In the past week we have seen a stiff sentence given to Ganasara Thero in the main for contempt of court and other related charges.
The consternation and debate has been fuelled not by the sentence but because as a convicted prisoner serving his sentence he will be ordered to don the prisoner garb, the ‘jumper’ so to speak. In essence he will be forced to disrobe – meaning that under their rules he will cease to be considered as an ordained monk.
Public sentiment is not a consideration that judges look at – indeed they are coldly neutral and pass judgement based on facts that have been verified and available for scrutiny by all.
The notion that one and all are equal before the eyes of the law is as noble as nobility gets.
In the past there have been several instances when members of the cloth have been passed down custodial sentences. In each and every case there has been a significant absence of special treatment of the prisoners.
There are calls now that the sentence was perhaps too harsh and that some mercy or leniency ought to be expended.
However the crime was to strike at the very heart of the judiciary and to have diced with the decorum expected within the hallowed arena of a court house is to gamble with one’s freedom.
That is what has now transpired – for at least six years – the man of cloth will need to be incarcerated where it is hoped he will learn the several lessons required to act within the ambit of a fit and proper monk.
It is of course a message to all those of the cloth: that no one is above the law not even the clergy even if in civilian life in the open, the clergy enjoys respect and several advantages granted because of their status in our culture.
They gain those advantages because the public are happy to respect and honour the men and women of the cloth for what they are. They are the soothing sound of neutrality they are the calming voice of reason and because of that respect they are able to play a role that need not be passed by the high posts committee.
As it happens from time to time, there are departures from the norm and we must view Ganasara Thero’s behaviour as such. This has spurred public debate all because the person involved is a person of the cloth. The public rightly feel let down and however unpalatable we must accept the law as being the law.
Nevertheless the question arises if indeed the law is the law for everyone.
We see rampant corruption and patronage of all sorts. Sleaze graft corruption has never been higher on this island. And we do definitely see a politically motivated application of the law on a regular basis. We have written in the past and raised the ugly spectre of bullying as being the new tool of the incumbent government.
The public not only find this uncharitable but also view this state of affairs as utterly unacceptable.
The public are not in possession of arms and armaments. They in fact are aware that they do not need such tools. They only tool they have is with the fifteen million plus voters. Each and everyone has that tool. Its called the franchise, the vote.
When that is exercised the politicians who are corrupt who are viewed to be corrupt and whose actions have appeared to have been one of contempt for the peoples’ aspirations will find out that they have lost the support of the people and will need to go home.