21 May, 2024

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‘Rule By Law’ Is Not Rule Of Law

We are alarmed by the undemocratic measures pursued by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and his government that continue to undermine the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy in Sri Lanka. Of particular concern is the alarming trend of enacting and threatening to enact laws and regulations that in effect restrict fundamental rights and freedoms and legitimise the democratic backsliding and shrinking civic space. These laws and regulations, mooted under the pretexts of economic recovery, stabilizing the country and ensuring national security, have the potential to further suppress debate and dissent with deep consequences for our fragile democracy. We recognize and condemn this autocratic law reform agenda by an unelected president. ‘Rule by law’ is not Rule of Law, and must be called out for what it is, authoritarianism.

The Sri Lankan people are hard hit by a crisis that has been aggravated by bad governance. The President and his government does not recognize the suffering of the people and also the unequivocal resistance of the people to governance that is divisive, favours the political elite and is detrimental to the interest of the people. The delay to hold elections has stripped the country of its democratic character. 

We witnessed a host of measures deployed to stifle dissent. Within weeks of assuming the presidency, we witnessed an attempt to create a High Security Zone using the Official Secrets Act. The proposal was withdrawn in response to robust opposition at the abuse of an archaic law. The Rehabilitation Bureau Bill, introducing once again the narrative of and measures to ‘rehabilitate’ citizens, was proposed. The proposed law had no credible justification, no due process safeguards and failed to secure judicial scrutiny over executive action. The Bill was challenged in the Supreme Court, resulting in amendments introduced to address some of the potential for abuses of power. Against a backdrop of calls to repeal the PTA, including the well-received Justice for All island-wide campaign in 2022, in March this year the government introduced a draft Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). The ATA amounts to a draconian proposal that provides broad powers to the police and security forces to arrest and detain individuals, place restrictions on media to publish and report, extensive power to the executive presidency to proscribe organisations, restrict movement, among other alarming provisions. If introduced, the ATA will be the latest tool by the authorities to crush any form of protest and dissent. Media reports indicate the government plans to introduce a law to establish a Broadcasting Regulatory Commission with broad powers to decide on licenses for media organisations. This is the most recent tool in the playbook to restrict media freedom with alarming consequence for freedom expression in Sri Lanka.

In the name of economic reforms, changes to the social protection scheme of the country is taking place without wide consultation amongst those most affected. Reforms to labour laws have also been floated in a context of heightened citizen uncertainty relating to rising cost of living, unemployment, food security and increased care burden on women. 

Justice for All recognizes a context of increased surveillance, intimidation and harassment of journalists, protesters and others critical of the government and government sanctioned actions by law enforcement authorities and the military. Violent measures of tear gassing and water cannons in response to peaceful protests became the norm prompting the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to respond with guidelines to the police on protecting fundamental rights of protestors. We condemn the continued use of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act (ICCPR Act) by the authorities to suppress free speech and protest. The latest use of this Act is to arrest and detain a stand-up comedian for making a satirical remark alleged to be offensive to Buddhism, and the subsequent arrest of a blogger for sharing that video clip. This law meant to safeguard civil and political rights has since its enactment only been used as a weapon against those who are critical or have an alternative view point and is publicized in a way that installs a divisive racially charged narrative in the Sri Lankan polity.

Moreover, we express deep concern over the intimidatory and inciting language used by the President and some of his cabinet colleagues when referring to critics and political opponents. The labelling of those who have an alternative view point as conspirators effectively undermine the importance of constructive criticism and hinder the growth of a healthy democracy. Furthermore, this insidious rhetoric actively fuels animosity towards those who sincerely raise their grievances in public, advocate for the strengthening of democracy, advocate for policies that serve the people, the upholding of the rule of law, and stand against corruption and the pervasive culture of impunity.

We recognize for its destructive value the measures taken by the President and his government. We note that the consequences of these actions will have a lasting impact on the fabric of our society and shape the lives of the generations to come. The language of economic recovery and national security used to undermine the demands of the people must be resisted. We take this moment to recognize the path our country is on. We reaffirm to ourselves and all those who care for the people of this country that it takes courage and vision to engage in open dialogue, listen to the concerns of the people and genuinely value debate and dissent. A truly democratic society thrives when citizens are given the space to express their views, critique policies, and actively participate in shaping the future of their country.

