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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Sri Lanka: Constitutional Council has no authority to give extension to AG – Lawyers’ Collective

In a letter addressed to all members of the Constitutional Council Lawyers Collective has stated that “We firmly believe that the provisions of the Constitution do not empower the Constitutional Council to grant approvals for extensions of the services of key officials who are subject to a mandatory retirement age. We fear that such a move, apart from its illegality, could expose the office of the Attorney General which is critical to the administration of justice, to political criticism and suggestions that the executive President can interfere with this important office which would be dependent on grace and favors of the executive President.”

The Letter in Full:

Members of the Constitutional Council, Parliament, Sri Lanka.

Proposed extension for the Attorney General Hon. Sanjaya Rajaratnam

Proposed extension for the Attorney General Hon. Sanjaya Rajaratnam We, as members of the legal fraternity, are writing to express our concerns regarding the recent media reports about the recommendation submitted by His Excellency the President to the Constitutional Council, proposing to extend the term of office of the Attorney General beyond the mandatory retirement age of 60 years. As you may recall, there was an attempt in 2008 to extend the term of an Attorney General. This resulted in a Fundamental Rights application before the Supreme Court and eventually led to the Attorney General concerned deciding to retire from office without availing himself of the extension.

We firmly believe that the provisions of the Constitution do not empower the Constitutional Council to grant approvals for extensions of the services of key officials who are subject to a mandatory retirement age. We fear that such a move, apart from its illegality, could expose the office of the Attorney General which is critical to the administration of justice, to political criticism and suggestions that the executive President can interfere with this important office which would be dependent on grace and favors of the executive President. This move could also send a wrong message to the officers of the Department of the Attorney General, implying that they can rely on the executive President to seek extensions in office. We believe this could severely compromise the independence of the office of the Attorney General, making it subject to the whims and personal preferences of the sitting President.

We believe that the independence of the officers of the Department of the Attorney General are vital to Sri Lanka’s democracy and the preservation of the rule of law. We are of the view that this move could potentially harm the image of the office of the Attorney General.

Our country, like any other, thrives on the principles of democracy and fairness. One of the cornerstones of these principles is the idea of change and progression. It is through the constant infusion of new ideas and perspectives that we grow as a nation. The retirement policy serves as a mechanism to ensure this change and progression, allowing the holder of the office to carry out his or her functions independently without being reliant on the executive President.

On the other hand, extending the services of the Attorney General beyond the mandatory retirement age could deprive other equally competent officers who would be eligible to be appointed to this high office. Granting an extension beyond the retirement age might set a precedent that could potentially hinder the growth and development of future leaders in the Department of the Attorney General. It is crucial that we create opportunities for the younger generation to step up and lead, bringing fresh ideas and perspectives to the table. We urge you to consider these points and the potential implications of approval to such an extension.

Yours faithfully,

On behalf of the Lawyers’ Collective

Professor Savitri Goonesekere, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Dinal Phillips, President’s Counsel

Mr. Saliya Pieris, President’s Counsel

Professor Deepika Udagama Professor Camena Gunaratne

Ms. Ermiza Tegal, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Darshana Kuruppu, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Manoj Nanayakkara, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Darshana Kuruppu, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Manoj Nanayakkara, Attorney-at-Law

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