Editorial

So who is ‘truly independent’?

Summary

The history of institutions established to ascertain truth and deliver justice are not exactly applause-worthy. This doesn’t mean that the alternatives have been better.

Some Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJP) parliamentarians along with their supporters held a vigil on Monday (December 7, 2020) near the Presidential Secretariat. They were demanding justice for victims of prison violence. It is reported that they are not happy with the investigation into the riots. They’ve demanded ‘a truly independent investigation.’

Independent. Independence. Two words that have been prostituted a lot, especially by politicians. The 17th Amendment added a definitional dimension — ‘commissions.’ Since then we have had a lot of people talking about independent commissions as though these are tidbits that the gods themselves have, in their largesse, tossed down to us.  

The moment you demand ‘a truly independent investigation,’ you imply that investigation authorized by entities mandate to engage in such activity are suspect. So, the police, the Attorney General and even the courts are ‘no good’ or ‘not good enough.’  

So who, pray, would the worthies in the SJB consider independent enough to carry out a decent investigation? The friends and families of the victims? The SJB itself? The crybaby UNPers who finally let go of the elephant’s tail and picked up a telephone that was in vogue 30 years ago? The NGOs, perhaps, or rather those who call themselves representatives of ‘civil society’ but are accountable to no one except their donors?

We saw how ‘independent’ the independent commissions of the Yahapalana administration were, didn’t we? The SJB bigwigs uttered not a word regarding the absence of ‘independence’ in the Constitutional Council (under the 19th Amendment) and the various ‘independent’ commissions that the CC helped set up.

It’s a question of legitimacy and accountability. We do have problems with respect to these. The history of institutions established to ascertain truth and deliver justice are not exactly applause-worthy. This doesn’t mean that the alternatives have been better.

The remedy would be to fix system-flaws to a point where established procedures and institutional arrangements override whims and fancies of politicians or, indeed, aren’t dependent on the integrity of the person(s) overseeing appointments/promotions.

The SJB will not agitate for such things. The bosses of that party, we know, played Dumb and Dumber when holding high posts in the previous regime.

They didn’t call for ‘independent investigations’ into the Central Bank bond scam nor the Easter Sunday attacks. They were the ones who set up kangaroo courts to take opponents out of the political equation.

Simple lesson: when a politician proposes, check his/her history. Then we know whether he/she is serious or just begging for some media exposure.

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