23 October, 2020

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20A: Follow Latimer House Principles – Commonwealth Judges’, Magistrates’, Lawyers’, Journalists’ Associations Tell Government

Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA, Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA), Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA), and Rechters voor Rechters (Judges for Judges) call upon the Executive and Legislature of Sri Lanka to ensure that the proposed constitutional changes are consistent with the Commonwealth fundamental values and international standards relating on the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.

We publish below the statement in full;

We, the undersigned organisations, are deeply concerned about the impact the Sri Lanka 20th Constitutional Amendment Bill (the ‘Amendment Bill’) issued on 2 September 2020 would have on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, if adopted. Of particular concern are the amendments proposed relating to the Judiciary and to the Judicial Services
Commission.

The adherence to the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Accountability of and Relationship between the Three Arms of government (The Principles) and to the Commonwealth Charter was specifically affirmed by the Governmentof Sri Lanka. Principle IV, ‘An independent, impartial, honest and competent judiciary is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice….…..Judicial appointments to all levels must be made on merit on the basis of clearly defined criteria and by a publicly declared process”.

The appointment process, whether or not involving an appropriately constituted and representative judicial services commission, should be designed to guarantee the quality and the independence of those selected for appointment at all levels. The Model Law on Judicial Services Commissions endorsed by Commonwealth Law Ministers at their Meeting in Nassau, Bahamas in October 2017, commends the creation of an independent judicial services commission composed of judges, representatives of the legal profession and lay members representing civil society through an independent appointments process. The current proposed Parliamentary Council (Article 41a), composed of members of parliament or nominees thereof in no way conforms to the spirit of an independent body, Furthermore, the provisions of Article 107, 109 and 111 of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution gives the President of Sri Lanka powers to make any senior judicial appointments without specific approval or advice from the Parliamentary Council. Under the proposed Amendment the President is only required to obtain the “observations” of the Parliamentary Council. This is contrary to the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles as well as the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and to the spirit of the separation of powers and the Commonwealth Charter.

The present Constitution provides for a national consensus on appointments by requiring approval of the Constitutional Council. The Constitutional Council is chaired by the Speaker and includes the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, One Member of Parliament representing the President while minor parties in Parliament nominate one other. The Council also has three eminent persons who are not involved in politics and who are nominated jointly by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition after consulting leaders of the other political parties represented in Parliament. In nominating these three persons and another two Members of Parliament, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition must ensure that the Constitutional Council reflects the pluralistic character of Sri Lankan society, including professional and social diversity. The present Constitution also provides for any removal of members of the Judicial Appointments Commission to be approved by the Constitutional Council. The proposed 20th Amendment aims to abolish these provisions and would, in effect relegate the Judiciary to a position inferior to that of the Executive and Legislature in Sri Lanka. This is contrary to the rule of law and the basic tenets of the principles of separation of powers.

We therefore call upon the Executive and Legislature of Sri Lanka to ensure that the proposed constitutional changes are consistent with the Commonwealth fundamental values and international standards relating on the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.

Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA)

Commonwealth Legal Education Association (CLEA)

Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA)

Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA)

Rechters voor Rechters (Judges for Judges)

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Latest comments

  • 6
    17

    Who are these people anyway to tell us what we should or should not do!

    • 7
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      N
      But we want the “International Community” to tell us what we should do.

  • 17
    3

    “One law for all is good. One country for all is good.” It is only good if there is one rule of law for all whether it is President or Prime Minister or a Buddhist Monk. If that is what Gotabaya wants to achieve, why the president is afraid of justice for all?

  • 11
    2

    Nathan: “Who are these people anyway to tell us what we should or should not do”. With that statement, I figure out that “YOU” are either a member of the “Inner Circle” of the Presidential Secretariat OR perhaps well “Oiled” to carry out a “Propaganda Bliss”. Either way, you are well “Groomed” to tell even the UNO, “Don’t interfere with our Internal Matters”, because these “Amendments” are all “Internal Matters”. Apart from that, do our “LEGISLATORS” (the large majority) know what this “Latimer House” principles are? So, as you did say, they (the present Legislators) would also definitely ask: “Who are these people…………..”. In a way good that you said it on their behalf.

    • 2
      2

      Simon, I was mocking!

      • 0
        0

        You seldom joke. So, give a signal when you are joking.

      • 0
        0

        Nathan: Sorry. I did not get your joke. I apologize for what I said to you.

