By Lawyers Collective –
It is reported that visas issued to a delegation of the International Bar Association (IBA), consisting of eminent jurists, headed by the distinguished former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma, had later been revoked. The delegation was expected to conduct meetings with a diversity of stakeholders on the development of the legal profession, rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka. This was not the first time IBA missions visited Sri Lanka and in fact, on two previous occasions the IBA visited and compiled reports, which enriched the legal profession and judiciary immensely.
The International Bar Association, established in 1947, is the world’s leading association of legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. It has a membership of more than 50,000 individual lawyers and over 200 bar associations and law societies spanning all continents. It has considerable expertise in providing assistance to the global legal community. The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) is a member of the IBA. Sri Lankan legal community is an integral part of the global legal fraternity.
The Government of Sri Lanka has constantly stated that the impeachment against its Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake has been done in accordance with the constitutional and international best practices. An independent assessment would have assisted the Government of Sri Lanka to prove its credibility. It is regrettable that the Government of Sri Lanka has denied visas to the members of this delegation, consisting of persons of highest credibility and recognition. Lawyers Collective believes that if the government did not have anything to hide, or it had followed Latimer House principles, the mission would have been permitted. We wish to remind those who matter that the only country which denied visas to IBA missions ever was Fiji in 2008, which was later suspended from Commonwealth in 2009.
Lawyers Collective urges the Government of Sri Lanka in the circumstances to be transparent and be open for scrutiny of its impeachment process and Rule of Law. Such openness would help the democracy in Sri Lanka in general and the professional standards of the Sri Lankan legal professionals.