Yesterday, the chief justice was impeached through a process that was a sham. I say it is a sham not because I am a legal expert. It is a sham because the process looked petty and vengeful to any ordinary person who is not beholden to the ruling party. An event the day before, where I was verbally abused and physically threatened by government goons for wanting to attend an opposition rally for the purpose, personified to me in no small measure the pettiness and vengeance of the accusers.
There are two options open to the opposition – constitutional crisis or temporary set back. If we care about the rule of law, we should settle for a temporary setback, I think.
Remembering a balmy evening in the open air theater in the Peradeniya University when Henry Jayasena opened the world of Bertolt Brecht to us through the Caucasian Chalk Circle or ‘Hunu Wataye Kathave’, I would say, let us go for a temporary set back and let the child live. The child is the rule of law. Grusha is those who care about the rule of law. We all know who the ugly duchess is.
On that night in the seventies in Peradeniya, Asadak was funny, manly and full of down to earth wisdom but, Grusha personified by Manel Jayasena stole the hearts of the audience. The play ends with a contest to decide the ownership of the child. The two contenders, Grusha and the duchess the biological mother, had to go at it and grab the child who was placed in a chalk circle. Grusha could not bring herself to hurt the child, proving that she was truly the mother at heart.
People who know better than I have called for a boycott of the new order which is to be established, but, where will that lead us? Will the UNP, the only viable opposition, be able give the leadership? Will the trade unions come forward? Even if they do, is it the right moment? Or, in the process, will we kill or maim the child altogether?
For a moment, if I imagined myself to be Shiranee Bandaranayake, what I will do? I will sit up all night, drafting a message from the heart, remembering Grusha. It will say that her removal is unjust, but institutions are more important than individuals. I will implore all who were with her to conserve their strength to continue the pressure on the government to behave. Most of my statement will be dedicated to the incoming chief justice. The message has to be in parables.
A colleague of mine recently told me about this folklore of ‘Gal Pererthayas’. These are pathetic life forms that are forced to spend their afterlife under the surface, suffering each time the living walked above. They were monks, officials and others who were entrusted with the public welfare but they did not do their duty. They used their powers to benefit themselves. This is a parable that comes to my mind when I think of the ministers and officials who sell their souls to keep their perks and positions. For me, personally, after life is every moment of life that follows another moment. Those who do ill will suffer in this life, because their memories shall be with them into their old age and until they die. They shall suffer in their life after death too, if they believe in such.
My message to the new chief justice would be: “the executive has the power to appoint you but once appointed you have the power to do the right thing. Every time your arms are twisted remember the legal profession and the public in this country will lose their patience at some point and you will be out with the rest. Even if that day is far away, remember the destiny of public officials who do not do their duty. Their sins will follow them like the wheels of the cart surely follow the ox tied to the cart (from Verse 1, Dhamma Pada, Yamaka Wagga).