By Upul Jayasuriya –
Let me briefly explain this situation before I advert your attention to issues that are more important to the BASL and the society at large.
Upon my complaining to the Police about the incidents that have caused concerns to my security commencing from the 15th of July, the Executive Committee of the BASL moved court seeking Police protection for me. The circumstances that prompted the EXCO of the BASL to move court was that there have been large number of instances where in private citizens too have been granted such security as provided for under section 22 of the Police Ordinance including an instance wherein a brother of a victim from Wanathamulla has been granted such security with six guards upon an undertaking given by a DIG in the Magistrates court.
The Authorities denied similar security that was sought by the head of the UN-official Bar that leads the legal fraternity with a membership of over 15,000.
What have we done in the past? Have we acted in keeping with the objectives of the BASL constitution?
I would like to bring to your attention some of the objectives of the BASL that is encompassed in its constitution.
- the extension of co-operation and support towards the maintenance of the honour and independence of the Judiciary of Sri Lanka;
- the consideration of matters of national importance relating to the Rule of Law and Administration of Justice and if need be, making of representatives thereon to the Government and/or any other relevant authority and taking any further steps in respect thereof including filing of actions or intervening in actions in Courts of Justice;
- the promotion, observance and the protection of Human rights and liberties including the protection of the right of access to the Courts and of legal representation before Courts, Tribunals and other persons or bodies, judicial, administrative and investigating authorities
We have fought when the independence of the Judiciary was challenged.
We have fought for the Rule of Law.
We have fought for the rightful appointments to the Apex Court.
We have not hesitated to take up matters that are of concern to the members of the civil society when their rights have been violated by those who are entrusted to safeguard their rights by statute. We have considered all people equally irrespective of their cast, creed or community.
We have not only looked to the welfare of the legal fraternity with regard to their wellbeing and facilities but also other issues such as when they were suppressed or had cause to complain.
Under the present leadership of the BASL we have been successful in holding the largest number of continuing legal education seminars and residential seminars.
We have contributed to the development of the Colombo Law Library and other infrastructure facilities of the BASL.
Moreover we have intervened and taken up the cause of the victims when innocent lives were lost in Ratupaswala.
We have intervened and taken up the cause in the matter of residents in Wanathamulla.
We have intervened and taken up the cause of those victims in minuwangoda, Nittambuwa, Badulla etc.
We have intervened and taken up the issue of the mass grave in Matale.
We have also intervened and taken up the issues when Civilian life was hampered in Beruwala, Aluthgama and Dharga Town,
We have taken up the issues of those in the North, whose ancestral houses along with lands in excess of 10000 acres were grabbed by the authorities in violation of the statutory provisions.
We have voiced for the voiceless!
We have been the power for the powerless!
We have been the strength for the week!
Mahatma Gandhi said, that ” he understood Democracy that gives the weak the same chance as the strong.” This is the rule of equality That is enshrined in our Constitution. Lord Buddha preached this 2600 years ago. If we are to work for this goal…. If we are to continue to work for this goal it would be inevitable that not only me, you or every one of us would be called upon to pay a price. We do not know whether it is just a price or the supreme sacrifice!
“Do we not have the right and duty to weep for the collapse of national institutions that we value.
Where is the Independent Public Service Commission?
Where is the Independent Civil Administration?
Where is the Independent Education service?
Where is the Independent Foreign service?
Where is the Independent Police Service?
Where is the Independent Judicial Service?
We are told that it is only traitors who criticize the quality of governance in our institutions. Yet I cry for my beloved country. I can only cling to the hope that some day, some time we will recreate the institutions we have collectively destroyed by our apathy and indifference and we realize the promise of peace and freedom”
Let’s be ready without having to regret as the German anti Nazi theologian, Martin Niemoller who waited until the Nazis knocked on his door!
Let me say this. They can kill me! But not my voice!
They can kill the messenger but not the message, for I shall not kneel down and plead for mercy from those who should be pleading for mercy from the Nation!
Nelson Mandela the great Lawyer turned politician told Court at the commencement of the Rivonia Trial in 1964, after which he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
“During my lifetime I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.
It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.
But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Quoting the great poet, Rabindranath Tagore
Let me not pray to be sheltered from danger,
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,
but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield,
but to my own strength.
Give me strength never to disown the cause of justice or bend my knees before insolent might.
Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.