WILL THE JUDICIARY SUCCUMB TO MAHINDA’S THREATS?

The battle between Rajapaksas’ and the Maithri-Ranil Government has now reached the stage: Get-Set-Go. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last week stated that all fraud and corruption of Rajapaksas’ would be made public within the next three months and urged the Rajapaksas’ to be ready with their lawyers from now on. Even before Ranil issued that warning, the Rajapaksas’ are busy on a daily basis seeking legal advice to cover them from charges of fraud and corruption levelled against them. The lawyers consulted by Rajapaksas’ have reportedly advised them that the only way out was to line up people against the government to instill fear on the Judiciary. The Hyde Park rally was an outcome of such legal advice.

When Yoshitha was arrested, Mahinda thought that there would be mass protest against that arrest countrywide. But his belief ended up as a day dream. When Yoshitha was brought to Court on the first day, a few Rajapaksa loyalists were present. Thereafter, only a few Rajapaksa loyalists were seen in Court premises whenever Yoshitha was produced in Court. Mahinda feared that even if his entire family was jailed the result would be the same. Therefore, Mahinda planned the Hyde Park rally to send a signal to the Judiciary. He fears the Judiciary more than the incumbent government. At that meeting he appealed to the Judiciary not to remand or jail people as they would suffer. It appeared as an indirect threat on the Judiciary.

Mahinda loyalists organized the Hyde Park rally at a heavy financial cost. It was clear from the number of buses hired to transport people. In addition, it is the Rajapaksas’ who introduced the air-space camera technology to show there is a massive crowd. No other political party or any organizer of demonstrations have ever used such technology to double or multiply the crowd present to show there is a massive crowd at such meeting. Advanced technology can be used to mislead the people if one wants to do so. So, Mahinda is trying to threaten the Judiciary by using ground to space camera technology by trying to show he had a massive crowd at the Hyde Park meeting. In addition, he continues with joy dashing coconuts at Temples and Kovils. He indulges in dashing coconuts not only to warn the government but also the Judiciary. Mahinda claims that as a result of dashing coconuts against the government some ministers had died while many others have fallen sick. Furthermore, he sends a warning message to Judges that those Judges who deliver judgments against his family would face the same fate.
Show large crowds
The person who first tried to show large crowds to threaten governments was late Ms. Sirima Bandaranaike. She resorted to that tactic to prevent the attempt to deprive her of her civic rights by the then J.R. Jayewardene Government. But JR defeated her tactic. It is recorded in the book J.R. Jayewardene’s Biography in the following manner; “Resistance and response – The Cabinet decision of 27 September was immediately followed by an island-wide campaign led by Mrs. Bandaranaike herself in protest against the Cabinet decision. One of her principal objectives was to get her supporters to gather in large numbers in Colombo and to demonstrate thereby the force of public opinion in her favour against what she described as an act of political revenge. She felt that a huge demonstration in Colombo, more than anything else, would be a political message that the government could not ignore.

It would have the added advantage that any ensuring violence could be attributed to the government itself. Very soon there were plans afoot to prevent government MPs from getting to Parliament on 16 October for the critical debate. There were hints of sabotage, the blowing-up of culverts if not bridges and setting up barricades on public highways. By early October the SLFP plan of action was known; its component elements were all based on the assumption that the government could be intimidated by the prospect of violence into postponing the debate. Mrs. Bandaranaike and her supporters in the SLFP genuinely believed that its campaign would actually prevent the government from going through with its plans for a debate on 16 October.
JR took these threats very seriously. Given what had happened on 8 August, bloodshed was very likely if the Police had to disperse a large crowd. This would provide Mrs. Bandaranaike with the ‘martyrdom’ she sought. With rising inflation and unemployment still high at the middle of the government’s term of office, he believed that a large crowd could turn up in Colombo. He gave the SLFP plenty of time to agitate all round the country. This was enough to gauge the public response to their emotional appeals on behalf of Mrs. Bandaranaike and also to allow some SLFP hotheads to overstep the fine line between political criticism and incitement to violence, and between criticism and libel (including criminal defamation). This, sure enough, they did with incitements to violence, personal attacks of a libellous nature on JR and Premadasa, on Cabinet Minister and MPs, and threats of attacks on Parliament itself. As the campaign gathered momentum there was a general fear of a violence confrontation between SLFP supporters and the government on 16 October.
In personally directing the counter-measures JR began by calling up the security forces to Colombo to prevent any large gathering of SLFP supporters on 16 October.