1. A.A.M. Faaiz 

2. Bhavani Fonseka

3. Ermiza Tegal

4. Jayadeva Uyangoda

5. Jayampathy Wickramaratne 

6. M.A. Sumanthiran 

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Latest comments

  • 5
    3

    The facts related to this article are well aware to our dictator Ranil Wickremasinhe. He has nothing to answer the people because his actions are protected by constutional power granted by People in democratic elections. The constitutions created in 1972 and 1978 by two major political institutions (Party) are made with the approval of Sinhala people. Even after the governments proved undoubtedly that the leaders or political institutions are family oriented and their interest is money making and misuse of power only to protect them and not bothered about people, unity, peace and development. So, they will listen to such advise or facts because they are doing everything with a purpose to protect them.

    • 9
      2

      It’s a good ol’ one-two ……… Rajapakses bankrupted/gutted the country/people …….. Ranil is hired to “fix” it: keeping it all in the family.

      When will an outsider ever get a chance?

      • 15
        16

        M. A. Sumanthiran – MP, PC et al
        .

        1) Most of the signatories of this article are LEGAL professionals who are members of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL).
        .

        2) If they are GENUINE about the “RULE OF LAW”, they will know that the country does not have a snowball’s chance in hell if the legal profession does not stand up for the ‘rule of law’.
        .

        3) Most of the signatories including President’s Counsel and parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran have been made aware of the BASL REFUSING to hold to account an attorney-at-law who has ‘Certified and Attested’ a shockingly FRAUDULENT ‘Power of Attorney’ designed to STRIP an INCAPACITATED person of his large holding of company shares and cash which could ALTER the ‘CONTROL’ of one of the largest conglomerates in this country.
        .

        4) This is in the context of legal professionals being aware of LAWFUL means to ensure the WELFARE of incapacitated persons (‘wards’) through court appointed ‘guardians’.
        .

        5) ‘Power of Attorney’ No: 1137 dated 30 July 2017 (‘Land Registry’ reference No: 1578 dated 31 July 2017) will reveal the IDENTITY of the Attorney-at-Law and the conglomerate COMPLICIT in the FRAUD.
        .

        (continued below)

        • 15
          15

          M. A. Sumanthiran – MP, PC et al (continued)
          .

          6) Those concerned know if they PRISE OPEN one unlawful case, it will lead to a tsunami of exposés of unlawful conduct by legal professionals.
          .

          7) To better understand the extent of this fraud, given below is the ‘Colombo Telegraph’ link to my article “Is the BASL undermining the Rule of Law?”
          .

          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/is-the-basl-undermining-the-rule-of-law/
          ,

          8) This is a ‘MOMENT OF TRUTH’ particularly for M. A. Sumanthiran who regularly espouses the virtue of ‘good governance’ in parliament.
          .

          Amrit Muttukumaru

        • 6
          9

          Mr. Muttukumaran
          Please not to misunderstanding. I am support you, I know that you are for long time a corrupt fighter, even condemned nepotism, of which you are affected personally while employed in one conglomerate.
          I know you are tottally honest man, even more tottaly honest than Hon. Mahinda. I know your excellent is honest to give the name of this conglomerate person. If anyone else wrote like this, he would be accuse of hiding behind CT, but I knowing you are always brave person!,

  • 4
    2

    I feel scared that the rights I have taken for granted are being eroded under Ranil W.

  • 4
    1

    We are alarmed by the undemocratic measures pursued by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and his government that continue to undermine the rule of law.

    The president itself appointed undemocratic, Via Parliment not people.

    Think ethical people deal with intimidation as a method to achieve success. Undermining someone’s self-esteem (election) isn’t a method to achieve success.

  • 6
    1

    As opposed to Mahinda , Ranil Wickramasinghe never understood aspiration of people. Electorate never voted for him, only votes he got was the votes given by public to UNP and UNP leader. Mahinda understood and felt what people need for first half of his political carrier but later started empire building and now recognized as darkest character in Sri lankan politics.
    Ranil over the years learn how to delay issues and pass draconian laws and tell people that he is only safeguarding the law and order. He wants to pass new PTA, Rehabilitation law , pseudo laws to protection of religion (especially Buddhism) and cheat Tamil people into new 13th amendment and placing friends in high positions.
    Both of these characters should be accountable for the crimes they have done to Sri Lankan public and tested in independent Judiciary and punished in the future In order to progress as country with new vision.

  • 7
    1

    The Rajapakses have enabled ………. Ranil to show his true colors.

    Ranil was always a closet tyrant and a sadist ……. who couldn’t give full vent to his natural traits/tendencies ……….. now going to town with the backing of the murderous thugs Rajapakses and their Phottuva goons in the parliament.

