be undermined and thrown into disarray. The free education system of Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara got infected with a many sided detrimental political virus that worsened as the years passed. The Chief Justice Priyasad Dep who has just retired, recently stated at the Prize Giving of Loyola College, Negombo, that those unable to bear the progress of the Catholic schools took them over to the State.

Thus they began ruining the formation of character and the instilling of discipline built up ever since the foundation of the modern educational system. No educational reform has been able to bring back the discipline and the standards of conduct that prevailed. Chief Justice Dep is almost the only significant public person to have identified the schools takeover at the root cause of much that is undesirable in the public space. The disorder, dishonesty, lack of a sense of duty, self-respect and honour and the corruption that pervade a large part of society and contribute to its ongoing degeneration are decried by all.

This degeneration has not only affected political and public administration fields but also every sphere of society and infected and undermined even the public service, the education and the whole legal system. An important corner stone that sustains the very foundations of civilization and culture has been so adversely affected as to cause stagnation, decline and decay in the influential sections of society to bring about a culture of fraudulence, dishonesty, delinquency, sleaze, bribery, corruption, and all manner of organized crime.

Historical moments

The legal system should have always upheld the equality, freedom and human rights of all the people irrespective of their ethnicity, language, religion, cultural orientation and gender. The then Constitution did not condone discrimination, injustice and unfairness towards minorities. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka’s politicians in the Legislature flouted the Constitution that they had sworn to uphold and it has continued to do so at important historical moments in the Independent Sri Lanka’s national life. It is not surprising as most elected representatives have not read and do not know the contents of the Constitution they verbally swear to uphold.

The dispassionate and just judicial decisions could have corrected the prejudiced, populist anti-constitutional decisions of ego-absorbed politicians. Judicial sobriety would have saved Sri Lanka of many a chaotic disaster consequent to political misjudgement and anti-minority prejudicial racial and religious attitudes. Judicial decisions would have not only saved hundreds of thousands of lives but also trillions of rupees that went waste after causing destruction and damage to Sri Lanka from 1956 onwards. Knowledgeable, wise and courageous judges who would have fearlessly upheld democratic traditions and the law and done their duty by the sovereign people were simply not there and as a result an incalculable loss of life and property, a disastrous retrogression of progress and a besmirching of the good name of Lanka occurred. Judgements that would have saved the gains of the past and become a beacon of light to the future were never pronounced. And among the chauvinistic politicians and their sidekicks and henchmen who were then prominent in their political vandalism there are no claimants or heirs owning up to this gigantic islandwide social disaster that spared no one. Many politicians in Sri Lanka still remain deaf, dumb and blind and Sri Lanka has to rise from the depths to which she had sunk.

Academic institutions

The system of justice is of crucial value and importance for a civilized society to nurture itself and progress. It is therefore necessary to examine and analyze how the upholders, promoters, maintainers and agents of justice are trained and prepared for their important social task as there are other stakeholders who have claims in the process of justice. As all in society should benefit from the system of justice, shouldn’t every candidate setting out to the study of law and enter the legal field become eligible and worthy to do so? The fact that some of those who have gone through law colleges and faculties of law and have become judges even of the supreme court and have been later found to be unworthy to have been even enrolled as lawyers indicates that there is many a big lacuna in the manner of selection of students to be admitted to the institutions of law-studies and perhaps in the training given in the academic institutions.

Even scoundrels succeed in passing exams. Are those studying law motivated by inclinations of social justice and fairplay or are a good many motivated by inclinations of exploitation of the people and easier path to the accumulation of wealth? Some judges have been found to be blackmailers of litigants and bribe takers. Lawyers have acted as pimps for judges. Noted serial criminals are defended by lawyers for lucre which becomes doubly filthy due to the source whence it comes.

Extra large expenditures are needed to avail oneself of the resources of justice. The poor who suffer injustice often have to bear everything in silence as recourse to justice is not within their means. The poor are burdened with injustice. Restoration, upkeep and maintenance of justice and peace should be the purpose of a legal system. To save Sri Lanka from the mediocre politicians who have caused its downfall, the whole mechanism of justice - the machine with the quality of its parts, nuts and bolts and the grease and oil that make it run smoothly - and all institutions that are aligned to the ends of justice, need to be thoroughly overhauled. They need to be investigated afresh and reformed to fulfill the purpose of service to the community for which they are meant. 

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