second issue which my colleagues in the Liberal Party had proposed for discussion last week was that of the independence of the Judiciary. Again, I made it clear that I had no diffidence whatsoever about a statement being issued affirming our commitment to that principle. However I also thought it important that we should stress the need for accountability in the Judiciary as well, and adherence to the law and to norms.

The latter they could set for themselves, but these should be known to the public, and discussion their suitability should not be precluded. With regard to laws, these are made by Parliament. While it should be open to the Judiciary to strike down, in accordance with the constitution, laws that are unconstitutional, and also to recommend changes to laws that they see as counter-productive, they cannot usurp the position of Parliament and go against the clear meaning of laws for their own reasons, however understandable these might be.

This discussion took place on Sunday morning, before news of the attack on the Secretary to the Judicial Services Commission had spread. That clearly demanded a shift in priorities with regard to any statement the party might issue, and I was not surprised to receive a draft that was about condemnation of the attack. That had to be deplored, but what surprised me was the assumption that government was responsible.

That seemed to me improper, and I said as much and was happy to find that my colleagues concurred. At the same time I think the ready assumption that government was guilty, though unwarranted, is understandable, and indicates that government must work hard to clear its name. It is not enough to say that such an attack would be utterly silly on the part of government because it can only reflect badly on government. That may be true, but such self-evident truths are not appreciated by all those who support the government. Indeed some of them make a fetish of saying that what other people think does not matter, and that government only needs to convince a majority of the people who vote in Sri Lanka that they deserve electoral support.

Whilst then it would seem extremely unlikely that government was behind the attack, it is possible that some of those who wish to prove their loyalty to government may have acted foolishly. To get rid of such suspicions, government must ensure that investigation is swift and efficient. Anything else would simply play into the hands of those opposed to government.

Unfortunately the history of investigations that were urgent is not such as to inspire confidence. Three years ago, in condemning the killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga, I also noted that assertions that he had been killed by government were unwarranted and also counter-productive because that might inhibit investigation. But I could not fault the statement of the Civil Rights Movement that a failure to find the perpetrators was a woeful reflection on the police.

I was reminded then of a spate of abductions in the East in 2008, just when we had thought that blight had been eliminated or at least reduced. The police, having been urged to investigate, found two gangs responsible, with no connection to government or to paramilitary groups condemned out of hand when the perpetrators were unknown. I can only hope then that the present IGP, who seems to have restored professionalism to the police in many particulars, ensures swift results in this case too.