Diana stripped of seat in Parliament and impaled on the sword of justice

View(s): 478


  • How a British citizen worked her way up Sri Lanka’s political ladder

Diana Gamage notched a dubious spot in the Guinness Book of Records by becoming the first artiste to have taken a country’s entire body politic for a massive ride.

The power tale of how a British citizen – without even dual citizenship – returns from London and blatantly pretends to be a citizen of Sri Lanka and her subsequent rise to become a government state minister is the riveting stuff of a Jeffery Archer thriller.

What makes her performance even more amazing is that she hadn’t fought shy of controversies but seemed to go out of her way to covet them with her outlandish projects to grow ganja or to set up red light areas and ‘open all night’ bars to woo tourists as a means to boost dollar revenue.

Though some of her pet schemes may have had some merit, they were scorned and held in contempt for clashing with society norms. Not for her low-profile demeanor to escape detection but to defy the fates being embroiled in controversies repeatedly. A born fighter she revelled in verbal duels within the House and getting physical yards outside the chamber. And the question on everyone’s lips was ‘When would she get her comeuppance?

The question was answered this week when a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously held that:

‘Diana Gamage ceased to be a citizen of Sri Lanka upon acquiring British citizenship and failed to resume the status of citizen of Sri Lanka according to law. She
is thereby disqualified to be
a Member of Parliament by
the Constitution’.

The court also observed: ‘All what Diana Gamage need have done is to provide the relevant declaration made by the Minister or the exemption granted to her. That may well have been the answer to the pending criminal proceedings. Instead of choosing that path, Diana Gamage chose to take refuge under the right to remain silent and the
presumption of innocence, which are concepts applied in criminal proceedings’.

The Court held that the Appellant, Oshala Herath, ‘has on a balance of probability established Diana Gamage ceased to be a citizen of Sri Lanka upon acquiring British citizenship and passport. Thereafter, the burden of proving that she resumed the status of citizen of Sri Lanka falls on Diana Gamage in terms of Section 106 of the Evidence Ordinance’.

With regard to the Appeal Court majority judgment delivered by Justice Nishanka Bandula Karunaratne, the Supreme Court held:

‘The only original five paragraphs of the majority judgment by far does not set out the correct principles that govern the issue of a Writ of Quo Warranto. The reference therein to bona fide appears to be an acceptance of the allegation made by Diana Gamage that the Appellant, Oshala Herath, is motivated by political considerations and the application has been made mala fide’.

EXPOSED: Diana’s downfall

Supreme Court Justice Janak de Silva delivering the unanimous judgement held: ‘I fail to see the relevance of this assertion where the evidence before Court establishes that Diana Gamage ceased to be a citizen of Sri Lanka upon acquiring British citizenship and failed to resume the status of citizen of Sri Lanka according to law. She is thereby disqualified to be a Member of Parliament by the Constitution’.

Justice Janak de Silva emphasized: ‘The Constitution itself provides for the qualifications a person must have to become a Member of Parliament. Where a person so elected is disqualified of holding such office, any citizen of the country can invoke the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal seeking a Writ of Quo Warranto calling upon the holder to show the authority under which he claims to hold such office’.

The Court also reserved a special word to all those involved in the administration of justice:

‘It is a direction to all judges, as well as all persons involved in the administration of justice, that all persons before the court should not be judged for their appearance, power, status, fame, or wealth, but solely for the strength of the claims or the evidence they are presenting’.

The Court declared: ‘Our system of justice does not, and in practice should not, have one law for those in positions of power, privilege and responsibility and another for those who are not’.

Diana Gamage, denied her brief pyrrhic victory at the Appeal Court in November last year was also ordered ‘to pay the cost in both cases’ to Oshala Herath, found herself bereft of her state ministerial position, bereft of her parliamentary seat and bereft of whatever that may have remained of her reputation. Now it was open season for all in the House, and elsewhere, to gloat over her downfall.

Since it was the SJB that had first nominated Diana Gamage to Parliament through its national list before she crossed over to be embraced by the SLPP to the government ranks — as if she was a long-lost returnee come home — SLPP Minister Kanchana raised the question in Parliament whether the SJB’s own legality was in doubt since Diana may have signed the nomination papers?

But the then Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya dismissed such fears. He said, ‘Sri Lankan law only prevents a non-citizen from becoming a Member of Parliament, to contest an election while the law also prohibits a non-citizen to vote in an election’.

He confirmed that Diana Gamage has not signed nomination papers of SJB and tracing the genealogy of SJB said: ‘Ape Jathika Peramuna was formed by late MPs Mangala Samaraweera and late Sripathi Sooriarachchi when they broke off the political alliance with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The general secretary of Ape Jathika Peramuna was Ruwan Ferdinandas while Diana Gamage’s husband took over the post later’. Furthermore SJB’s Secretary Madduma Bandara confirmed that he had signed all the nomination papers.

And what of Diana? What will become of her? As of Wednesday, she became an illegal immigrant who had arrived in Sri Lanka on a British passport in 2014 and outstayed her visa by more than ten years. Will she be given the easy way out and be deported to her adopted land of Britain?