UNP supporters were urged to protect their MPs, and ensure that they came to Colombo for the crucial vote. This was quite apart from the security the MPs would get from the police. In addition the police were instructed to take into custody anyone inciting people to violence, as well as anyone likely to cause a breach of the peace. Through these preventive security measures JR called Mrs. Bandaranaike’s bluff. Faced with the prospect of a confrontation with the police and security forces, apart from government supporters, the SLFP party cadres and their allies lost heart. After the fiery initial spurt of agitation there was a sudden collapse of morale. Once the failure of her campaign became evident, Mrs. Bandaranaike was compelled to advise her supporters to call off the agitation. This she did on 14 October. By this time it was clear to all independent observers that there would be no large crowd of SLFP supporters in Colombo on 16 October, and so rather than going on record as having asked people to gather in their thousands for a crucial confrontation and finding that the response was poor, she preferred to save the situation by a public appeal to people not to come to Colombo for the occasion.

 

There was little or no serious support for her from other political parties. The LSSP’s position was ambivalent, for it was they who had raised these issues in Parliament in 1975 in the form of a vote of no confidence against her. Thus, while they did protest for political reasons, they did not back her. The CP (Moscow Wing) originally was all for her expulsion from Parliament, if the Commission found her guilty; but, once the report was published; they came out in her support by describing it as an act of political revenge. Their sudden change of attitude could be attributed to the need for SLFP support in the forthcoming by-election to the Kalawana seat in which the CP was the chief challenger to the UNP. Nevertheless they played no part in appeals to violence and attempt to arrange a mass demonstration for 16 October. Most significant of all, the JVP made its position unmistakably clear by refusing to give her any help. The result was that the universities were quiet during the crisis; and among the university students the JVP was a powerful force.In Parliament the TULF backed the SLFP but this, as we shall see, was a matter of tactics more than anything else.
The UNP defended the Cabinet decision in public meetings in many parts of the country. Their message was that the law must take its course; that the government would not change its plans and would under no circumstances postpone the debate fixed for 16 October. On 12 October JR himself addressed a large meeting at Dehiwela in the suburbs of Colombo, where he made all these points and added that the same law would apply to UNP Ministers and MPs if a Commission of Inquiry found them guilty of charges laid against them.
There was no curfew declared, no state of emergency, but the police and armed services were called out and asked to remain conspicuous in Colombo city, ostensibly to defend their respective headquarters. JR secured Cabinet authorization to call a state of emergency if necessary; under the “emergency” it became an offenc e punishable with death to prevent MPs from coming to Parliament.
Similar tactics
Analyzing and reviewing this incident of the past and learning lessons for the future from past experiences of such nature, it is timely that the Maithri-Ranil Government adopts similar tactics like JR as it would help them to eliminate the threats of Mahinda.
It must be recalled that when Yoshitha was arrested, Mahinda’s youngest son Rohitha issued a warning to the Yahapalanaya Government in his facebook account which read: “Dear Yahapalanaya, you just stood on the tail of the lion. Now don’t expect the lion not to rip you into parts”.
Such is the inherited attitude and the common direction that Rajapaksas tread. It is the bounden duty of the Maithri-Ranil Government to empower the police and the judiciary to implement the laws against such threats of Rajapaksas. “Threats are a threat to justice everywhere”, said Martin Luther King.