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Given the plethora of worries about the financial integrity of the Chief Justice, it may seem redundant to demand higher standards also from the Select Committee looking into her case. But the Select Committee itself provided the principal reason for circumspection when it declared that ‘The office of the Chief Justice is a position which demands maximum confidence of the public. A moral conduct of an exceptional degree is expected from a Chief Justice unlike from an average citizen. Your Committee observes that any discredit to such conduct leads to a decrease in the confidence of the public towards a holder of such office’.

That being the case, it must be obvious that Parliament, which is, or should be, an even more exalted entity, must also have the confidence of the public. It must therefore be even more careful not to seem to be biased in its conduct or hasty in its decisions.

Given that the misdemanours the Chief Justice is alleged to have committed would, if proved, constitute criminal conduct, they must be investigated in accordance with criminal procedures. This includes presenting evidence systematically and allowing adequate opportunities for it to be challenged. If that is not done, and clearly seen to be done, public confidence in Parliament would be eroded.

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sithamuLast week the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanetham Pillay, issued a critical statement on Sri Lanka. Unusually for the Ministry of External Affairs, there was a forceful rebuttal of this, written by the Acting Secretary, Ms Kshenuka Seneviratne.

I have been a strong proponent of prompt rebuttals of unfair criticism, but the Ministry had seemed to disapprove of this position. Often through former diplomats, as well as journalists connected to Ministry personnel, it claimed that Dayan Jayatilleka and I had engaged in megaphone diplomacy which had ruined Sri Lanka – even though it was under Dr Jayatilleka’s leadership that Sri Lanka had achieved its most substantial diplomatic victory in years.

That approach was denigrated and, ever since Ms Seneviratne replaced Dr Dayan Jayatilleka as our Representative in Geneva, the impression created was that criticism had to be taken lying down, and obsequiousness would solve all our problems. Though Ms Seneviratne’s successor, Tamara Kunanayakam, tried to defend the country forcefully, this was not to the taste of the Ministry and they came down on her like a ton of bricks.

This cannot have been a pleasant experience when ladies are involved. But seeing the volte face that has now occurred, Tamara and Dayan would doubtless be laughing, were they not deeply patriotic. As it is, they must be wondering what will hit the country next, given that Dayan’s and Tamara’s strategy of building up international support was thrown aside and we put all our eggs in one basket, described by one of the more aggressive of their critics as Sri Lanka’s ‘traditional liberal democratic alliance base’, by which was meant the West.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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