Lawyers for Democracy.
President Ranil Wickramasinghe stated at the Coconut Growers Annual Conference on Friday, 04 August 2023, that the Government would not heed orders or advice from any other party except Parliament with regard to the debt optimisation measures. This statement was followed by the comment that there were attempts to utilise the courts for political agenda by seeking prohibitory orders.
The President was obviously directly commenting on several applications made to the Supreme Court by which citizens are challenging the domestic debt restructuring proposal on the basis that it would adversely affect the retirement benefits of millions of people. The President’s commentary that ‘halting this program could have negative consequences, as foreign countries might be less inclined to engage in business with us’ is a serious misuse of power with the aim of intimidating judges of the highest court of the land.
People’s sovereignty, by which the office of the President also derives power, is expressed through Parliament, the Judiciary, and the Executive. For one arm of government, which has considerable power in the form of an executive presidency, to make public statements that deny the power of the courts to review any complaint in relation to executive or administrative action is an abuse of power.
For the President to also comment on ‘the negative consequences’ of judicial orders to halt a process that is under review by a court is a breach of the rule of sub judice.
Lawyers for Democracy categorically states that the President must refrain from using his high office to comment on matters pending before the courts. Citizens’ rights to seek justice and submit their complaints to a court is constitutionally guaranteed.
Any interferences amount to an assault on judicial independence and weaken the trust people have in the judicial system as a whole. Such autocratic conduct, among others, continues to undermine democracy in Sri Lanka.
(Dr) Jayampathy Wickramaratne
- S. Ratnavale
Convenors, Lawyers for Democracy