Innocent Until Proven Guilty

The maxim, innocent until proven guilty, has had a good run in the twentieth century; United Nations incorporated the principle in its Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and is found in the current Constitution of Sri Lanka as “Every person shall be presumed innocent until he is proved guilty” [Chapter III, Article 13 (5)].

In Sri Lanka, this maxim was breached many times over the recent past, particularly during the previous regime; where instead “Guilty until Proven Innocent” was the maxim adopted; a good example of this was seen when the Former Army Chief  was jailed and for release had to proves his innocence and a former chief Justice while in office received a similar treatment, was jailed because she gave a judgment against the rulers. There were many cases of people being punished without court case including murders of legislators, journalists and leading personalities committed during the last regime and are all now under investigations. Then there are hundreds of political prisoners, who are still lamenting for years in jails around the country; for crimes they never committed and therefore unable prove their innocence.  Last but not least were the thousands of civilians killed during the civil war. For over a decade many had buried their head in the sand and pretended all of this isn’t happening; people tolerated or rather accommodated for decades white collar offences and several criminal activities by the past regime only because the alternative left then was death. Yearning for a better system of governance and encouraged by the civil society movements, people did give their verdict by voting the previous regime out at the elections last year.

Now under the present rulers every citizen who believes in basic democracy are able, at least, to speak their mind, no matter what the consequences; they are now impatient to see the snail phase at which various above mentioned and other investigations into wicked and disreputable activities of the past regime are taking place. With more freedom under the present rule, as the people who suffered the most by the past misrule; this attitude from them is understandable, want to see the wrong doers punished at any cost. However people fail to accept the reality that both the President and Prime Minister though disciplined by the sublime teachings of Load Buddha are themselves not the Great One, but are just experienced legislators and are doing their most to let justice take its own course. Another is the Chief Minister of the Northern Province; himself a former Chief Justice is living up to the teachings of his faith and doing his best to keep a clean administration at the provincial level. We need more such persons full of compassion and kindness in politics if we are to get the country out of the mess, for Justice is slow to arrive but will arrive under true democracy.