By Upatissa Pethiyagoda –
Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda
The controversial conviction of Attorney Nagananda Kodituwakku an aspirant for the Presidency, who was judged to have being in breach of the immunity enjoyed by the Supreme Judicature, has raised some eyebrows. This brings into focus several interesting issues. Such immunity is granted to a small number of individuals, who by the nature of their positions, need protection. Thus judges, diplomats, Heads of State and a few others are accorded this rare privilege. Its origin probably dates from the time when Ambassadors had the duty among others, of informing the Head of the host country, in the event of the declaration of War by his sending (home) country. The need for protection in such instances, by immunity is obvious. It is certainly not meant to bestow the freedom of The Wild Ass. This contrasts with the concept of impunity, which suggests a degree of license and insulation from penalties that would normally result. The last Government particularly, was over-liberal in issuing Diplomatic Passports and the accompanying privileges. Such reckless acts do no good to our country’s image and acceptance. Earlier, buddies were rewarded by JP ships and now doctorates (Erronis Causa ?) from dubious seats of Higher learning.
The most dignified use of Immunity is by not creating the need for its exercise. Representatives of worth, observe this principle meticulously. The same cannot be expected for instance, most often by official drivers who may be intent on flaunting this privilege for traffic offences, by using the “DPL Badge.”! Many of our cocky political brats, who believe that their misbehavior will be covered up by their doting parent’s privilege or interference The impropriety of such assumptions should be inculcated in the form of early parental guidance. I wonder whether parents realize that their indulgence and interference with due process, while inflating their own egos, are really ruining their children’s future? There are many cases where the children of the (temporarily) powerful flout the law, indulge in drugs, wild parties, brawls and other unseemly conduct, confident that their doting parent will be on hand to interfere and rescue. No one has told them that common decency, discipline and morality must be honoured. It takes three generations to breed a gentleman/woman, and there are no known shortcuts. Examples of profligacy, drunkenness, reckless driving and criminal behaviour (including murder or manslaughter) are not unknown.
I am reliably informed about one such incident. An elderly man, on a peaceful after-dinner pavement walk, was pinned against a wall by a recklessly speeding jeep, which quickly fled the scene. A foreigner who witnessed this, noted the number plate and also that the driver quickly changed into passenger, while another crept on to the driving seat. The civic conscious witness rushed to the nearest Police Station to report what he had seen. An immediate alert to intercept the vehicle went out, and the vehicle was duly stopped by a road patrol, some kilometers away. It transpired that the vehicle was an official one, assigned to a Minister. The real driver was his under-aged son and the “proxy” driver was from the security detail of the Minister. What happened after is not known. The caring father is still in exalted political office (in Cabinet, may be?). From newspaper reports, this is just one of many. We may note that this is in sharp contrast to Prince Phillips case, where he had hit a car before toppling his Rover into a ditch. His driving license was suspended. No one was injured and the accident occurred when the Queen’s husband who usually drives within the Royal Grounds, had ventured a little beyond the gate! Since the owner of the other car did not wish to embarrass the Prince, who has a reputation for delightfully impish humour, the matter was regarded as having being amicably settled and that no further action was necessary. However, the officer who witnessed this, had the Duke surrender his license, it being also suggested that at his age (93?), it was better for him to avoid driving on public roads! Royal Immunity was neither sought nor invoked. This was wise, as his spouse, Her Majesty my well have refused, with a silent chuckle that this time, the joke was on him!
It is perhaps no accident that exchange of a single letter can transform immunity into impunity!