A few days ago, for the umpteenth time over the past decade and more, Mr S.Costa of the Kandy Litigants Association has bemoaned through the Press the fact that, in Sri Lanka, the conviction rate in criminal cases continues to hover around the 4% mark, an utterly devastating indictment of the Police and the Attorney-Generals Department. He has, quite properly, not taken into account the countless instances of punishment given inadvertently, where suspects who are taken along to show the hiding places of illegal weapons foolishly insist on trying to overpower their multi-man police escorts notwithstanding the added disadvantage of having their wrists handcuffed behind their backs! It is no surprise that they get killed in the process.
Mr Costa is of the view that one of the main weakness in our criminal justice system is that the excessively liberal legal safeguards given to criminals result in large numbers of them getting the help of resourceful criminal lawyers to exploit all available loopholes in the law, and the weaknesses of the Police and the Attorney-Generals Department to get away with their evil deeds and ill-gotten gains. If we were to guesstimate that, perhaps, 20% of the cases brought before the courts would ab initio deserve to be dismissed, it may be computed that, at a conviction rate of 4%, the chances of getting away with a crime where one has got as far as being charged in court are 20 times greater than the chances of being convicted, which is hardly a satisfactory state of affairs.
If memory serves us right, Mr Costa has previously also referred to the fact that President Chandrika Kumaratunga was persuaded to set up a commission (the Wadugodapitiya Commission ?) to make recommendations to enhance the conviction rate by removing weaknesses in the law, investigations, formulation of charges, and failure to present the prosecution case in a credible and competent manner. However, for reasons best known to President Kumaratunga herself, she did not think it fit to make public the contents of the Wadugodapitiya Commission Report. Was the unwillingness to publish this Report caused by the desire not to create problems for some of her loyal supporters or even someone closer home? The answer is blowing in the wind. Even belatedly, it would be illuminating to have President Kumaratunga reveal her reasons for denying the public the opportunity of studying this report..
Failing to publish the Reports of Commissions was, and is, nothing unusual and it would be unfair to single out President Kumaratunga alone because Presidents J.R.Jayewardene, R.Premadasa and D.B.Wijetunge, if they so wished, could have published the Reports of all those Commissions which were appointed by them and/or their predecessors. But they did not do so. Why? Our belief is that personal, party and other loyalties prevailed over the call of justice and the interests of the country.
Lists have occasionally appeared in the press giving the titles of various Commissions of Inquiry and the millions spent on them. We are aware that, in the majority of cases, only small fractions of the contents of the reports of these Commissions have been released to the media. In some cases, nothing has been published. One fundamental point that the Citizens Movement for Good Governance (CIMOGG) wishes to make is that the expenditures on Commissions of Inquiry (totalling to date a few hundred million rupees at least) have been paid for by the citizens of this country. Hence, the people are entitled to know what was discovered by the Commissions and what were their recommendations.
In the light of what is stated above, we call upon President Rajapakse to release all unpublished Commissions of Inquiry reports without further delay and gain the gratitude of the public by doing so, and also earn their respect for being a transparent President who has nothing to hide. There will undoubtedly be one or two reports which may need to remain secret for, say, 30 years after submission on the grounds of genuine national security considerations – but not, for example, to cover up irregular arms purchases, flouting well-established tender procedures or other questionable practices.
President, Citizens Movement for Good Governance