19 July, 2024

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Executive Must Cease Intimidating & Undermining The Independence Of The Judiciary: Lawyers’ Collective

On 18th June 2024 President Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking in Parliament, criticizing the recent Supreme Court determination on the Gender Equality Bill referred to the court as having engaged in ‘judicial cannibalism’. The President went on to say that Parliament ‘could not agree with the Supreme Court ruling’ and that he while he doesn’t propose to summon judges before parliament, he proposes the appointment a Parliamentary Select Committee to review the determination. Previously, the President also demanded the appointment of a parliamentary Select Committee to investigate the workings of the Constitutional Council when it did not approve his nominee to the Supreme Court.

On 19th June 2024, the Minister of Justice, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, in Parliament, stated that the Supreme Court Orders in effect suspend parts of the Constitution and drew comparison between the orders of the Supreme Court and Adolf Hitler suspending the civil rights prior to the outbreak of World War II. These statements are aimed at instilling fear and confusion in the minds of citizens.

The Minister levelled serious allegations naming specific judges and lawyers. Any such allegation of corruption involving judicial officers must be taken extremely seriously however these public statements are a misuse of Parliamentary privilege. Allegations should be confined to formal complaints before the proper fora. Every allegation must be dealt with due process and with a view to strengthening institutions. It is disappointing and extremely concerning that the Minister, a senior member of the legal profession, a President’s Counsel, levels allegations against the District Court judge who issued a stay order against the Minister regarding an issue on the office bearers of the SLFP. Further the Minister of Education, Susil Premjayanth and Dayasiri Jayasekara, Member of Parliament also made comments on the cases for which they have certain interests.

The above remarks are an assault upon the independence of the judiciary, a cornerstone of our Constitution. The President, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education are representatives of the entire Executive. The President also exercises a critically important Constitutional power and responsibility in appointing judges to our highest judicial forum – the Supreme Court and the Minister of Justice controls resources to the judiciary. Such high executive office making insidious sweeping remarks about the judiciary using parliamentary privilege is a clear abuse of their power. It sends strong signals to judicial officials that certain judicial decisions will not be tolerated by this executive. It implies complicity with the executive may receive career advancement and support. By using the nationally televised platform afforded to speeches in Parliament, the President and Minister of Justice to make disparaging remarks on the judiciary demeans this important public institution central to a functioning democracy. It undermines the public confidence in the authority and impartiality of the judiciary. Foundational concepts of the rule of law, separation of powers and balance of powers are founded on maintaining public confidence. Public confidence among the sovereign  People legitimizes the entire State. The People support and legitimize State powers of governance when they have confidence in the judiciary. As such, these statements directly threaten the political stability of the country.

Constructive critique, fair comment and difference of opinions are all valid forms of the right to freedom of expression. However, given the Executive’s equal role in ensuring the balance of power among organs of government, and protecting the sovereignty of the People as guaranteed by the Constitution. It is incumbent on the Executive in a democracy to refrain from eroding the powers and responsibilities of the other key institutions and express disagreement due care. Disagreement cannot cross into threat or intimidation. Restraint must also be exercised in any comments or actions made about the judiciary even in Parliament in direct recognition of the fact that judges do not have a right of reply and cannot defend themselves.

The Lawyers’ Collective views this attack on the judiciary, which in the context of mounting litigation before courts, is the last recourse and refuge against abuse of State powers. The Collective has observed increased participation in democracy, whereby citizens have challenged decisions on appointments to high posts, corrupt decisions, undemocratic and repressive legislation initiated by the executive and Executive measures mounting hardships on the lives of the People. We have also seen repressive measures by the Executive against public protests and dissent. In this context, and the mounting evidence of executive interference with the judiciary, these statements are not isolated excesses, but now form a clear pattern of intimidation by politicians holding executive power. It is a pattern of authoritarian conduct by a President who serves without a direct mandate from the people and a Minister in the Cabinet of such a President.

