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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Most Sri Lankans say judiciary is not independent: BT-RCB poll

 ‘Constitution doesn’t provide for judicial independence-respondents'”
A joint survey cum poll by the Business Times (BT) and the Colombo-based Research Consultancy Bureau (RCB) this week on concerns relating to the judiciary found an overwhelmingly number of respondents saying there is interference in the judiciary.
A similar number agreed that Sri Lankan judges are unable to discharge their duties and deliver judgments and orders without fear or favour. The poll, through email and street surveys in Nugegoda and Nawala, came on the back of a recent statement issued by the Judicial Services Commission
 (JSC) over attempts to interfere in the duties and independence of judges. Results of the poll are shown in the graph.

The BT poll drew responses from some of the 422 people while the RCB’s street polls involved more than 1000 respondents. The BT email poll had two questions while the RCB poll had a third question.

Excerpts of comments from the RCB street poll:

(Note: some comments have been edited for legal reasons)

1.Money and power can make anything happen in this country.
 2.The authorities are unable to take action against Minister Mervyn Silva’s son Malaka (in the alleged assault case) despite evidence in the form of CCTV (camera) at the location.
 3.The army major’s contradictory statement in this case is an issue.
 Now we don’t have confidence in the forces, also.
 4.Anyone with commonsense will understand the Mervyn Silva issue, more than what is publicly known and reported
 5.Why are they still keeping Mervyn in the cabinet? If so, we don’t have any confidence in the President.
 6.The situation is very disappointing. The last time, I voted for the People’s Alliance. The next time I am going to cancel my vote.
 7.Government doesn’t take judgments seriously. Look at the Z-score fiasco.
 8.It is the lower income classes that suffer and don’t get relief from the law.
 9.Even at police stations, a complaint by the public can be stopped by a mere call to the officer from a powerful politician.
 10.The judiciary is something we cannot discuss.
 Comments from the BT email poll:
 11.Judges may be able to decide without any bias. But he or she would need to be very bold to go against the mainstream trend.
 12.YES absolutely – there is NO independence of the judiciary!
 13.The constitution does not provide for the independence of the judiciary
 14.While there is an environment where judges find it difficult to discharge their duties by the book, some judges do still come true to their conscience!

Some examples are Justice T.M.P.B. Warawewa’s dissenting judgment amidst pressures and threats in the ‘White Flag case’ involving former army commander Sarath Fonseka, and Justice Shirani Thilakawardene’s dissenting judgment in Dr P.B. Jayasundera’s reinstatement as Treasury Secretary.

Judges need a lot of courage to discharge their duties

* With the annulment of the 17th Amendment and the passage of the 18th Amendment, public institutions will find it difficult to ensure the rule of law, which is one of the basic functions of the state. This will have drastic consequences on economic development and social stability. For instance, how can investors, particularly FDIs, be assured that their property and persons will be protected in such a situation? How can an ordinary citizen feel safe/ secure and be sure one is allowed to seek all opportunities for advancement or be entitled to be treated fairly and efficiently by the public service?



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