  • 6
    0

    I ask out of curiosity as much as lack of information:
    Did the Commonwealth Judges’, Magistrates’, Lawyers’, Journalists’ Associations or their equivalents 42 years ago tell the then government anything about its New Constitution?
    If they did, that should desirably be made known.

    • 2
      2

      ” If they did, that should desirably be made known. “

      Is that not in Google, to quickly browse and come back with half backed arguments?

      Britain brought universal franchise for Lankawe in 1931. But it didn’t do that for India. Britain let India to write its own constitution. But it recognized Lankawe’s inability so wrote a constitution free of charge and set it on good foot. Every bad act of Lankawe was opposed by international organization. There is Privy Council verdict against Sinhala Only. Nationalization British Tea companies received international retaliation in London Auction. Lankawe rubber pact was opposed by IC counties. Britain talked with Sri Ma o when she first said that when Lankawe becomes republic, it will go out of commonwealth. If Lankawe worries Commonwealth is trying to tell them something, then why didn’t Sri Mao get out of it when she removed Dominion Status? Why Old King did want CHOGM in Lankawe; only to he appoints the next British Monarch? When CHOGM was going in Lankawe, Commonwealth had put of some African countries out of its membership. Pakistan was suspended two times. You want membership obey the rules or face ousting out. Period!

    • 4
      3

      Lankawe took help from India and India put the fire off from the ship. Cunningly Lankawe prepared $ 340M bill to send to shipping company. Now it is India will be doing it for $350M and give a share to Lankawe. Lankawe didn’t want its Avant Guard ships towed to international ports and charged, so got out of international shipping conventions. Now, the oil tanker created damage, $750M is said cannot be claimed from Shipping company. If nobody can tell to Lankawe, nobody will be paying to Lankawe. There numerous trade sanctions agonist Russia and China. Even Lankawe is alerted to put ban on Chinese spying applications like Tiktok. It is not going to be so easy to dupe IC with foul arguments like “why didn’t you tell in 1978?” Why can’t Lankawe listen if they say now and it is well within the Commonwealth regulation? Commonwealth changes its rules time to time. Anybody doesn’t like the change can leave the org. Interestingly Commonwealth works in very corporation with UN and they both play complementary to each other, rather than contradicting each other.

  • 7
    0

    Latimer House principles were never followed after Chandrika. They are dead.

    • 0
      2

      It is 2004 arrangement. I think CBK might have left when it was told to member countries.

  • 3
    0

    We all can say outsiders should not poke their fingers into our affairs. But, there should be somebody to rescue us from the oncoming disaster.

  • 2
    0

    Commonwealth Judges’, Magistrates’, Lawyers’, Journalists’ Associations have no business to “Tell Government”, as they are totally ignorant and naive to what is exactly happening at the ground level. The entire judicial service, from Chief Justice, Attorney General, Police Department and down including so called Independent Commissions, and some key administrators are immobilized by the tentacles of a Judicial Mafia operating from a platform specially created to ensure universal justice. This Mafia is so potent that it function as a government within the government irrespective of who rules. Just like the satire in “Yes Prime Minister” and “Yes Minister”. In Srilanka, for sure, it is real.

  • 2
    1

    Does anyone (constitutional expert) in Lanka know what these principles are ???? Uncle RW who is a Covenant House expert, frequently uses such sophisticated words to advertise his credibility.

    • 0
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      It is difficult for us maneuver through the jungle of legal jargon. Just for understanding, The three branches of government (Judiciary, executive, and legislative) should be balanced in the constitution. I am not sure if it is a recommendation or requirement to Commonwealth nations. If you notice, UN does not go to recommend anything at government levels, instead citizens levels, like rights. UN tries to accommodate as much as possible governmental forms, it seems. Commonwealth insist on being democracies, all of its members.

  • 1
    5

    Bunch of lawyers ensuring federalism or something. In this case – country security, executive powers are essential.

  • 1
    0

    Judiciary has become a mockery in Srilanaks. Apparently, the Judges don’t seem to know the activities of the Registrars Office. This may be due to their heavy load of work.
    How can you explain the reason, as to why the registrar’s office took over 5months to notify the Municipal Council to attend the courts, only a day previous to the hearing. In fact, the hearing was fixed for September by the courts somewhere in March 2020. but the letter was received by the Municipal Council only on or about the 22nd of September, as stated by them, in Courts. Accordingly, the hearing was postponed.

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