By Kassapa

Last week’s Supreme Court verdict that ousted rabble-rouser Diana Gamage from Parliament brings to an end a long running legal battle between the former Member of Parliament and her nemesis, Social activist Oshala Herath. However, it also raises even more questions about the integrity of our regulatory and law and order systems, painting the government and its leaders in a very poor light.

Credit must go to Oshala Herath. Few now remember that when Diana Gamage transferred the political party which she controlled, the ‘Apey Jathika Peramuna’ (AJP) to Sajith Premadasa and Ranjith Madduma Bandara who were respectively named leader and general secretary of the party renamed as the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB), Herath went to court challenging that transfer.

That court ruled that was in order. Gamage went to Parliament on the SJB’s National List, presumably in return for ‘transferring’ the AJP to the SJB. Two months later, when the 20th Amendment was voted on, Gamage defied the SJB and voted for it. That amendment also allowed dual citizens entry to Parliament.

The SJB then moved to expel Gamage from the party hoping that this will remove her from Parliament. That expulsion was challenged in court by Gamage. Nearly four years later the case is pending and will be heard later this month.

In the meantime, it was Oshala Herath who launched several legal battles against Gamage at his own expense, challenging her continuing in Parliament while being a British citizen and also accusing her of allegedly using fraudulent documentation to imply that she was as Sri Lankan citizen.

The action against Gamage was stuck in the Court of Appeal where a two-judge bench which were of different opinions. A third judge was added and the verdict was decided 2-1 in Gamage’s favour. Herath it was, who again appealed to the Supreme Court against this verdict.  

Now, the Supreme Court has delivered its unanimous verdict and it’s a damning indictment, not only of Gamage but also of the Police and the country’s judicial system itself. Gamage does have the right to ask for a fuller bench but, if any lawyer worth his salt reads the judgment, they wouldn’t dare to do so. If anything, a fuller bench will only tighten the legal noose on Gamage.

Herath has said that this was not a personal crusade and that he has never even seen Gamage, let alone have any interaction with her. He also states that he had provided all the documentation he had against Gamage to both Premadasa and Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB) leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake and urged them to raise the issues he was highlighting but the response was lukewarm.

It will also be recalled that when parliamentarian Mujibur Rahman queried the issuing of a diplomatic passport to Gamage in Parliament, Ranil Wickremesinghe mocked him, saying, “You are all in Parliament because of her, so what is wrong with issuing her a red passport?”. The Supreme Court has now told him what exactly was wrong with that.  

Some other observations from the Supreme Court judgment are worth noting. When the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), acting on Herath’s complaint sought a warrant from the Magistrate’s Court to arrest Gamage, the Magistrate clearly told them they didn’t need a warrant to do so. Thereafter, the CID went into a state of inertia.

Observes the Supreme Court: “Thereafter the matter strangely and startlingly remained in limbo with no investigation for over 18 months. It was submitted that such is a privilege only a very few people in the Republic are afforded, especially when suspected to have been in violation of the Immigrants and Emigrants Act. According to the Appellant, despite almost three years since the facts were reported, the 1st Respondent continues to function as a Member of Parliament with the law not taking its course as it would against any normal citizen.”

The Court also observes that, “Article 12(1) of the Constitution states that all persons are equal before the law. The blindfold on Lady Justice depicts objectivity and impartiality. It is a direction to all judges, as well as all persons involved in the administration of justice, that all persons before the court should not be judged for their appearance, power, status, fame, or wealth, but solely for the strength of the claims or the evidence they are presenting. Our system of justice does not, and in practice should not, have one law for those in positions of power, privilege and responsibility and another for those who are not.”

The Supreme Court also noted wryly that, when the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment, “the entire majority judgment, including the parts which are seemingly an analysis of the case before us, is directly from the written submission of the 1st Respondent and, accordingly, with no analysis in Law.” Readers can make their own inferences as to how this occurred.

Even after Gamage has been booted out of Parliament, nothing much has happened. The Controller of Immigration who appears to have issued a fraudulent Sri Lankan passport (when his predecessor refused to do so) is still in office, when he should have submitted his resignation forthwith. Not surprisingly, he has not taken action against Gamage for being in the country without a valid visa.

The CID remains impotent when confronted with allegations of Gamage procuring forged documents, despite Inspector General of Police (IGP) Deshabandu Tennakoon’s tough talk on crime. They haven’t even lifted a finger to question Gamage, let alone arrest her.

If there was law and order in the country, Gamage should be detained for staying in the country for many years without a visa, asked to pay back all that she earned in her job as a MP and State Minister and charged and prosecuted for producing forged documents. All this should have happened, no sooner the Supreme Court verdict was announced.

Instead, Gamage holds media conferences defaming Oshala Herath, calling him a ‘beggar’. A ‘beggar’ he was indeed, begging for justice in a system where there was none, until the very end.     

Yet, in a country where Harsha Ilukpitiya is the Controller of Immigration, Deshabandu Tennakoon is the IGP, Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne heads the Court of Appeal, Tiran Alles is the Minister of Public Security and is in charge of both Immigration and the Police and Ranil Wickremesinghe is President, Diana Gamage still roams free. Needs we say more?  


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