Regarding the story published in Colombo Telegraph titled ‘Jaffna Tamils Land Grab FR cases: Justice Sripavan Advices DSG how to Grab Lands Correctly’, a lawyer present in court clarifies as follows:
- There were only three typographical errors and not ‘lots of mistakes’ as your article claims that have to be corrected in the petition. The errors were first pointed out by Justice Sripavan and the counsel for the petitioners who was well aware of the errors conceded very early on in the proceedings and moved that he be allowed to make the necessary amendments. Such typographical errors are commonplace and corrections by way of amendments take place as a matter of routine. Further Mr. Shavindra Fernando, DSG appearing for the AG said he needed more time to peruse documents handed over to him by the Sri Lanka Army only that morning. Accordingly the case was fixed for support on the 15th of July.
- Justice Sripavan pointed out to Mr. Shavindra Fernando, during the proceedings, that the notice issued under proviso (a) to section 38 of the Land Acquisition Act, in his opinion had to be withdrawn by the State. He further pointed out that the State should go beyond the Section 2 notice and publish notice under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, which would give opportunity for any claimants to record their objections. Counsel for the Petitioners, Mr. Guruparan at this point said that they are challenging the Section 2 notice as well and brought to notice of the court a pronouncement made by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe in the March 2013 UNHRC sessions in Geneva that no high security zones exist in this country and that only a small cantonment has been held on to by the SLA in Palay. Mr. Guruparan said that the State cannot be seen to be turning around from such declared executive policy and that to do so will be in breach of legitimate expectations of the people of Valikamam North. Justice Sripavan advised counsel to canvass these matters when the matter is taken up for support.
- The Colombo Telegraph news item says, “The Colombo Telegraph is reliably informed that there is speculation in Tamil circles as to why these petitioners chose to file FR cases in the more politicized Supreme Court now run by de facto Chief Justice Mohan Pieris, rather than go by the other option of writ petitions to the Appeal Court”.
One of the counsels in the Court of Appeal case who is also an MP, at the Tellipalai protests against the land grab, where the decision to file cases was announced, noted that it is unlikely that the judiciary will give any relief and that he is recommending to the Vali North people that these cases be filed to exhaust local remedies and as a measure of documentation. A simple question is even if the court of appeal grants relief will not the AG appeal to the Supreme Court? So why file cases at all? And if going to the Supreme Court is not an option is it to be understood that the lawyers who hold this opinion and who have chosen the Court of Appeal forum will completely boycott the Supreme Court? Shouldn’t these ‘Tamil Circles’ be encouraging Tamil lawyers to use different forums and different strategies so that all options and possibilities are utilised? Why are these Tamil circles ridiculing efforts by other groups to bring the grievances of the people to light? Do some of the lawyers attached to this Tamil Circle actually think that filing cases in appellate courts highlighting the plight of the Tamil people is an exclusive premise of theirs? It is such pettiness that has reduced the Tamil people to the situation that they are in at present. Unless there is cordiality in the way these different groups function the Tamil cause will never succeed.
The comments on each paragraph by our court reporter to whom we referred the ‘clarification’ are as follows:
* Lawyer Guruparan only asked whether to amend the prayer of his petition. However the DSG pointed out that there were many things to be corrected. Lawyer Guruparan didn’t contest this point. Therefore the impression that a lot of mistakes were in the petition was created and not disputed in court.
* The need to amend petitions due to typos/mistakes, though not rare are not ‘commonplace’ as claimed by ‘lawyer present in court’.
* The number of mistakes in the petition was never mentioned in court. How ‘lawyer present in court’ says so is unclear.
* Whether 3 mistakes in an important document like a court petition is ‘a lot’ is anyway a matter of opinion which I feel is not worth analysing here.
* I believe lawyer Guruparan maybe able to justify/explain the mistakes. But the ‘lawyer present in court’ may not be able to, unless the two are one and the same.
* In any case the story is not about lawyer Guruparan and the reasons for his petition mistakes. The corrections were allowed by court and therefore didn’t become newsworthy in themselves.
* The ‘lawyer present in court’ fails to mention that Justice Sripavan, while granting time to amend the petition asked the DSG, “Why can’t you issue the right section 4 notice? Then there won’t be these issues”. What was said sounded to any fairminded person like advice on how to get rid of the technical problems to acquire the lands.
* This is of course very unusual. Judges normally don’t advise one side of a case how to get the better of the other.
* As a news reporter, I reported the fact that certain Tamil circles were concerned about the choice of court. My journalistic inquiries threw up reservations that taking this matter to the more politicised Supreme Court gave a greater handle to the Rajapaksa regime.
* So while nothing was sure even in the Appeal Court, it was still the best chance.
* If the Appeal Court gave a ruling in favour of landowners, for the Supreme Court to overturn it in appeal would have been harder and more embarassing than to deal with FR cases that have no previous order or possibility of an appeal.
* I won’t comment on various facts (true or false) in this para which seem to speak of differences between Tamil political actors. Such catfights are not what the story is about.
* The persons I described as Tamil circles were citizens of Jaffna origin who strongly felt their people deserve the best chance to save their lands and that international pressure could be asked for anyway – now and if cases failed to give justice.
* I can’t speak for any lawyers in the Appeal Court or predict what they would do later. That is not part of the story or my job as a journalist.
* The story is accurate and meant to report relevant news.