20 September, 2020

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Three Chief Justices In 45 Months!

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Let me begin by stating, I neither know nor have I met Hon. Nalin Perera who was sworn in as the country’s 46th Chief Justice last Friday. He was nominated by President Sirisena and unanimously recommended by the five members of the Constitutional Council present, the remaining five being absent. My congratulations to the newly appointed CJ.

Perera is the longest-serving career judge and fifth most senior among the ten Supreme Court judges. It has been said, the President had been pressurized by some groups not to appoint the second most senior Supreme Court judge Justice Eva Wanasundara due to her known association with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. A group of career judges had supposedly met and requested President Sirisena to appoint one of them (career judges) rather than an outsider which has been the case since CJ Parinda Ranasinghe’s appointment in 1988.

Judges of superior courts should not maintain any links with the Executive and Legislative branches of government, especially in the case of countries with an Executive President as in Sri Lanka. In mature democracies, they do not even socialize.

That said, the new appointment can at best be described as a bad joke made with little or no consideration for the good of the country and its legal system.

Since President Sirisena assumed office, he appointed Justice K. Sripavan on January 30, 2015, followed by Justice Priyasath Dep on March 02, 2017. 

The new CJ who is 64 years old is due to retire in the early part of 2019. He is the third CJ to be appointed within 45 months.

The purpose of shortlisting at least three candidates for consideration to key positions not elected by the people such as Chief Justice, Commanders of Army, Navy and Air Force, Attorney General and IGP is to ensure the selection of a candidate with the best possible experience and track record for the execution of duties of each position. 

A critical factor that has been entirely disregarded as observed from some key appoints is the tenure of service. Appointees need a reasonable amount of time to undertake reform programs and improvements. The appointment of a person with less than one year in office before retirement is not in the best interest of the country.

Regular changes of the Chief Justice, the administrative head of our court system does not enable competent and dedicated judges to give the country and the judicial system the benefit of their expertise.

The conviction of ten persons for the murder of a family of six in Anugunakolapalasse in 1998 has just been completed in the Provincial High Court last week after 20 years. This is only one of thousands of legal cases dragging on for decades. The need for a complete overhaul of the system is a given.

The same applies to service commanders and IGPs. The appointment of a Navy Commander last year, two months before his date of retirement is a case in point.

Ideally, heads of such organizations should be appointed for three years and extensions considered only under exceptional circumstances. 

The practice of enabling officials to retire as the head of their respective organizations must be done away for the greater good of the country. Seniority should become a consideration only in the case of a tie between equally qualified and competent finalists with a minimum three-year service period.

Finally, let the selection process be completed at least one month prior to the end of the term of the incumbent to ensure a smooth hand / take over. 

These are some of the best practices followed in progressive countries.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    1

    Rajeeva Jayaweera, the latest know-all.

    • 3
      0

      I think it is better to appoint new CJs that way.

      We knew in the past, all those stayed longer in the position ruined the nation.
      Sarath N Silva is the top of the list of all the abusive CJs.
      Man seems to be changing his thought from dawn to dusk.
      The kind of me n to have beared the postion – is a thing to be ashamed to a srilanken.

  • 10
    1

    It’s wrong to give exercive power to president to nominate all these executive people ..
    That is asking for trouble …to appoint relatives; friends; party supporters..
    How many VCs have been appointed like this ?
    What a misuse of power…
    Change constitution that makes sense..
    Fraud and corruption prevail in Sri Lanka due to this wrong constitution..

  • 5
    0

    The author has hit the head of the nail by giving an example on law’s delays, a matter of public interest. For that example quoted, to assess the culpability of the court system, we need to know when was the accused was first charged in the court. As I have commented before, a straightforward divorce of a childless couple took five years, entirely due to postponement after hearing a bit. The judge who finally concluded the case settled the issue in about three sittings. He was quickly flushed out of the area. If we now have a habit of overlooking seniority and going by so called merit then might as well examine the record of timely conclusion of cases as a criteria for promotion. That could contribute a reduction in law’s delays. Individual CJ’s or Ministers of Justice cannot put things right in this regard.

  • 4
    0

    ………………………………..followed in progressive countries”
    We are a ‘progressive country’ in reverse.
    All malpractices are progressing – corruption, nepotism, favouritism, delays in implementation of reforms, total lack of implementation of UNHRC resolutions, super luxury cars, super accommodation for government offices with super luxury chairs, super tours abroad, super borrowings abroad, super expensive but run down ships which wont last a decade etc.
    So, how to choose a super judge who will last ?
    We even have a super army school to train – doctors!

  • 5
    0

    We know who started the rot. The Sinhala Onlies got rid of Nagalingam ACJ and appointed Basnayake. Then, we had them appoint an unknown called Pathirana. Every schoolboy in Colombo called a hora umpire Pathirana after that bringing the Supreme COurt judge into great contempt. Thereafter the judiciary was on the sliding path, capped by the corrupt clown Sarath Silva. Rajapakse appointed many new incompetents and removed a Chief Justice, herself appointed by GL Pieris for reasons unknown. The judiciary has been subjected to contempt. At least Sri Pavan was the senior most judge and . Nalin Perera is a career judge, unlike those senior to him. Better a career judge than judges who got their through favours.