  • 9
    1

    I do not accept the stand that the delay to hold elections has stripped our country of its democratic character. Knowing the nature and behaviour of our electorate, I can safely assert that elections do not enhance our Democracy. We are known to abusing elections to undermine democracy.
    More than half of our representatives would not be in the House if our country is truly democratic. Our style of democracy has disenfranchised large sections of our people.

  • 6
    1

    “LOW And ODOR” of Sinhala Bauda Lanka.
    When the Justice minister was Gota’s attorney or paid servant Sarby.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j70XPa-fyP8

  • 12
    14

    M. A. Sumanthiran, MP, PC et al
    .

    It is my understanding that the majority of the authors of this TIMELY article are LEGAL professionals who are members of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL).
    .

    Prior to being “alarmed by the undemocratic measures pursued by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and his government that continue to undermine the rule of law” should not these legal professionals ensure that the body regulating the legal profession in this country – BASL functions in a responsible and ETHICAL manner?
    .

    It is DEPLORABLE that the BASL is refusing to hold to account an attorney-at-law who has ‘Certified and Attested’ a shockingly FRAUDULENT ‘Power of Attorney’ which is designed to STRIP an INCAPACITATED person of his large holding of company shares and cash which could ALTER the ‘CONTROL’ of one of the largest conglomerates in this country.
    .

    Is not the BASL aware of LAWFUL means to ensure the WELFARE of incapacitated persons (‘wards’) through court appointed ‘guardians’?
    .

    Obviously this attorney has been EMBOLDENED to undertake this fraud in the sure knowledge he will not be called to account.
    .

    To better understand the extent of this fraud, given below is the ‘Colombo Telegraph’ link to my article “Is the BASL undermining the Rule of Law?”
    .

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/is-the-basl-undermining-the-rule-of-law/
    .

    • 12
      13

      M. A. Sumanthiran, MP, PC et al (continued)
      .

      ‘Power of Attorney’ No: 1137 dated 30 July 2017 to be obtained from the ‘Land Registry’ (opposite ‘Colombo Museum’) will disclose the IDENTITY of the Attorney-at-Law and the complicit conglomerate.
      .

      (‘Land Registry’ reference No: 1578 dated 31 July 2017)
      .

      Amrit Muttukumaru

    • 4
      6

      Bravo, Mr. Muttukumaran!!
      You deserve the support of the entire CT community in you tiresome efforts to help this poor person without considering the valuable time you spend

    • 4
      6

      Bravo, mr Muttukumaran!!
      You deserve the support of all CT readers in your valuable tiresome effort to justify your realative who is being robbed by crooked lawyers.
      As you rightly say, this is more important than Ranil wickramasinha’s undermining of democratic.

      • 11
        10

        Sanctimonioushypocrite & M. A. Sumanthiran et al
        .

        1) To set the record straight, I am compelled to dignify the disjointed NONSENSE ‘Sanctimonioushypocrite’ has written.
        .

        2) I have stated that ‘Power of Attorney’ No: 1137 dated 30 July 2017 (‘Land Registry’ reference No: 1578 dated 31 July 2017) will reveal the IDENTITY of the Attorney-at-Law and the conglomerate COMPLICIT in the fraudulent ‘Power of Attorney’.
        .

        3) This will reveal whether I am holding a brief for any “realative” being “robbed by crooked lawyers”!
        .

        4) I ask – how can the scourge of CORRUPTION in Sri Lanka be EVER combated when the BASL regulating the legal profession is well on the way to joining the corrupt CA Sri Lanka regulating the chartered accountancy/audit profession in cahoots with ‘key’ sections of the private sector?
        .

        (continued below)

        • 9
          10

          Sanctimonioushypocrite & M. A. Sumanthiran et al (continued)
          .

          5) I know a thing or two about corruption in CA Sri Lanka since I am the complainant on the ‘professional misconduct’ of PwC and EY in relation to the FRAUDULENT privatization of Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC). The chartered accountants concerned have still not been made accountable. Some of them have entered the board rooms of the conglomerate complicit in the fraudulent ‘Power of Attorney’.
          .

          6) I reiterate – the signatories of this article the majority of whom are members of the BASL – if they are GENUINELY interested in the “RULE OF LAW” they must ensure that the BASL which regulates the legal profession in this country functions in an ETHICAL manner. They like the chartered accountants / auditors know that if they prise open one crooked case, it will lead to an avalanche!
          .

