By AHRC –
At the Bar Association election this year, Mr. Upul Jayasooriya was elected with an overwhelming majority. He won by a margin of over 1,471 votes while the persons who came in second and third received 330 and 77 votes. It was well known that oner of the candidates was openly promoted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, the lawyers of the country voted for a candidate who openly took up a position opposing the move of the government to remove Dr. Shirani Bandaranayke, as the Chief Justice. It can be said that this election is an expression of no confidence against the government’s severe interference into the judicial independence.
It is hope that the election will lead to a continuation of the resistance of lawyers to the direct undermining of the independence of the judiciary by the government. The very survival of the legal profession rests on the capacity of the lawyers to resist the virtual destruction of the very foundations on which the legal profession is rooted, which are the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers. The government has pushed its agenda for the exercise of absolute power to the point where the independence of the judiciary is no longer possible.
However, the government also cannot deviate from the course it has set out upon by way of by way of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Furthermore, according to reports, the government is also contemplating further legislation to strengthen its attempt to take absolute power.
In Sri Lanka today there is open conflict between the law and the mode of governance that the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime is pursuing. The government’s does whatever it pleases irrespective of whether it undermines the laws of the country. That, ‘whatever the government wants’ is law, is the policy now.
Therefore, the conflict with the judiciary and the lawyers is a course that the government appears to be unable to avoid. That the destruction of the legal foundation of the country, will also result in the destruction of the legal profession seems to be of no concern to the government.
Therefore, the line of battle has been clearly drawn. If the legal profession wishes to protect itself it must fight vigorously for the protection of the law in the country. This protection also requires the independence of the judiciary. If there is a move to use the judiciary itself to destroy the law, then the legal profession will have very little choice but to oppose this move.
Had the legal profession realized its obligations towards the protection of the law in Sri Lanka, it would have opposed the destruction which has been taking place for several decades now. Even the belated realisation of the danger faced by the very survival of the profession is a welcome signal, not only for the legal profession but also for the country as a whole. No country can survive without the law. And the kind of executive presidential system that has developed in the country is in direct conflict with the law. Therefore, the citizens who care for their rights, can no longer avoid a confrontation with the government’s attempt to destroy that very foundation. The attack on the law and the independence of the judiciary by the government endangers the survival of the Sri Lankan legal system.
We therefore congratulate the lawyers for the manner in which they have expressed their opposition to the government’s move to destroy the law and the independence of the judiciary and we hope the new office bearers of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, will live up to the expectations of those who voted for them, by carefully developing and implementing their strategies to protect the law and the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka.