Court Steps in as Governance Falters
COLOMBO, Oct 27 (IPS) - Finding themselves up against corrupt politicians and indifferent governance, Sri Lankans are increasingly turning to the country's Supreme Court for relief, even for solutions to everyday issues.
A landmark judgment earlier this month against former president Chandrika Kumaratunga in a land acquisition case has been cheered by all quarters, reflecting the increasing trust that the public is placing in the courts. The public's dependence on the judiciary now threatens a confrontation with the legislature.
The apex court said Kumaratunga, who was president from 1995-2005, had "grossly abused her power and betrayed the trust of the people" in acquiring land for public purpose and then handing it over to a private developer for a golf course. The 140-acre property, an identified wetland near the country's parliament, was turned into a golf course fringed by posh apartments and sold to the rich and influential.
While this is a high profile case and the first time a former president has been indicted for being involved in a corrupt deal, the Supreme Court has over the past few years ruled on a range of issues from simple administrative matters such as school admissions and traffic congestion to abuse of power by the executive.
Well-known human rights lawyer J.C. Weliamuna who successfully prosecuted the Kumaratunga case for the two main petitioners -- two ordinary Sri Lankan citizens -- says the courts are the last bastion of hope for the people.
"The executive and various arms of government have failed the people. Even the main opposition is inept, and thus the people have no choice other than to seek justice from the courts," Weliamuna told IPS.
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Published: Mon Oct 27 22:23:32 EDT 2008