The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has urged Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa not to pursue the Resolution of Parliament that will seek to end trials and judicial proceedings in relation to Rajapaksa family members and cronies.
Colombo Telegraph last week published JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s explosive revelations about the Resolution of Parliament tabled by the Prime Minister which will be taken up for voting on April 21.
Issuing a statement, the BASL said passing the resolution would be “an affront to the doctrine of separation of powers, the Rule of Law and the independence of the judiciary.”
In its statement, BASL said the recommendations of the Presidential Commission had been put to Parliament, even though its report is yet to be released to the public.
The Executive Committee of BASL expressed concerns that a proposal has been put forward the presidential commission’s recommendations, although its report has not been released to the public.
The BASL insisted that even if the motion is passed, it would have no effect or influence on any court, the Attorney General’s Department, or the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption.
The Resolution seeks parliamentary approval – preferably by a two thirds majority – to implement the recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Political Victimisation. The recommendations include the prosecution of lawyers at the Attorney General’s Department and investigators at the CID and the Bribery Commission for conducting investigations into corruption, murder and abduction. The Government’s unprecedented resolution seeks to end trials and judicial proceedings against Rajapaksa cousins Jaliya Wickremasuriya and Udyanga Weeratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son Yoshitha Rajapaksa, former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda who was indicted for conspiracy to murder and a spate of other suspects in ongoing corruption and murder trials.
See full text of BASL Letter:
STATEMENT ON THE MOTION BEFORE PARLIAMENT SEEKING TO IMPLEMENT CERTAIN DECISIONS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY (ON POLITICAL VICTIMIZATION)
It has been brought to the attention of the Executive Committee of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka that a Motion was placed on the Order Book of Parliament on 9th April 2021 to implement certain decisions made by the Cabinet of Ministers on 15th February 2021 based on the Report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into alleged political victimizations between 8th January 2015 and 16th November 2019 (PCOI) (Gazette Extraordinary No. 2157/44).
This Motion has been added to the business of Parliament fixed for Wednesday 21st April 2021 by an Addendum to the Order Book of Parliament issued on the 9th of April 2021, which was the last working day prior to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. This Motion has been placed before Parliament whilst certain proceedings challenging the said PCOI Report are pending before the Superior Courts.
The said PCOI Report has neither been made public nor a copy thereof provided to the BASL despite a request therefor. In fact, several senior Members of the Bar including almost all Past Presidents of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) and the present President of the BASL, requested the Secretary of the BASL to call for a copy of the Report of the PCOI expressing serious concerns that “the contents of the report may undermine the Rule of Law in this country, impair the independence of the Judiciary, and erode the impartial and efficient functioning of the Attorney General’s Department”.
While there are several areas of concern to the Bar stemming from media reports of the findings and recommendations of the said PCOI, of utmost concern are that the Motion seeks to implement the recommendations of the Commission to withdraw certain ongoing criminal cases.
The Executive Committee of the BASL is:
(a) extremely concerned about the manner and timing in which the said Motion has been placed on the Order Book of Parliament;
(b) extremely concerned that steps, including the presenting of the said Motion to Parliament, have been taken with a view to implement certain findings and recommendations in the said Report of the PCOI without the Report itself being released to the public;
(c) firmly of the view that the legal principles governing the withdrawal of an indictment are well established in terms of the Code of Criminal Procedure and jurisprudence of the Superior Courts, and if at all it must be done by the Hon. Attorney General or the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption in very limited circumstances and that too upon a consideration of all relevant facts and with the permission of the relevant Court; and that there should be no departure from this legal position and practice;
(d) of the view that the said Motion, if passed, would be inimical to the Doctrine of Separation of Powers and an affront to the Rule of Law, the independence of the Judiciary and would set a very bad and unhealthy precedent with regard to due process.
The Executive Committee of the BASL is of the opinion that the said Motion even if passed, would and should have no effect or influence on any Court of law or on the Department of the Hon. AttorneyGeneral or on the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption. The BASL will firmly resist any attempt to use the said Motion to withdraw any criminal action pending before a Court of Law.
In the aforesaid circumstances the Executive Committee of the BASL requests the Hon. Prime Minister to refrain from pursuing with the said motion.