The Lawyers’ Collective condemns the above statements made by the President, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education and Dayasiri Jayasekara MP. We are of the view that any allegation against the judiciary must be made in the form of a formal complaint before the appropriate forum and not by way of a statement in the Parliament under the cover of Parliamentary privilege. The Collective believes such statements, immediately prior to an election, to be politically expedient and aimed to cause uncertainty and loss of confidence in the People in the judiciary and democratic processes. The Collective requests the public to stand up in protection of the independence of the Judiciary at this time and always.

Yours faithfully,

On behalf of the Lawyers’ Collective;

Mr. Upul Jayasuriya, President’s Counsel

Mr. M.M. Zuhair, President’s Counsel

Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, President’s Counsel

Professor Savitri Goonesekere, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Anura B. Meddegoda, President’s Counsel

Mr. Saliya Pieris, President’s Counsel

Professor Deepika Udagama

Professor Camena Gunaratne

Mr. S.T. Jayanaga, President’s Counsel

Mr. Upul Kumarapperuma, President’s Counsel

Rev. Fr. Noel Dias, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Jagath Kularatne, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Lakshan Dias, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Srinath Perera, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. K.W. Janaranjana, Attorney-at-Law

Ms. Ermiza Tegal, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Darshana Kuruppu, Attorney-at-Law

Mr. Sandamal Rajapakse, Attorney-at-Law

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Latest comments

  • 16
    4

    This is so ridiculous, like a Kapu Rala saying we are insulting the god of his Kovil !

    These lawyers are appearing before these judges and making fortunes from their poor clients !

    I am told that many lawyers in this list have very bad reputations for messing up cases , exploiting their clients and appearing for both sides !

    How can any of these chaps take this high and mighty position when their Chief Justices are Mohan Peiris , Sarath Silva and Asoka Silva. All more political than the politicians and Mohan Peiris even was made a diplomat by MR . His wife had her office in the CJ’s bungalow . Another female CJ got MR to make her husband the Chairman of a government bank .

    When Ranjan Ramanayake said judges are corrupt Sri Lanka supreme court put him in jail ! I wish I could put people who criticize me in jail !

    Judges are as bad as our politicians. But these lawyers who make money through them want us to treat them like a holy cow ! Next time these lawyers appear before these judges they will be favoured by them. That is how the system works.

    The judger are paid with our taxes, given Benz cars , bungalows and should be open to public criticism

    • 10
      2

      The Lawyers probably informed RW beforehand that they had to make this statement in order to maintain some show of independence. I wouldn’t put it past Ranil to have asked them to do it. All of them are shameless and corrupt. In a real democracy they would all be in prison.

    • 4
      3

      DS: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    • 8
      13

      DS,
      ” I wish I could put people who criticize me in jail !”
      Try changing you name to something more Sinhala Buddhist, eg S. Gautama.

  • 9
    3

    Lawyers rightly show displeasure when a President not elected by people, creeps into Parliament and under cover of Parliamentary privilege issues orders for a committee to judge the judiciary. What a comedy. This is executive interference creating political instability which is not going to increase the votes given to the executive. It is a disabling move for those concerned.

  • 15
    10

    Once again, Ranil has proved beyond doubt that he is not mentally stable and acts like a thug. As President, he does not have the guts to take action against the crooks who have stolen money but acts like a joker and a thug in the Parliament against the Justices. Imagine if he was talking like this before the election how would he act once he is appointed president for the second time? It’s time to kick Ranil out of politics for the second time.

    • 11
      12

      Buddhist1,
      “Once again, Ranil has proved beyond doubt that he is not mentally stable and acts like a thug.”
      I don’t think Ranil is not mentally stable but there is no doubt he is a thug and mentally strong throughout his career. We all know that Gota was a thug in and out and his influence obvious in Easter Bombing but Ranil is much dangerous thug but you may not be able to see his true face by his behaviour. How simply he used aragalaya in favour of him by eliminating Rajapaksa family out of politics and turned military into his pocket to compress aragalya with the same military. Today almost 75% of Rajapaksa group MPs are now with him means what? Not only Rajapaksas group MPs but also many TNA MPs.

