Hybrid Court Fiasco: Local versus International Judges

Last Wednesday (6) Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera revealed that the final framework of the United Nations proposed hybrid court system will most probably be completed by January or February next year. His statements which seemingly contradicted President Maithripala Sirisena’s statement with regard to appointing international Judges into the local justice system, have opened several questions in the public.
One is genuinely concerned over the Foreign Minister’s remarks. According to him, the President had merely expressed ‘an opinion’ when he had promised the massive gathering at the Independence Day celebration that he would not allow international Judges to be appointed into the local justice system.

However, Foreign Minister Samaraweera went on to say that once the consultation process into designing the framework of the proposed hybrid court system is finalized, a proper mechanism will be produced which will then be presented to the stakeholders.
The President and the Prime Minister – among the aforementioned stakeholders – will then scrutinize the framework of the mechanism and will decide whether it would move forward or be amended, if necessary. In other words, it is as if the President has to bow down to whatever institution and authority’s proposal on whether or not to appoint international Judges into the hybrid court mechanism.
Regardless of the President being – for the lack of a better word (and somehow more appropriate than ever) – domineered, his loyalty towards his fellow citizens should be commendable.
President Sirisena putting his faith in the local Judiciary and our justice system had stated that our country has more than enough talent and human resources to handle matters on its own, without the assistance of international Judges. The President should be given credit for his patriotism and his loyalty towards his countrymen.
Yet one can also argue whether the citizens, especially the Judges and the Judiciary, are worth that trust. The highest form of justice represented through the Lady of Justice holding the scales has become more of a joke in the shadow of its predecessor or what it used to be. People have lost faith in the Court and the Judiciary with regard to even the smallest of matters. One has to wonder whether the President’s faith in the justice system of Sri Lanka, where criminals go unpunished while the innocents get detained, is misplaced or not.
We do not seek to insult our justice system, we are merely pointing out the unheard, unnoticed and unvoiced opinions of the mass populace. Then again we trust our President and his decision (or opinion, if you’d rather believe the Foreign Minister) to not appoint international Judges.
There is no obvious need of international Judges to take over our justice and Judiciary when we have more than enough talent within the country itself. If it were to happen, it would rather create more troubles than resolve the ones we are already facing. Sri Lankans have a deep and bad history of being under the so-called Sudu Mahaththayo that runs back to the Colonial times.
Times are different now. But the people will not see it that way; certainly not those who are not ready to change their minds and embrace the open-minded views of the modern age.
There are instances where the local justice system has proven its calibre. The most recent instance being the case of a military officer being sentenced to death over the murder of eight Tamil civilians, including four children, in a verdict officials said showed the State was dealing with crimes committed during its 26-year civil war.
The Colombo High Court which heard the case of the Army Sergeant who detained the four Tamil adults, three teenagers and one five-year-old in 2000, then cut their throats and buried them in a mass grave in Mirusuvil, Jaffna, sentenced the accused to death. This is but one example out of many which proves that we are capable of carrying out a credible and comprehensive investigation that would seek out the actual perpetrator and grant justice to those stand victimized. We simply do not need others to do our job. We can do it for ourselves.
Yet these fears of foreigners have been inherited through generations and will be passed on to our future generation, if we do not change our collective mindset. Years of colonial torture has led to xenophobia and paranoia among our citizens, only to be manipulated and kindled into an abhorrent form of twisted patriotism by numerous politicians.
In an age and time as such, where unnecessary fears run rampant through every crack and hole, it is good to see the President holding our hand and fumbling in the dark as well. The only sad thing is his step might also falter in the dark due to the interference of some. But yet the matter of choosing local Judges over international ones is something that would take some time, with hopefully a possible outcome in the coming few months.
Hopefully again, we choose the devil we know, and not the angel we don’t know.

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