The Resolution of Parliament moved by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was effectively a motion of no-confidence in the current Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, opposition MP Eran Wickremaratne charged yesterday (23).
Addressing Parliament on Friday, Wickremaratne explained that some 90 cases the Prime Minister’s Resolution was seeking to terminate were indicted by then Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya, who is the current Chief Justice of Sri Lanka. “Those cases were instituted by the Attorney General of the time, who happens to be His Lordship the Chief Justice of the country at present,” he said.
“The Government has not thought this through,” the SJB lawmaker added.
Wickremaratne said the Resolution was unprecedented in the history of Sri Lanka’s Parliament, an attack on the Separation of Powers Doctrine and a case of usurping the judicial power of the people by the government. “Only judicial bodies can discharge or acquit those who are being accused (in a court of law). Nobody else can do this,” the former State Minister for Finance emphasized.
The SJB MP said that the Resolution was interfering with the jurisdiction of the Attorney General of Sri Lanka and those judges presiding over the courts who alone could decide on the merits and demerits of court cases. “The independence of the judiciary is critical. We have a commission of inquiry, we have a special commission of inquiry and now we have a resolution that faultily suggests that the judiciary did not arrive at its findings in an independent and impartial manner – this is what the resolution is suggesting,” Wickremaratne noted.
Amidst its myriad failures, the Government was seeking to crackdown on opposition members, he added.
“I warn the Government do not take up arms to suppress the opposition. We hear that there is move on the part of the government to hunt down Harin Fernando. This Government cannot go on this way, depriving opposition parliamentarians of their civic rights and trying to remove them from the democratic process,” Wickremaratne charged.
See video of Eran Wickremaratne’s Speech here:
A full transcript of the speech by Wickremaratne follows:
The Commission of Inquiry on political victimization was appointed in January 2020 and the report to President was given in the 2020. Thereafter the Cabinet approval was obtained and another special Presidential Commission of Inquiry has been appointed. And it goes further that we saw on the 09th of April a resolution that was brought to Parliament saying that things that should be acted upon were in the commission of inquiry no 8, 9 and 10. No 8 is with the special presidential commission of inquiry, exempting that and everything that were in no 9 and no 10 should be acted upon after the resolution is passed in parliament.
This resolution seeks approval of parliament to initiate criminal prosecution of public officials, lawyers and the AGs dept officials witnesses and others involved in the cases. It also seeks approval for the dismissal of several cases currently pending in the courts undermining the independence of the judiciary. Actually this resolution firstly attacking the doctrine of separation of powers which are in Article 4 of our constitution. This is the first time we have seen such a resolution being brought to parliament. We know that it is only the judicial bodies that can discharge or acquit those who are being accused. Nobody else can do this. This resolution is positively against the separation of powers. Over the past 30 to 40 years never has such a resolution come before this parliament and should have been correctly ordered out of the order book by the Speaker and I am afraid that the Secretary General of the Parliament and his dept should have advised the Speaker that it should not have been even tabled. This was not overall by the Speaker, more over some of these cases that have been brought and mentioned in the commission have already been challenged in the Appellate Courts by those directly affected by the finding of these challenges that are ongoing. Above all this resolution cannot be implemented in anyway except by the Courts of Law.
Moreover, it tends to interfere with the jurisdiction of the AG’s dept. and those Judges presiding over the established courts who alone can decide on the merits and demerits of these court cases. What are we doing with the AG’s dept.? We are questioning his professionalism; we are questioning his integrity and we are basically putting the AG’s department also in a huge problem by the way in which this government is pushing for this. The independence of the judiciary is critical. We have a Commission of Inquiry; we have a special presidential commission of inquiry and now we have a resolution and this faultily suggest that the judiciary did not arrive at its findings in an independent and impartial manner. This is what it is suggesting.
For example, if you take, there are 90 cases here that were indicted by the AG and his department during that period. At that time the AG was His Lordship Jayantha Jayasuriya who is the Chief Justice of the country presently. What are we actually saying? By acting in such a way, we are actually indirectly moving a no -confidence in the current Chief Justice of the Country. This is what this government is doing by actually tabling such a resolution when they should not be tabling such a resolution. Because those cases were instituted by the AG at that time who happens to be His Lordship the Chief Justice of the country presently. I think this government hasn’t really thought through this. This is a very unfortunate incident.
The conduct of these political victimization challengers and the independent functioning of the court and Tribunals as well as the public trust in the legal system is being questioned. This is an unprecedented step which violates the sovereignty of the people whose judicial power shall be exercised though the courts. There are so many cases mentioned in this resolution. The complaints against the criminal investigations in to several such cases such as alleged abduction involving Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda and others. I must say something there was a war in this country and Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda gave leadership to the Navy. Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka gave leadership to the Army and Air Vice Marsha Roshan Gunatillake gave leadership to the Air Force. Generally when there is a conflict, these general who generally succeed in the conflicts are held in high esteem. I do not wish to take away the esteem that they are held in. But, however I might say this. As the Army Commander who led the Army during that period said today by naming cases of individuals in the armed forces Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said today that those violations of the law are unacceptable and those violation must go before the Tribunals and before the courts of the country. It was significant for the persons who has the honour of having led the Armed Forces of the country to actually stand up and say that today in this assembly where there have been crimes committed, those crimes must go before the judiciary. And therefore I applaud him for doing that. The assassination of Nadaraja Raviraj MP, the death of Wassim Thajudeen, the murder of Joseph Prarajasingam MP are mentioned. The Welikada prison massacre is mentioned. The disappearance of Journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda and Kieth Noyar are mentioned here. There are also in addition to that financial irregularities which are mentioned in this report and misappropriation of funds – the Divineguma department, the Tourism Development Authority, the Cooperative Establishment, SL Embassy in the US and various other cases are there.
I went to see Mr. Ranjan Ramanayaka in the prison yesterday and I want to say this he was serving his hundredth day in prison and he has 1362 more days to serve in prison. The sentence that was meted out to him is not commensurate to the wrong that he has done. If you look at USA, England or India for contempt of court there are more commensurate, basically punishment that could be given. But we have put the courts in a problem by not having an act which the parliament must pass. So I call upon this parliament that we pass an act for the contempt of court limiting or giving a commensurate punishment for the contempt of court. We cant leave it up to the judges it is embarrassing for them as they are being wrong and they are deciding on what the punishment should be and therefore we should do that.
I would like to say that the politicization of this process would result in a climate of fear, a parallelism among investigators and prosecutors stifling current and future investigations. When we see people like Shani Abeysekara, he could have gone abroad, Shani Abeysekara did not leave this country because he has a conscious that conscious is clear, so he is fighting for his independence and his rights. Similarly, we have Saman Ekanayaka a Secretary and the Lawyer Weliamuna people like this. Future investigators, professionals Police Officers even people in the AG’s Department will cautious about going in to investigations because of this political process.
At this important moment the government is amidst severe failures. The Government has failed in handling the Covid -19, Protection of Environment, maintaining the economy, international relationships and Investigation on Easter Sunday attack . Earlier the President failed now the entire Government has failed while challenging the opposition. I warn the government not to take up arms to suppress the opposition. We now hear that there is a move on the part of the government to hunt down Harin Fernando MP. The government cannot go on like this by depriving the opposition parliamentarians of their civic rights and removing them from the democratic process. We will raise against this suppression.