By Nadira Gunatilleke/Daily News
Colombo, August 6: Here are the excerpts from an exclusive interview conducted with the President of the Lawyers for Justice Attorney-at-law and Unofficial Magistrate Ravindra Manoj Gamage on the current situation of law and order of the country.
Q: What is the current situation of law and order in Sri Lanka?
A: We can accept the fact that it was the ordinary people who were under enormous pressure without adequate gas, fuel, electricity and so on started the protest (Aragalaya). But after that, we saw how some bankrupt political elements took it over into their hands. After certain bloodthirsty political elements took over the protest, it turned into a violent mob. We saw the peak of it last May 9 with the murdering of people and setting fire to houses and other valuable properties.
The law enforcement bodies of the country did not operate properly to safeguard lives and properties. The end result was destroying valuable lives and properties including the life of a Member of the Parliament. In addition on July 9 there was another wave of violence and they stormed into the State television station and some private television stations. They set fire to the private home of the current President Ranil Wickremesinghe. They occupied several State buildings and damaged those properties. After those events we cannot call this a peaceful protest any longer.
Certain political parties that cannot come into power through a democratic election tried to capture power using the protest and with that move the entire country started to talk about the importance of maintaining law and order. The people were scared and even frightened to speak out.
Q: Now various individuals are being arrested from various parts of the country for taking part in the protests and involved in various activities. Please comment.
A: A protest does not become a peaceful protest only because the protesters do not have any weapons in their hands. Bringing flowers and involving in creative activities does not mean that it is a peaceful protest.
The law should be implemented against anyone who protests and violates the country’s laws such as the criminal law, common law and other laws. If the law is not implement against them, later various others may violate the law freely taking it as an example. Some lawyers who know the law very well said the law of the land which is the Constitution should be torn off and burnt. They indirectly threatened police officers to bow down to them and do what they want and otherwise they will face repercussions in future. This is a punishable offence according to the existing law. Some cultivated hatred all over the country using social media.
Because of this, the system has a responsibility to implement the law. We do not see that the law was enforced against peaceful protesters who did not violate any law. The law was enforced only against who involved in criminal acts during the protest.
Q: Various lawyers and their organisations publicly announced that they will stand by the protesters and they will provide legal assistance free of charge for them. What is the present situation?
A: Nobody can question the right of a lawyer that allows him/her to appear on behalf of a criminal in any country in the world. But all lawyers should know their professional limits. We saw during the recent past how some new lawyers acted without understanding their professional limitations. We, all the lawyers are being controlled by the rules of the Supreme Court. Lawyers can appear for criminals but they cannot encourage people to commit any crimes. If they say `’do anything you want and come, we will protect you all’ it is encouraging people to commit crimes.
In the recent past many were involved in crimes believing those encouraging statements made by some lawyers and they fell into trouble. They committed crimes in the name of the protest. They did not understand that after committing crimes they had to suffer alone such as ending up in prison. They did not understand that there was no one to pay their legal fee.
For example, the 36 suspects who were arrested for murdering MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala are now suffering alone without any help. Some of them were not directly involved in it but it takes around ten long years or so for them to be free from the murder charges.
The people of this country should remember one thing. That is no matter who says that they will protect you, help you or anything else, do not commit any crime. At the end, the person will be forced to suffer alone without anyone.
Do whatever has to be done peacefully without breaking laws. Only the family members will be there to help and sometimes even family members look away and do not stand by those who get arrested.
On the other hand, lawyers should not encourage people to commit crimes. It is the social responsibility of the lawyers. It is a crime if any lawyer encourages people directly or indirectly to commit crimes and threaten police officers. The lawyers can lose their job if they violate the rules of the Supreme Courts. Therefore, all lawyers should know their professional limits. They cannot interpret the Constitution’s `freedom of expression’ as freedom of encouraging people to commit crimes.
Q: Some say the entire protest’ is an international conspiracy. What do you have to say about this?
A: The former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa did not harm anyone in any way and he left his position. He did not let anyone fire even one bullet on behalf of him. According to international law, traditions, and democracy we know, he is eligible to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But the very unfortunate thing is that the LTTE Tamil Diaspora try to hunt him since he left the country.
The best example of this is Yasmin Sooka of the International Truth and Justice Project appealing to the Attorney General of Singapore to arrest the former Sri Lankan President for war crimes.
The very surprising fact is no charges were mentioned against the former President in connection with the economic crisis and all the charges are connected to the so-called incident of shooting the individuals who arrived with white flags during the humanitarian operation.
The letter says all charges are based on the statement made by then (2009) Army Commander.
Incredibly it is this same individual who mentioned the so called `white flag incident’ calling all Sri Lankans to come to Colombo on August 9 to chase away the President and the Government. All can see a very clear connection between all the past incidents that were unfolded. We suspect that the entire economic crisis and the `protest’ are a part of one serious conspiracy against the former President.
Q: What do you think about the appointment of the new President Ranil Wickremesinghe ?
A: The appointment of the new President Ranil Wickremesinghe is totally legal, democratic and ethical. The former President made very clear requests from all political party leaders to form a new Government soon after the former Prime Minister resigned from his post and the Cabinet automatically dissolved. But all political parties rejected the request.
Only after that the present President and the former Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe came forward and accepted the challenge and the premiership in order to save the people from the hardships. Accepting the premiership itself becomes a qualification to become the President because he accepted a huge challenge was rejected by all the others.
After becoming the Prime Minister, he followed all relevant rules and regulations, all procedures mentioned in the Constitution. No one can say that he is not the people’s President. The people appointed Gotabaya Rajapaksa. When he stepped down we have to accept the person who got appointed according to the country’s supreme law, the Constitution.
As soon as he became President, he very successfully established law and order in this country. Democracy was re-established in the country by him. These are essential to obtain the IMF loan.
If people and politicians genuinely wish to solve the current economic crisis in the country they all should support the current President without petty politics and other differences. They all should put aside their political views and support to rescue the country. Protest does not bring gas, fuel, electricity and so on. `Go Home’ will only bring anarchy to the country.