By Kamal Nissanka –
The Liberal Party is deeply concerned about the recent assault on Mr. Manjula Thilakarathna, Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission. While the background of the crude perpetrators of the incident at Mount Lavinia on Sunday 7th October 2012 is as yet unknown, the fact that it follows on what seems confrontation between the executive and the judiciary makes it even more imperative for government to swiftly investigate the matter and bring the offenders to justice.
The recent statement issued by Mr. Tilakarathne reflects what seems to be an ongoing cold war between the executive branch and the judicial branch of the state. It followed on an incident in Mannar in which the police seem to have prima facie evidence of an attempt by the executive branch to influence the judiciary. This is unacceptable and government must make clear that the decisions of the judiciary are independent and cannot be meddled with.
The Liberal Party however also believes that the Judiciary too must be disciplined in terms of the laws, and accountable to the public. In particular it must scrupulously adhere to the laws passed by the legislature, with provision not to overturn them, but to recommend changes if these laws are in conflict with the Constitution or with Fundamental Rights. In this regard we urge the legislature to provide for retrospective review of legislation, and also to swiftly introduce the Bill of Rights pledged in the manifesto of the President in 2005. We also urge the Judiciary to lay down guidelines to its members on sentencing policy and monitoring of corrective institutions as is required now but rarely accomplished. Such guidelines must be made available to the public.
Reform of the Judiciary is long overdue but this must be done through consultation, and the Judiciary should be requested to take the lead in the process. Reform cannot be undertaken by the Executive in the present context, but strengthening of the Legislature, and consultative processes in this regard, will help with ensuring reforms based on principle, not on particular situations and hostilities.
Meanwhile, and especially so as to restore the confidence in governmental processes that is essential, we urge all relevant authorities to ensure a quick and result oriented investigation to bring the perpetrators of the attack on Mr Tilakaratne before the law, and take appropriate action to prevent such incidents in future. We believe it is also important that investigations into outstanding cases which have brought suspicion on government, such as the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunga, must be quickly and positively concluded.
The party believes in the concepts of separation of powers, the rule of law and independence of judiciary. The current Sri Lankan Constitution, which is concerned more with process rather than principle, is a recipe for destroying such concepts. We urge principled reform of the Constitution, that would strengthen all relevant institutions and promote good governance based on consultation rather than intimidation.
*Kamal Nissanka – Secretary General, Liberal party of Sri Lanka