The Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Sri Lanka has urged the government to uphold the Constitution and the democracy of the country and not to proceed with any unwarranted measures to interfere with the independence of the judiciary and preserve the freedom of speech and expression of all its citizens.
Issuing a statement on the independence of the judiciary and the freedom of speech, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference calls upon the Government to restrain and defend any attempts made by certain individuals under the cover of privileges to curtail media institutions that are critical towards the activities of the Government as a consequence which directly threatens to infringe the freedom of speech and expression including publication enshrined in the Constitution.
The association also mentions that it has been reported in the media that an Interim Order had been given by the Judges of the Supreme Court regarding a Fundamental Rights case on March 03, directing the Secretary of the Finance Ministry and the Attorney General to not withhold the funds already allocated for the holding of the Local Government Elections, under the 2023 Budget.
“Subsequently, it had been reported that a Member of Parliament had requested the Speaker of the Parliament to refer the conduct of the Judges of the Supreme Court that delivered the aforesaid Interim order as a breach of Parliamentary Privileges, that the Speaker had accepted the said request, and made a referral to the Parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges. It had also been reported that a State Minister had thereafter requested the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament to advise the relevant authorities to not proceed and take any action based upon the aforesaid Interim Order made by the Supreme Court with regard to the Local Government election, until the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges concludes its inquiry”, it added.
Thus, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference expresses that such conduct demonstrated by persons holding positions of responsibility within the organ of the Government amounts to interfering with the entire Judicial process and undermines the very independence of the organ of the Judiciary of the Nation, highlighting that such conduct demonstrated shall directly violate the independence of Their Lordships to perform their powers and functions without any interference and shall also threaten to disrupt the very Doctrine of Separation of Powers of the country.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which stresses that it is the duty of all Governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the Independence of the Judiciary, also emphasizes that such interference demonstrated by these individuals of the Government has already been widely criticized locally and internationally as being a serious and unwarranted encroachment on the Independence of the Judiciary and the judicial function in Sri Lanka, which is wholly unnecessary at this very crucial juncture of the Nation.