( Full Text of a Statement Signed by 389 Sri Lankan Law Students from Law Faculties and Law College)
We, as law students in Sri Lanka, wish to record our deep concern over the blatant violation of judicial independence and the usurpation of the role of the judiciary by the executive and legislative arms of government.
- the initiation of the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice. The coincidence of the impeachment motion with a series of judgments unfavourable to the government, suggests that it was only brought because the Chief Justice failed to follow orders, rather than because she failed to observe the standards of integrity expected of her.
- the failure to accord the Chief Justice even the most basic protections in carrying out an investigation into her conduct. This includes the failure to give her a list of witnesses and documents; the denial of adequate time to respond to charges; the apparent bias of two members of the Parliamentary Select Committee; the crass language used against the Chief Justice and the lack of clear procedure. No outcome from an inquiry such as this can be given credibility.
- the contemptuous statements made by Members of Parliament and Ministers of the government against the judiciary as a whole and the Chief Justice and the Judges of the Court of Appeal in particular.
Moreover, we are deeply alarmed by the decision to ignore the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 107 of the Constitution. This move is the culmination of several steps, including the passing of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, to concentrate power in the Executive arm of government. It is a blatant violation of the constitution, a rejection of the arm of government mandated with ensuring that both the rulers and the ruled are subject to the same law, and is an attack on the foundations of our democracy.
However, we also recognize that
- the current crisis is part of a much deeper malaise of apathy, selfishness and lack of democratic values in our society. It is only in such a society that politicians and actions such as these are tolerated.
- as students we have played a part in the deterioration of these values in our society and have a role in ensuring their revival and restoration.
- some of the best legal minds in Sri Lanka support this travesty of justice. This is proof of a crisis in education, and in legal education in particular, whereby students memorise principles of law but do not internalize them, are not changed by them, and do not appreciate their moral content.
Therefore, we call upon all Sri Lankans, and re-dedicate ourselves, to the task of rebuilding our society. Society is changed by the everyday acts of ordinary individuals, in classrooms, offices, fields, towns, cities and villages. We may not all have positions of power, but we all have influence where we are.
It is in those places where we already have influence that we must think and speak and act with truth, justice, mercy, love and integrity. It is in those places that we must begin the patient, courageous work of making Sri Lanka a land where FREEDOM, EQUALITY, JUSTICE, FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS and the INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY reign.