By Colombo Telegraph –
The Government is hurriedly organizing a sham Ceremonial Sitting in the Supreme Court on Wednesday (23.01.2013), in a desperate bid to give the appointment of Mohan Pieris to function in the office of Chief Justice against court rulings and intense condemnation locally and internationally, the appearance of legitimacy and acceptance, the Colombo Telegraph can reveal today.
The Bar Association (BASL) has rejected steps to replace Dr. Bandaranayake as Chief Justice without due process and in contravention of the determination of the Supreme Court and a ruling of the Court of Appeal. At an Extraordinary General Meeting called for and attended by thousands of lawyers from across the country, the BASL national membership resolved not to endorse the appointment of an illegal or irregular replacement by attending or participating in any Ceremonial Sitting for any new ‘appointee’.
After the controversial and widely condemned removal of Dr. Bandaranayake without due legal process, Colombo Telegraph learnt that several respected judges and senior lawyers when approached had refused to accept the top judicial spot in keeping with their conscience. Eventually, Pieris, who has many serious allegations of corruption/conflict of interest connected to his tenure as Attorney General pending against him, was handpicked for the job. He was installed in office, on a day when Hulftsdorp was filled with security and police personnel.
A Ceremonial Sitting involves two traditional addresses – one by the President of the BASL (the head of the unofficial bar) and another by the Attorney General (head of the official bar) welcoming the new appointee to office. The President of the BASL and its members cannot participate in any ceremony to welcome Pieris in keeping with the resolution of the BASL general body. All Attorneys at Law are members of the BASL, including the officers of the Attorney General’s Department. However, Colombo Telegraph learns that tremendous pressure has applied on the Attorney General and it’s officers to participate in the Wednesday ceremony. Therefore, according to several leading lawyers contacted by Colombo Telegraph, the attendance/non-attendance of the Attorney General and his officers on Wednesday, would indicate the degree of independence allowed to that institution.
In order to substitute the traditional welcome address by the head of the unofficial bar (President, BASL), the Colombo Telegraph reliably learns that the government is engaged in a desperate attempt to induce and even pressurize several senior President’s Counsel to make a substitute address to give an air of normalcy to a sham function boycotted by the Bar at large in keeping with the resolution by lawyers countrywide who voted that such a sham must be boycotted altogether.
The Colombo Telegraph is informed that those belonging to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Lawyers Association and those lawyers who have been granted favours and appointments by the ruling regime have been instructed that attendance is mandatory and will determine their future prospects. In this way, several recently appointed President’s Counsel who are in search of big cases from state institutions have also been informed that they should return the favour of their appointment by attendance.
The Colombo Telegraph also reliably learns that the government is considering various unorthodox ways to increase the appearance of legitimacy to the ceremony, including getting non-lawyers to attend dressed in lawyer’s attire to swell the numbers and give the appearance of greater numbers.
Several very senior lawyers commented that it remains to be seen how many judges have the luxury of the independence to refrain from attending this illegitimate exercise, which would be a clear indicator of the measure of judicial independence that prevails despite the pressures posed by non-independence of the judiciary where appointments, transfers, disciplinary control and promotions are concerned, after the controversial 18th Amendment which removed all Constitutional mechanisms intended to allow for independence and non-politicization of key judicial and public positions.