”When Mr. Bandaranaike was assassinated the whole country was mourning the tragic loss of its leader and what shocked the consciousness of the nation was that a Buddhist priest was accused of shooting and another Chief Priest of conspiring to kill the revered leader. But, the accused monk retained the services of Lawyers who without fear of reprisal or even a remark being cast against him for appearing for the suspects at the trial. ”
Nugegoda Magistrate Ajith Masinghe yesterday ordered the police to arrest the suspects, shown in the photographs, who assaulted Attorney-at-law Sumith Silva and produce them in Court.
At the identification parade held at the Nugegoda Magistrate Court yesterday, the victim, Sumith Silva and the other witness, a journalist, failed to identify the suspects who had allegedly assaulted Attorney Sumith Silva, after he appeared for the suspects in a murder case. The Magistrate released the suspects produced yesterday on bail in sum of Rs 50,000 with two sureties.
President’s Counsel Hemantha Warnakulasuriya was nominated by the Executive Committee of the Bar Association to represent the interest of the Bar Association.
PC Warnakulasuriya was the former Deputy President, and was one time Secretary of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.
Counsel Warnakulasuriya produced a copy of a daily newspaper, which carried on its front page the photograph showing two priests and others assaulting Attorney Sumith Silva. He said from the time immemorial, in all civilized societies, the right of the accused to be defended by a Lawyer had been the most important and cherished right of the citizens of a civilized society. Irrespective of the nature and the unpopularity of the cause the lawyer was bound by oath to defend his client to the best of his ability, he said.
Counsel Warnakulasuriya, continuing his submission to Court, said the Public always respected those rights as inalienable rights of its citizens. When Mr. Bandaranaike was assassinated the whole country was mourning the tragic loss of its leader and what shocked the consciousness of the nation was that a Buddhist priest was accused of shooting and another Chief Priest of conspiring to kill the revered leader. But, the accused monk retained the services of Lawyers who without fear of reprisal or even a remark being cast against him for appearing for the suspects at the trial. “But, today the law and order situation has deteriorated to such an extent that in many cases it is not the litigant, but the public who decides whether a lawyer should appear or not. This is not the first time that people, out of sheer ignorance and stupidity had resorted to the laws of the jungle and protested against lawyers appearing for an accused. As no tangible action has been taken to protect the rights of an accused, as guaranteed by the Constitution, the public has taken the responsibility of deciding which cases lawyers should appear or not. The decision in this case was taken by the mob without any sanity and in the most barbaric manner. The champions of those barbaric rights had assaulted a lawyer who had been properly retained by the accused,” he said.
Counsel Warnakulasuriya added “This goes deep down to the roots of lawlessness and anarchy that is prevalent in the country such as the public taking the law into their own hands and even going to the extent of damaging police stations and causing physical harm to police officers who enforce law. It is my contention that Sumith Silva is an officer of Court, appearing in the noble cause of obtaining justice for his client and the assault that took place just outside the Court house was one of the most contemptible acts which requires the highest sanctions by the authorities and the culprits ought to be charged for contempt of the legal authority. Not only have the fundamental rights of the accused been denied by those marauding thugs, who may have obtained sardonic pleasure in the vilest of acts of throwing the muck in a spittoon over the lawyers head, but it has violated the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Attorney practicing his profession. It is therefore a violation of the very basic right of every single lawyer in civilized society to represent his client as an officer of Court in a Court. If this reprehensible act is not dealt with severely, we become partners in pushing the cherished democratic rights towards chaos and towards a society devoid of any basic human freedoms.
“I will bring forth a charge of contempt against these culprits. The police must support our endeavor to bring justice and sanity to our society. We have identified the two priests and the other laymen, who is a former Pradeshiya Sabha member,” Counsel Warnakulasuriya concluded.
Magistrate Ajith Masinghe the ordered the police to arrest the suspects and produce them before him and the case was adjourned to May 14, 2012.
President’s Counsel Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, with Mrs. Suneetha Nanaykkara, R. K. P. Ranwaka and Indrajith Ameratunga appeared for Bar Associaion of Sri Lanka and Attorney-at-law Sumith Silva