Image courtesy of The Times of India.
Observing a rise in arbitrary arrests and criminal activity in recent times, The Executive Committee of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), says that the legal system provides for investigation, inquiry, trial, and punishment by proper authorities which is the base of democracy and the Rule of Law, and the credibility and transparency of such process must be diligently and fiercely preserved.
Meanwhile speaking to media on the issue the BASL President, President’s Counsel (PC) Kaushalya Nawaratne has said that they were concerned about the way the Police works in the case of this operation. “The Police is taking hundreds and thousands of suspects into custody, remanding them, getting detention orders (DO) issued, demolishing properties, and taking over properties. Basically, it is the Police that decides what to do. They cannot do it. This is not a Police State.”
The BASL statement in full:
“The BASL firmly condemns the regrettable shooting incident that transpired in Weligama, resulting in the tragic demise of a Police Sergeant and the injury caused to a Sub Inspector from the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD).
“This incident purportedly occurred within the context of an operation aimed at apprehending a group allegedly engaged in illicit drug activities.
BASL underscores the utmost significance of adhering to due process and upholding the rule of law.
“The police raids, including the demolition of property carried out without valid search warrants and/or valid search orders, whilst flagrantly violating established legal protocols, render them unlawful.
“Such actions not only undermine the bedrock principles of justice, but also erode public confidence in the integrity of law enforcement agencies.
“In terms of Article 13 (4) of the Constitution, no person shall be punished with death or imprisonment except by order of a competent court.
“Hence, even a convicted criminal has a right not to be arbitrarily deprived of his life except in accordance with procedure established by law.
“The prospect of extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests presents a deeply disconcerting opportunity for the abuse of power.
“Our collective legacy will harshly judge us if we remain silent in the face of such grave transgressions. It is imperative that the authorities act in full accordance with the law, ensuring that justice is served for both the victims and the accused parties involved.
“Moreover, we express deep concern over recent statements made by the Minister of Public Security, which implicate certain lawyers as conspirators with drug offenders.
“The absence of police accountability and the grant of unchecked impunity create an environment where no individual can feel secure. BASL underscores the urgent need for transparency, accountability, and the protection of the rights of all individuals engaged in legal proceedings.
“In light of these disconcerting developments, BASL calls upon the authorities to promptly rectify these issues, hold the responsible parties accountable, and restore public trust in the justice system.
It is only by steadfastly upholding the principles of due process and ensuring the primacy of the rule of law that we can establish a society that is equitable and just for all its members.”
SL not a Police State: BASL Prez Nawaratne
Claiming that they are seriously concerned about the way the Police works in the case of the islandwide operation “Yukthiya” (Justice) aimed at eliminating drug trafficking and organised crime, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) stated that they would be taking up the issue with all stakeholders including President and Defence Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Public Security Minister Tiran Alles.
The islandwide operation “Yukthiya”, which was announced a day in advance, was first launched on 17 December 2023 on the instructions of Alles and Acting Inspector General of Police Deshabandu Tennakoon. It is being launched with the support of other security forces such as the Police Special Task Force and the Army. During raids conducted throughout the country, thousands of suspects have been arrested for possession of drugs and their alleged involvement in various crimes.
Speaking to The Daily Morning yesterday (3), the BASL President, President’s Counsel (PC) Kaushalya Nawaratne said that they were concerned about the way the Police works in the case of this operation. “The Police is taking hundreds and thousands of suspects into custody, remanding them, getting detention orders (DO) issued, demolishing properties, and taking over properties. Basically, it is the Police that decides what to do. They cannot do it. This is not a Police State.”
Emphasising that there is a process and law to be followed, he said that the operation must go through the legal system. “There are judges in the country and this must go through the legal procedure. We have raised our concerns regarding this not once but many times. But they have escalated this now. We are currently in the process of finalising certain communications to be made with regard to this matter. We will take up these issues not only with the Minister (Alles) but with all other stakeholders including the President.”
According to the Public Security Ministry, more than 20,797 suspects have been arrested during the first 14 days of the operation, from 17 to 31 December 2023. As of 31 December 2023, investigations on 1,018 of them were being conducted on DOs while another 1,298 suspects had been referred for rehabilitation programmes.
The Police had commenced investigations on 189 suspects on charges related to illegal assets. A total of 1,625 suspects who had been on the lists of wanted suspects by the Police Narcotics Bureau and the Special Crime Investigation Branch have also been arrested. In addition, the Police had seized properties belonging to suspected drug dealers including houses and vehicles as of the said date, and the approximate value of such was said to be over Rs. 558.5 million.