The process set in motion by the appointment of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate alleged political victimisation during the time of the Yahapalana Government has raised questions with regard to its impact on the Rule of Law in particular and Democracy in general.
It has been a common practice in the history of our country after the change of any government, for the incoming administration to appoint a committee to inquire into and provide redress to public officials, who may have been victimised for political reasons. Usually these committees look into issues of transfers, denial of promotions and other disciplinary actions taken against government officials on purely political grounds. If the charges were proved, redress had been granted to such officials.
This is the first time a Presidential Commission of Inquiry has been appointed to inquire into the “political victimisation” of high profile politicians and their associates by a new Government.
The three-member commission was appointed on January 9, 2020 by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to inquire into complaints of political victimisation that occurred between January 8, 2015 and November 16, 2019.
The final report of the Commission of Inquiry was handed over to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by its Chairman retired Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne at the Presidential Secretariat on December 8, 2020.
The report was subsequently presented to the Cabinet by the President. The Cabinet which includes several persons in respect of whom the Upali Abeyratne Commission had made recommendations granted approval for the recommendations to be implemented pointing to a clear conflict of interest.
At the end of January 2021, the President took the unusual step of appointing a special Presidential Commission of Inquiry to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into political victimisation.
The special Presidential Commission of Inquiry has been tasked with creating a suitable mechanism to implement the recommendations of the final report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into political victimisation.
The special Presidential Commission is required to submit a final report or interim report within three months after conducting investigations and make the necessary recommendations.
Usually the findings of a Commission of Inquiry are handed over to the Attorney General to examine the report and decide on whether further investigations are necessary and to initiate prosecutions thereafter if necessary.
In this case the President has chosen a different mechanism and appointed a special Presidential Commission to conduct further investigations.
Many of the allegations in respect of which political victimisation have been made are before the Courts while some cases have already been concluded. All these cases have been filed after intensive investigations and examination of the evidence by the Attorney General’s Department.
Where such cases have been concluded they have gone through the judicial process in the country. Any reversal of these decisions except through the tested judicial process will result in an erosion of confidence in the judicial process as well as the Attorney General’s Department.
Implementing the recommendations of the Upali Abeyaratne Commission will create a bad precedent and another level of impunity in respect of the political elite.
The whole process set in motion by the Government also seems to have another motive. The recommendations made to take action in respect of several Opposition bigwigs are designed to weaken and eliminate all Opposition to the Government. A case of killing two birds with one stone.
Disclaimer: Implementing PCOI recommendations will undermine Rule of Law and Democracy - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view