FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

A question of national pride (Rajapaksha as a HRD)

By Kishali Pinto Jayawardene

For all law students studying constitutional norms and the protection of fundamental rights, Rajapaksa vs Kudahetti and others (1992, 2 Sri LR 223) is a classically standard case study. Indeed, there are good reasons why this is so. The case itself is interesting for its factual context. And the conservative judicial response which it invoked lends itself very well indeed to spirited classroom debates as to whether the Court could have reacted differently or not.

What is national pride?

Abstract legal principles aside, this case came to my mind on seeing the admonition recently administered by President Mahinda Rajapaksa that opposition parliamentarians should not travel abroad to criticize the country. Instead, as he has said, India should be held out as a role model where opposition parliamentarians are possessed of sufficient ‘national pride’ so as to not to hold the country up to scrutiny overseas.

How correct was the President to say this? Let us look at the 1992 case with which this column commences and not only for the most delightfully coincidental reason that the chief protagonist in that instance was the current president himself.

Then, Mr Rajapaksa, as an opposition parliamentarian, had proceeded to the Katunayake airport in September 1990 to board a plane for Geneva with the intention of presenting documents relating to the enforced disappearances of persons (of mainly Sinhalese ethnicity) before the 31st session of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

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