      • 8
        11

        Ajith, yes, Ranil has been successful in collecting all the page guys, thugs, murderers, kappa guys, central bank robbery guys and child abusers under his wing. Thank God they are all under Ranil now so that voters can now reject all of them once again and send Ranil back to his home to retire. Ranil is not an honourable person.

  • 9
    1

    So far Ranil W has proven to be a shameless person to hold any type of responsibility to be a Head of a Government. Remember, once he was the PM, he instigated his caucus to shout after him: “Who is the rouge, Mhinda Hora” (Kuada Hora, Mahinda Hora). Just see what type of statements he makes in Parliament. Most irresponsible and shown to be a “Street Thug”.

    No wonder his colleagues in the Cabinet behave similarly or most often in a worse form. That was what the Minister of Justice showed the other day after the statement of Ranil W. Imagine him mentioning the name PC Mustaffa and accusing him of conferring with Judges in their chambers to get a verdict in his favor. This Minister of Justice got shielded behind Parliamentary privileges and made those accusations known well that he wouldn’t be confronted. That was a show of poor professionalism and cowardice.

    These are a bunch of bastards who have to be kicked out of power and possibly sent behind bars. What a shame!

  • 19
    10

    Finland is the second least corrupt country in the world ……… Lanka is the 115th.

    No wonder, the Finns are the happiest people in the world …….. and Lankans are bankrupt and mentally in the pits.

    Should I be praising Lanka ……… to bolster some poor Lankans’ wounded pride?

    Lester c’mon buddy, start praising …….. you are the expert ……. the stage is all yours ………. wallow in foolish pride to ye heart’s content!

    Make us Lankans happy! :)))

    • 12
      12

      The most corrupt countries are near the equator. All of the Arab countries are also massively corrupt. Native’s relations in Sub-Saharan Africa didn’t even invent a wheel. Why would they? No need to travel. Just eat fruits from the trees, hunt some zebra and enjoy the concubine all day.

      • 8
        0

        Hello Lester,
        Never heard of the Benin Bronzes or the Library at Timbuktu. The Dogon knew of Saturn’s rings, Jupiter’s moons, the spiral structure of the Milky Way and the orbit of the Sirius star system. They knew this system contained a primary star and a secondary star (now called Sirius B) of immense density and not visible to the naked eye. Ancient Tanzanian furnaces could reach 1,800°C — 200 to 400°C warmer than those of the Romans. Always remember our Ancestors came from Africa, even yours😉.
        Best regards

        • 10
          4

          Hello LankaScot,

          IQ testing is controversial, but it is not necessarily “racist.” For example, in “The Bell Curve,” Herrnstein and Murray reported data that showed that, on average, East Asians (specifically, people of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean descent) tended to score slightly higher on IQ tests compared to people of European descent in the United States. Not exactly a conclusion the National Socialists would agree with. Just because someone like “Native Vedda” would score in the first quartile does not automatically make the “bell curve” distribution racist. A lot of these differences are probably evolutionary and related to the climate (with certain exceptions).

      • 6
        11

        Lester

        “The most corrupt countries are near the equator.”

        What has it got to do with Sri Lanka. Didn’t you learn two wrongs do not make a right?
        Since you are an American Slave it would be most difficult a task to convince you. Therefore I have found a youtube clip to teach you some facts:
        https://www.youtube.com/shorts/8p9xPMNZWLM

    • 12
      14

      Nimal,
      You shouldn’t be so hard on Lester . After all, the poor guy recently discovered that Bisokotuwas “regulated the water pressure” in wewas, and that the ancient Sinhalayo had 300 psi water pumps in Sigiriya. All proven with calculus.

      • 11
        4

        LankaScot,

        “Always remember our Ancestors came from Africa…”

        It reminds me of a cartoon. A 6 year old wanted to know his origin and checked the label on his shirt. “China.”

        Old Codger,

        Is that how you were conceived? A bottle of arrack at 300 psi in a one-room tin hut in Nuwara… calculus can be proven, but you should focus on paternity first.

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