What will, indeed, become of this person who deceived the Election Commissioner, who deceived the SJB, who deceived Parliament, deceived the Government, deceived, no less, the President himself into believing she was a citizen of Lanka; and waged her persona so successfully that she was appointed State Minister of Tourism in which capacity, she had enjoyed all the perks and privileges that come with such public office, including salary and various allowances. She had done so at public expense.

MP Niroshan Perera urged in Parliament on Thursday that she should be arrested and action taken by the Government in court. Echoing the words of their Lordships’ judgment, he said, ‘There cannot be two laws in the country, one for the rich and powerful and another for the small man’.

TRIUMPHANT CRUSADER: Civil activist Oshala Herath

Despite the Supreme Court judgment, disqualifying her from Parliament on the ground she was not a citizen of Sri Lanka, Diana remained defiant in defeat and declared at a press conference held on Thursday: ‘Why should I go from this country? I am a full-blooded Sri Lankan, with generations of Sinhala blood in me. Not just Sinhala blood but Matara Sinhala Buddhist Govigama blood.’

She said: ‘I respect the court decision but I cannot accept this decision because I saw behind this exercise a political conspiracy. I want the women of this country to know, I am a woman, and this blow against me was a blow against all of them.’

Then turning nasty, she made disparaging remarks about the man who dragged her before court.

If that is the level – calling her legal opponent, civil activist Oshala Herath, names – to which she stoops in abject defeat, one can only imagine the depths to which she would have descended, had she emerged from the legal battle in glorious triumph.

She vowed: ‘Before too long I will prove my innocence and return. Then we shall see what happens to the opposition. If the women of Lanka want me to represent them, they can elect me and I will come back’.

If this was meant to be Diana Gamage’s swan song, it was nothing more than the narrative of a delusion ridden defeated woman, still hopelessly believing that Sinhala Buddhist Govigama birth and blood alone make her a citizen of Lanka even after renouncing citizenship of this island nation.

Will she ever learn that
one can fool some of the people all of the time but not all the people all of the time. One day the truth will out.

NPP Harini denies Lalkantha’s remarks despite video evidence

Senior JVP politburo member Lalkantha’s proud declaration in his May Day address last week, ‘to give the right to make laws, the right to enforce them, including judicial authority to gramiya sabhas’, provoked a storm of protest in Parliament on Tuesday.

State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe set the ball rolling when he referred to Lalkantha’s declaration to give judicial power to village councils. He said: ‘The work of the present Samatha Mandalayas’ in resolving small disputes is different from decentralising power by means of vesting the powers of the police and magistrates at village levels to JVP cadres. This is not the first time they said it. Four months ago they said that if they gain state power they know how to crush any uprising against them. Now they say they plan to devolve judicial power at grassroots levels’.

NPP MP Harini Amarasuriya denied that Lalkantha had made that pledge. She told Parliament: ‘Nowhere has anyone said that judicial power will be given to village JVP or NPP members. Former MP Lalkantha never made such a declaration’.

However, SJB MP Harshana Rajakaruna played a tape recording of Lalkantha’s declaration made in his May Day speech.

SLFP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera had the last word. He said: ‘As a lawyer I say that if anyone is talking of giving judicial power to the people and if they are the people who plan to take over the country, then Gods save this country.’

The outrage over Lalkantha’s declaration also spread outside Parliament. Former UNP MP Ajith P. Perera at a press conference, described the declaration as a throwback to JVP’s reign of terror during the ’88-89 period. SJB’s Weligama organiser Rehan Jayawickreme tweeted on X, ‘people will be subjected to an extreme form of communism under the NPP’.

On May 7th, JVP and NPP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake appeared as guest on Derana TV’s ‘360 degrees’ show. During the course of the long interview, he was played the video clip of Lalkantha’s declaration of giving judicial power to the people, and asked for his comments.

Anura Kumara tried to soft peddle the issue and to explain it by comparing the word ‘judicial authority’ to what Samatha Mandalayas exercise now. He was interrupted by the interviewer who said that Samatha Mandalayas which, as its name implies, are merely there to mutually settle small disputes and have no judicial authority. Caught badly, Anura could do naught but agree. He said, ‘what was conveyed as judicial authority was not what was really meant’.

The program host interposed to ask, ‘so what you all say you will do, is not really what you will do’? You do not intend to give judicial power’? ‘How can we,’ said Anura in reply.  But the host persisted. He raised many discrepancies between what JVP and NPP leader Anura said and what Sunil Handunetti had said on restructuring debt and privatising SriLankan Airlines. Anura replied that though ‘explanations may differ, the fundamental principle remains the same.’

Are we to understand from all this ambiguity that, though the JVP is fundamentally against selling off state assets, Anura Kumara’s statement to Amul Butter Chief in India that his objection to the sale of MILCO and the NLDB to them ‘was due to a lack of transparency and it being sold as a private property in secret’, it’s not a departure from JVP’s long standing fundamental principle of being against the sale of public assets, period?