“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a legal maxim meaning that if legal redress is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not forthcoming in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as having no redress at all.
Today many Sri Lankans particularly those living overseas are critical about the progress or lack of it in its first year in power by the National government. It is obvious from recent events that the heavy burden of cleaning up the mess left behind by the past regime has certainly delayed the activities of the National Government. This in turn is taking valuable time of the two leaders as foreseen in a previous Northern Breeze posting, that could be usefully spent on many unresolved problems from the civil war, that has put the country fifty years or more behind time. Even though there is a government with ministers and deputies totaling over a hundred it is the President and Prime Minister who are called upon to sort every problem that pops up and keep a check on the past regime dissent members disturbing the debates in parliament with their petty politics.
President and Prime Minister attending to unforeseen events such as the many natural and man-made disasters is acceptable, but having to get involved in resolving problems from routine activities for which ministers and deputies are assigned with large remunerations is out of order to say the least. Yes as leaders they are needed to make more important decisions, but they are called to resolve problems when assigned ministers are either not capable or due to overlapping duties caused by excess ministers or neglecting their work because ministers are putting their political party’s interest before that of the country is a cause for concern. As this mess is not enough for the leaders the administrative service is still in low gear and the security forces out of phase with the rest.
True many incidents keeps popping up from time to time that cast doubt about the sincerity of the participants in contributing to this recovery progress. This week the Prime Minister in parliament conceded that the Tamil civilians were caught in the crossfire during the final battle in 2009, and that people including school children are living with shrapnel in their bodies seven years after the war. They faced the war during the final months and may in fact be carrying illnesses related to the use of heavy armoury. The Prime Minister told parliament that government has not received official reports on this and intends asking the concerned minister to coordinate such action with the Ministry of Health if there are such cases.
What is surprising is that it has taken seven long years for the head of state to act on this reality, where were the Tamil representatives in parliament of these people all these days, who have now brought it to the notice of the Prime Minister? Compare this to the days of the past regime, when Sri Lanka has been claiming that it adopted “a zero civilian casualty policy” during the bloody war and denying UN reports of civilian death of over 70,000. What about the Health Departments and other responsible authorities such as the District Secretariats in the Northern Province, who should have by now collected and conveyed detailed information to the head of state. Furthermore, this has come at a time when government officials in the south cautioned those people living around the Salawa military base at Kosgama that the ammo depot blast may cause respiratory problems and the Central Government responded promptly to address all the problems of the victims of this man-made disaster.
It clearly demonstrates that the responsibility is still with the Central Government to care for its people whether they are from North or South; but in real life for the Tamil minorities the legal maxim is confirmed that Justice delayed is justice denied . There is no denying that the country is slowly recovering from the very volatile political climate that inflicted miseries into the lives of people, particularly the Tamil speaking population from North and East of the country. It is time for the people of Sri Lanka to put their heads together, and accept the need to investigate reports of civilian deaths that occurred throughout the country during the civil war. There is still lot more to be done before normalcy returns and to find the truth proper investigations are needed involving foreign legal experts to bring the country back to a state of respectability. Any delay would only once again invite foreign interference into the affairs of an independent country as in 1987 with the Indo-Lanka Accord, which brought more agony than peace to the people.