27 March 2018
Lawyer v Common Citizen
[Speaking to Ceylon Today, Chairperson of HRCSL, Dr. Deepika Udagama, said that Sri Lanka is mulling the possibility of introducing new laws to control ‘hate speech’ (especially online) and could learn ..from ‘excellent’ freedom of speech and expression related jurisprudence from the United States (US) and India, where the limitations imposed on the exercise of freedoms were extremely restrictive, so much so that in the case of the US, speech that would in Sri Lanka be considered as ‘hate speech’ would be permissible.] Ceylon Today article - Freedom of expression vs right to dissent
I met Dr. Deepika Udagama when the lady came to Sydney a few years back and the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney invited Dr. Deepika Udagama to speak to the forum. During question time, I raised the question about the possibility of Sri Lanka considering the parallel of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975. As per my memory, the lady responded that they already had in place legislation needed to address race related discrimination.
To me, the highlight of that meeting was the two former Attorneys General of Sri Lanka – Mr Shiva Pasupati of Tamil origin and his successor Mr Sunil De Silva of Sinhalese origin, sitting next to each other. Mr Sunil De Silva was/is a regular participant. I felt that Mr Shiva Pasupati came due to commonness with Dr. Deepika Udagama through their legal profession. In other words, they are legal relatives.
As per the above article ‘Recently, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking at the 44th Convention of the BASL on 24 March, said that the Government is considering the introduction of a Freedom of Speech Act and/or alternative options akin to Singapore’s Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act, the United Kingdom’s Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006, which amended the Public Order Act of 1986, Australia’s the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 and the Criminal Code of Canada, with the view of controlling social media and thereby ‘hate speech,’ for the purpose of preventing racial and religious unrest such as the recent incidents in Ampara and Kandy, and avoiding situations where data could be used to influence the outcome of an election.’
To my mind, the application I made back then to a legal expert has become successful now through the highest public administrator of Sri Lanka – the Prime Minister. It was my understanding back then that Dr. Deepika Udagama who was then the Head of Department of Law, University of Peradeniya, was in Sydney at the invitation of the University of NSW. The contents my book ‘Naan Australian’ which records many of my experiences presented through the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 – are summarised by the National Library of Australia as follows:
‘History of a race discrimination case towards an Australian Tamil citizen of Sri Lankan origin by University of New South Wales.’
The book found its way to the National Library of Australia without any intervention on my part, directly or indirectly. I concluded that that passage was empowered by true Belief. When one believes the other side of the transaction happens immediately but we may not ‘see’ it until later or never at all. Whenever there is an appropriate medium – s/he/they manifest the other side of the transaction.
Back then, Dr. Deepika Udagama did not feel the need on behalf of Sri Lanka but now Prime Minister the Hon Ranil Wickremesinghe identifies with that need through his own experiences.
As per the above article Dr Udagama ‘lamented that in the aftermath of the recent incidents in Kandy, national conversation had solely focused on the banning of social media instead of addressing the content on social media, regarding what should be permitted and not.’
The ban was for a short period. The parallel of that over long terms is for citizens to have the right to complain on the basis of law.
When I read the recent decision of the Civil Appellate High Court of Northern Province, Jaffna in relation to my brother in law’s intestate estate I kept lamenting that the Courts failed to show respect and valuation for the fact that we were demonstrating high respect for the process of law at all times whereas the Petitioners who denied us documents of title in their custody and rushed to the bank to present themselves as the leading heirs – despite demonstrating very little knowledge of the law – were getting what they asked for. These experiences confirm the huge ‘gap’ between the interpretation of the law by the common law abiding citizen and the legal professionals who are insiders within the judiciary and include those driven by benefits from the matter rather than the principles of justice.
The above observations by Dr Udagama about monitoring the content on social media, confirm this gap. Even Australia which, relative to Sri Lanka, has far greater resources to ‘monitor’ has limited success in this regard.
In countries driven by faith – one relies on Natural Justice / Karma. With Buddhism foremost as part of its constitution, the government has the DUTY to uphold the system of karma where there is no specific law that states otherwise. Laws such as the Australian Racial Discrimination Act of 1975, empower the citizen committed to law and order to share her/his experience with others – especially other victims. I was ‘failed’ by the Judiciary but that book which is also structured social medium confirmed the true value of such laws. If I had been truly believed to be socially wrong – someone would have sued me for defamation. The lawyers were interested in legal wins and the judges accommodated them. We the People need social media.
The wider world heard the minorities – not through International Criminal Courts – but through UN which has stipulated the criterion that officers and men assigned for overseas deployment under UN command should be cleared by the HRCSL – Human Rights Commission, Sri Lanka - says Island article ‘100-man contingent delayed pending HRCSL clearance SLA deployment in Lebanon under UN command’. Karma delivered yet again where legal profession failed the law abiding citizen who has been made an ‘outsider’ by hired lawyers.