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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Will the judiciary crack under pressure? .

It is our right to protest that no government or political party can investigate past decisions and actions of the former Chief Justice or else the next victim will be the incumbent chief justice and the government will take steps to appoint a new person.
This has become a threat for judges to act independently.

The former Attorney General Mohan Peries a few weeks ago showed that one can mislead a United Nations Committee by giving false statements. He claimed that he has information that journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda is living overseas. In addition, he stated that they have arrested the persons who assaulted journalist Poddala Jayantha. When questioned by the journalists, the Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella stated that the view expressed by the former attorney general was a personal opinion. When the former attorney general and a legal advisor to the President makes false statements, it subjects our country to ridicule. If he knows the location of Prageeth Ekenligoda it would be advantageous to the government to point out his location. Therefore the government should expose the location of Prageeth Ekneligoda and prove that it does not lie to the international community.

No one has been arrested up to now with regard to the assault of Poddala Jayantha. Benntte Rupesinghe who was eye witness to his abduction was later arrested and released subsequently.

In reality today the courts face incalculable pressure from politicians. Under the 18th amendment once the Judicial Services Commission is abolished and all appointments are made under the direction of the President, the independence of the judiciary will be lost. The Attorney General’s Department is under the direct supervision of the President. In the past the Attorney General had withdrawn many complaints. The Attorney General’s Department has been subject to ridicule because of withdrawal of such cases. There has been much debate and discussion with regard to political laws been enacted to carry out political work, the method of implementation and its interpretation. Especially in the past few weeks where certain incidents have taken place and when justice was sort a lot of questions arose.

The Government is in the process of establishing a Parliamentary select Committee to investigate past actions of former Chief Justice Sarath Silva. This is a direct threat to the independence of the judiciary. This is an illegal act where actions of present judges could be investigated in the future. I accept that Sarath Silva was an excellent lawyer in the past. He was considered as a person who had intense knowledge as an appeal court judge. After he was appointed as Chief Justice he made great efforts with the assistance of the World Bank to implement projects to uplift district/rural courts. His actions were sometimes appreciated and criticized as well. The rulings he made against the Tsunami Assistance Board and the amalgamation of the Northern and Eastern province as one unit, though on the face looked racially tainted, has helped to put pressure on the government to go in for a political settlement in the future. According to the COPE Commission Report the verdict he gave with regard to the Insurance Cooperation and the hedging deal is considered to be one that favoured the people of the country.

Today Sarath Silva talks of a weak opposition, not being active and their power being reduced, but in 2004 when the government had 108 seats, he helped it grow upto 118 by giving judgments stating that there is nothing wrong with a member of the opposition joining the government in order to obtain a ministerial post.  This decision weakened and divided the opposition. He is totally responsible for the situation that the opposition is in today, although he alleges that the opposition is very weak.

Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Banadarananayake, who taught me my first letters in law, came from a rural part of Anuradapura and entered university to become the first law professor and later on brought much respect to the legal profession and the country by becoming the Chief Justice. I wish that she will have the courage to resist the political pressure the courts are facing today and consider the matters raised herein.
Former Indian Chief Justice Prafullachandra Natwarlal Bhagwati stated that he had a great weight on his shoulders and was obligated to fulfil this responsibility without being unjust to anyone. I wish that Sri Lanka too would have lawmakers who think in this manner.


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