Photo courtesy of Indian Express
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) calling on the IGP and Army Commander to be questioned over the failure to prevent the attack on peaceful protesters on May 9 is a significant decision and significant. DIG Deshabandu Tennakoon, who allegedly assisted in the attacks, was also called up by the HRCSL. It is fully within the mandate of the HRCSL to hold law enforcement authorities accountable for harms that may be caused directly or indirectly by their omissions.
The debt crisis threatens the stability of Sri Lanka. Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe expressed unequivocally the danger the nation was in. In a week or two, the country will sink further into a situation where there are 12-hour blackouts and much longer queues than the current ones. experienced now. The rescue time is short. Reserves available for essential imports are insufficient to meet demand for basic necessities.
He said that everything depended on the restoration of public order and political stability, adding that to implement the essential plans to deal with the critical economic situation, political support was needed for the technical work involved. There is work to be done by the Minister of Finance and certain laws are needed to implement the Central Bank’s economic plans. For example, taxes had to be increased because one of the causes of the current disaster was the abolition of certain taxes after the current government came to power.
Dr Weerasinghe pointed out that the events that started with the killing of Rambukkana and escalated due to the attacks on protesters on May 9 had upended the plans they were working on. The political stability necessary to implement the Central Bank’s plans to continue negotiations with the IMF and others must be in place.
This goes back to the core of the HRCSL’s mandate which, according to the Paris Principles, is to promote and protect human rights; this can only be done if law and order remain stable.
Unless law enforcement mechanisms are functional and able to carry out their legal mandates effectively, it is not possible to create the conditions for economic recovery. This refers to the ability of state institutions supposed to maintain public order to investigate violations of the law and a prosecutorial system that is trustworthy and capable of contributing to the implementation of the law. Policing and prosecution systems are essential aspects of restoring law and order and creating the environment necessary for economic recovery.
The work of these two institutions must be supported by a strong, efficient and independent judiciary which is the foundation of a functioning justice system. It is a fundamental principle of the rule of law that the control of the judicial system must be the judiciary itself. The judicial function, the judicial role and judicial independence are essential aspects of maintaining a stable society.
It is in this area that the HRCSL should make its contribution in the immediate future. The HRCSL should be willing to help the police achieve the institutional reforms that are essential for it to be functional and to continue to move forward. Several years of neglect have discredited him and his abilities have been seriously undermined.
The deterioration of the institutional capacity of the police is linked to political interference in functioning institutions. The principle that no one should be allowed to interfere in the administration of justice has been largely lost. Without the effective restoration of this principle, it is not possible for police institutions to perform many of their essential tasks. These tasks include maintaining law and order through rapid responses to possible violations, investigation of violations that could lead to successful prosecutions, and cooperation with prosecutors and the judiciary to ensure that the law is applied and respected.
Police institutions have suffered enormous setbacks. Without this, the events of May 9, where attacks on peaceful protesters led to violence across the country, could easily have been avoided. The evidence shows that several police officers participated in criminal acts against peaceful protesters by cooperating directly or indirectly with the perpetrators of the crimes and covering them up. On the other hand, omissions on the part of the police, including the IGP, contributed to further degenerating the situation.
Like the institution of the police, the Ministry of the Attorney General has also faced great mistrust due to its compliance with criminal elements, both within the political establishment and outside. The politicization of this once prestigious department is a great national tragedy.
This must be stopped immediately if the expectations of the Central Bank Governor and those handling the task of trying to recover from the catastrophic economic downturn are to be realized.
What the HRCSL can do in this regard is manifold. First, the HRCSL should seek the support of voluntary groups of lawyers and other experts and study in depth the flaws in the current law enforcement system and make recommendations to the government on urgently needed reforms. The HRCSL can work with the Bar Association and others to develop a set of recommendations to guide politicians in taking quick action to strengthen the country’s law enforcement capacity.
Accompanying an understanding of what is needed to improve these institutions should be the job of the HRCSL to educate the public about the reforms. General human rights training or investigating a few cases will not suffice at a critical time like this. The HRCSL may seek the assistance of the media to present their message to the nation on law enforcement reforms that are essential to the protection of human rights.
To fulfill this educational function, the HRSCL would need to improve its media capacity. Many would voluntarily carry out a national education program on reforms as well as judicial reforms.
Many more would help the HRCSL open a dialogue on how to respond to the Central Bank Governor’s request for the speedy restoration of law and order and greater cooperation from the political establishment in the work of the Central Bank. .