Tuesday, September 23, 2008

White Van Abduction Legalised

I am reporting on this because the English print media has either got it wrong or didn't understand the proceedings in the Supreme Court (Daily Mirror) Or they have chosen not to report on it (Island - probably wasnt important enough for them). I think the flawed reportage or non reportage is deliberate because they probably believe or fear that such reporting will or will be considered as undermining the war.

The Supreme Court heard a case filed by Thondaman's party (the Ceylon Workers Congress) which is part of the Mahinda Rajapaksha Government yesterday, regarding the abduction of one of their trade union officials. The person had been abducted by a white van and becuase of the political influence CWC yields its party leaders were able to trace the person to the custody of the Terrorism Investigation Department (TID). The facts were not disputed by the State represented by the Attorney General's Department (Mr. Palitha Fernando, the Additional Solicitor General appeared). This is probably the first case and will be the only case where somebody who had been abducted had the courgae to go to courts to file a case. The reason is obvious because the person belonged to a political party in alliance with the Government. The CWC is to be commended for bringing it to courts and not pushing it under the carpet to save the reputation of the Government.

When the case was taken up before the Chief Justice's bench (the other two judges sitting with him were Justices Shiranee Tilakawerdena and Justice Sripavan) the Chief Justice in the course of the proceedings refused to condemn the mode of 'arrest'. He chasticised the petitioner's counsel, blaming him for bringing a case for 'international news consumption'. He said that the court can do nothing to give directives regarding the use of white vans as there were too many of them in the country!! He made unintelligible assertions in open court like for instance that Sri Lanka has the largest van population in the country and that it would not be possible to restrict the import or usage of white vans into the country etc!! (He was laughing when he said this and to my disgust a majority of the members of the bar and most of the public present laughed with him) Clearly what was being asked was for a delcaration that the police had violated the petitioners fundamental right by engaging in a mode of arrest that was blatantly unlawful and unconstitutional. The CJ also said that what was important was whether one was able to find the person who was abducted and hence it was an affirmative in this case there shouldnt be an issue. The counsel protested saying that this was possible because the petitioner belonged to a political party. The CJ was dismissive in his response. The CJ thought that a receipt being issued after arrest through the local police station should be satisfying. In his order at the end of the hearing he included the above 'condition' for 'arrests' being made using white vans nd also went on to say that since torture was not being alleged in custody that violation of article 13 of the constitution was not at stake. The conusel for the petitioner protested and said that they didnt say that. The CJ queried in response as to whether they are assuming torture was being inflicted. Surely the CJ was assuming that torture was not being inflicted!! The fomer assumption is more closer to the truth than the latter for anyone who knows anything about the TID.

What the Supreme Court has essentially done is legalise the use of white vans for 'arresting' a person on the condition that a receipt be issued after the abduction is carried out. This is probably the most absurdest of all sorts of 'justice' that this Supreme Court has meted out. And hence the white van abductions can now proceed with glee!!

The CJ was worried that the case was being brought beofre him for international news consumption. (I dont think the international media is that interested in what is happening in this country. For a start not even the national media is bothered). But irrespective of what has been said in the brackets above, surely if the international community didnt know this before the decision has confirmed that even the third organ of Government - the judiciary in this country is incapable of protecting the interests of its minority populations. Now thats the message that the CJ has clearly given for international news consumption.


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