          7) This is a ‘MOMENT OF TRUTH’ particularly for Member of Parliament and President’s Counsel M. A. Sumanthiran who regularly preaches the virtue of ‘good governance’ in parliament.
          .

          Amrit Muttukumaru

          • 4
            6

            Mr. Muttukumaran,
            Please not to misunderstanding. I am support you, I know that you are for long time a corrupt fighter, even condemned nepotism, of which you are affected personally while employed in one conglomerate.

            • 2
              4

              s………….p….ite
              “I know that you are for long time a corrupt fighter”
              Is there a problem of language or of the idea itself?

  • 2
    0

    The only way to stop the Ranil-Rajapaksa government’s thuggery is to document all the violations and take them to the international community through the UN. If these are documented at the UN Human Rights Commission then if not now, but in the future actions could be brought up by the international community to name, shame, and impose a travel ban on Ranil and Rajapaksa families.

  • 1
    1

    Koolukkum Paadi Kanchikkum Paddi politics is the shining North Star in the sky of contemporary Lankan pollical sky, guiding the Lankan politicians to steer their begging bowl ship to borrow from Shylock IMF and Chinese Philanthropists. Sumanthiran PC and Dr. Jeyampathy were the composers of Masterpiece 19A. Prof. Uyangoda was with us when CT was very aggressively criticizing the dubious nature of not trying to achieve in 19A that what was promised in the 2015, CC election, but crowning Evil as the future of the Langkang Emperor with the decree called, the 19A. It was only explained using the 2/3 in the parliament with a national government, but EP was not removed in that amendment. Later. but still suspectedly, knowingly & intentionally Sumanthiran and Jeyampathy left enough loophole to flow through the 19 A, the original 1978 Constitution, its powerful magic (though that constitution was not able to change a human man to be human woman & vise Vesa) to change a wild fox into a human tyrant- dictator & seat on the Throne of the Ceylon, without any election or any procedure a civilized society would use to select an EP. Now these dubious Jekyll Hyde Gentlemen are paining the history to prove that they were first lowyers ho found about the Evil administration’s tyrant nature on PTA, CTA ATA…….

  • 1
    2

    Jekyll Hyde Gentlemen were the major Precedential Counsel lawyers who worked to Emperor to fool the sponsors of regime change in 2015. After the Old Rowdy Royal family organized and Yahapalanaya sponsored the Unconstitutional Coup of 2018 only the regime changers realized that their quality is not good enough to catch a road show magician’s jugglery, so it was wrong them to expect to understand what Langkang Master political magicians were doing with the magic show called 1978 constitution. Many political Jekyll Hyde Gentlemen, including some appear in CT, spent their yesterday’s time to defeat Protesters, arguing that they are going to Anarchy if they continue, today encircling the Coffin and cheat beating, oh dear, are you killed while we were still in guardship of you with our watchful eyes? This dubious, duplicity, crooked Jekyll Hyde Gentlemen are shouldering the UNP-SLFP cartwheel gymnastics to ensure their majesty continues to shine in any uproar or upside-down rollover happening in the Langkang election process. These are the educated, advocates came forward to guide the protest of young Protestors to for System Change and it is too they that, with a big, graceful heart, killed and buried it, wrongly judging that they had softened the Aanduwa enough so they can return to their masters and claim their minister posts. It was like the dictions Queen Gandhari took in Mahabharata and defeated Gouraw.

  • 1
    1

    I have a question for the writers, in the light of the protesters action ended up “catching the dove trying to escape hunter giving it to the house pet the cat,” to whom are they writing this rubbish? What do they expect the audience to do after reading this? Be learnt and mastered dubious politics like you? Or is there any idea that you are planning to revive the protesters by this writing? Do you think the Rapist army and Evil Emperor are going to understand the lawful protest, which they resist from 1948? Or do you think Shylock IMF is going to play a role in your wish to come true? Gentlemen, by the weak behavior of the educated community of Langkang, IC misunderstood the Protest as October Revolution of Communists and thought it was penetrated and secretly maned by JVP. So, they thawed protest and infused IMF into the solution. Sad part now is, the Shylock IMF sheepishly thinks that it is going to be smarter than the King Bruce because this their 17th time; they are hoping to win Appe Rata’s affection this time; but it took only 7 times for Bruce to win his war.

  • 3
    0

    The people are supreme; not the constitution or the supreme court or president or parliament etc. Therefore, they have every legal right to legally and completely legitimately claim back their country from their oppressors in a manner of their choosing, if their will is not exercised by their elected representatives any longer.

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