“An outstanding contribution to the study of the constitution and the contemporary politics and history of Sri Lanka”
The Asian Human Rights Commission announces the publication of a new book, Gyges’ Ring — The 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka by Basil Fernando. This book is a joint publication of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong and the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims, Denmark.
This book is the most comprehensive study of the 1978 Constitution to-date. It is a contribution to the study of constitutional law and criminal law in Sri Lanka as well as the politics and history of the country. The author traces the origins of the 1978 Constitution and its impact during the last 33 years.
The title Gyges’ Ring is based on a Greek story told by Socrates and recorded by Plato in The Republic. Gyges was a peasant who came upon a ring by the use of which he could become invisible. Having learned the tricks that could be played by being invisible Gyges entered the palace, raped the queen, murdered the king and took over the thrown. He then built a dynasty. The author contends that the impact of the 1978 Constitution on the political and legal system of Sri Lanka is no different to that of Gyges’ ring.
Nick Cheesman, a PHD candidate at the Australian National University wrote the Foreword to the book. He compares the similarities between the Sri Lankan political system and the Burmese system since Ne Win. Cheesman refers to the theories of Carl Schmitt,
The placing of the executive president outside the constitution itself, in that he alone can violate its terms and be beyond punishment, which Fernando in chapter five describes as a feature of the 1978 charter, is exactly as Schmitt would have had it, since the guardian cannot be bound by the constitution but must always stand beyond it.
Dr. Jayantha de Almeida Gunaratne (PC) writes a comment on the ideas expressed in the book which is produced as the final chapter. Writing on the diminishment of the judiciary since the 1978 Constitution Dr. Gunaratne writes,
To my knowledge and awareness these have never been touched upon before, leave alone been academically and/or professionally critiqued.
He further writes,
The author’s ability to expose and consequently condemn in coruscating style, with the stroke of his pen, social hypocrisy and double standards on the part of self-proclaimed elitists is one of the aspects that struck me most……..Coming finally to “Glaucon’s story about the Ring of Invisibility and J.R. Jayewardena’s legacy” indeed, the man who had found the ring not only used his powers to enter the palace, rape the queen, kill the king and take over the throne, but he also paved the way for others who succeeded him in putting the ring on their finger to go even beyond what the ring itself might have not envisaged initially as possessing within its power.
Source:A new book: Gyges’ Ring
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