  • 1
    0

    I fully endorse the views expressed by Rajeeva Jayaweera.

    I very mush like to further eloborate on the points raised by Rajeeva

    If we do not create independent, impartial and innovative persons to the topmost posts the constitutional council itself will be a farce. and irrelevant. I t is better for an individual like the President to make all appointments as before the 17th amendment..If the President appoints at least he is responsible for the appointments, now nobody is answerable.

    The recommendations of Rajeeva Jjayaweera are sensible

    1)There must be at least 3 for the constitutional Committee to choose from

    2 Let the official bar and unofficial bar also allowed to recommend.

    2)They must be able to continue for at least 03 years

    3) Let the constitutional Council develop criteria for final selection

    4)Let all members be active participants in the deliberations-not merely persons who put their signature just to conform to the majority opinion.
    Let us have an innovative active Constitutional Council

  • 2
    0

    why not?
    srilanka is the miracle of asia

  • 2
    0

    Cut the chase bro, just tell the world that you are happy seeing Sarath or Mohan as CJ for life time. Enough of your spin. When did you start worrying about the Lankan judiciary???? This morning. Why dont you give us your opinion on Sarath, Mohan and Wijeyadasa. If not may be you can give your esteemed opinion on Sanath, Cardinal Ranjith, Lankan Diplomats Ex servicemen found guily of murder, your favorite politician Duminda Aiya,s innocence, how a elected CJ Shiranthi was kicked out overnight, how MR used to have daily gossips with previous supreme court judges, what kind of services /favors in turn was provided especially by lady judges….. etc……etc. I bet you do not have any. Give us a break Bro.At least be happy that some procedure was followed in electing and the person not a peon in the ministry.

  • 0
    0

    Hear, Hear Rajeewa.

  • 2
    0

    Rajeewa Jayaweera wonders ~ “Three Chief Justices In 45 Months!”
    Look across the Strait, Rajeewa. India has had more than four CJs in four years. The appointments are very much based on seniority. The CJs retire at 65. The pool is fiercely independent – no room for political influence. The verdicts are based on scholarly interpretation of law and rarely challenged.
    We had such a system which got changed (by??) and steps are being taken to bring the independent judiciary back.
    Yes, the latest CJ SL appointment look strange because the appointee will also be 65 in early 2019.
    Another Admiral Travis Jeremy Liyanduru Sinniah episode?

    • 0
      0

      K.Pillai
      Whether India does it or any other nation does it, the point I am driving is, one CJ in four years can achieve much more four CJs in four years. It applies across the board to both elected and unelected positions. Why are governments elected for 4-5 years and not for each year? Besides the cost of holding elections, not a very lot can be achieved in one year. Seniority may be important in appointments meritocracy based societies but certainly not those based on mediocrity as ours.

      • 2
        0

        THat is a load of bullshit. The CJ in Sri Lanka (unless a career judge based on seniority) is a politician’s puppet. All that is achieved are judgments that are partial to the politician’s interest until he falls out. Sarath Silva demonstrated that. We do not need further demonstrations. Judges are not elected for obvious reasons. It is only a moron who would want a judge to be elected. Ours is not a meritrocracy. It is not even a mediocre-cracy. As Namal Baby illustrated, exams could be fudged. Such people could become judges, even chief justices. It is all a joke.

        • 0
          0

          Rajeewa
          Kabaragoya here has the answer. A long term CJ is a risk.
          The CJ just cannot be intellectually superior compared to the rest in the pool.
          The CJ can at best strive to clear the backlog of civil cases. But this cannot be done because the lawyers and court staff have strong connection to the political culture of corruption/nepotism/impunity.

  • 3
    0

    Dear Rajeewa Jayaweera ,
    .
    “Better a career judge than judges who got their through favours.”
    .
    You’ve made your point, and most of those commenting have agreed that it’ll take a long time for the system to recover.
    .
    Good Sense, Justice, Mama Sinhalam, Chiv – we’ve all agreed on this. Why don’t we move on to rather more intricate topics, having wished the new Chief Justice well in the few months that he has to serve. I’m sure that he is capable of being realistic, and doing what he can to ensure that the system improves as a result of his brief appointment.

  • 2
    0

    Sinhala_ Man I have a confession to make. I can take any crap from any one except for Hypocrites. From day one I have found Rajeewa is full of it. And not one articles of his have helped in changing my opinion.After seeing so many I could see right away the BS he is dishing out in his writings. Though DJ is of the same kind, at least he does not try hard to disguise like this low life. This is not just hypocrisy to let go .This guy is into disinformation, deception, bidding for his favorite politicians,distort facts,come up with alternate facts,spin and overall he is abusing his rights as a journalist and abusing the trust of the public in journalism.Over the years these guys have built a hallow around their persona as freelance journalist so that the retarded public will take their crap with out questioning.

  • 1
    0

    Dear Chiv,
    .
    Thanks for the caution. I had no idea whatever, who this “Rajeewa Jayaweera” is. I’ve googled his name and find that he has written many articles. I still have little idea of who he is, but I note that he’s had a lot to do with our airline, and with hotels and tourism: not my pet subjects. I will be on my guard when I hear of him. Thanks.
    .
    As for Dayan J. – well we all know who the guy is.

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