By Colombo Telegraph –
In a huge slap in the face of the Rajapaksa regime, the legal profession voted overwhelmingly for Upul Jayasuriya, Attorney at Law who stood against the Rajapakse regime’s high handed impeachment of Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, Chief Justice handing him a huge majority of over 1700 votes at the BASL election held today (20.02.2013) at Bars all over Sri Lanka. His real opponent was Tirantha Walaliyadda , who spoke of ‘working with the government’ during his election campaign and controversially attended the ceremony organized by the government which was boycotted by the Bar Association and senior lawyers of standing. Walaliyadda was viewed widely as ‘the government candidate’ for the top slot of the BASL.
Jayasuriya speaking at lawyers protest
Many senior and junior lawyers contacted by The Colombo Telegraph said that Jayasuriya’s massive victory was a clear indication of firm opposition of the legal profession to the erosion of judicial independence by the Rajapaka regime, since Jayasuriya who was earlier linked to the opposition United National Party was described as a “personally unappealing, generally unpopular figure” who would have been most unlikely to stack up this many votes unless the fact that he stood against repression of judicial independence and destruction of the rule of law was viewed as being of the highest importance by a vast majority of the legal profession.
Jayasuriya maintained throughout his campaign that the so called impeachment of Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake and ouster from the office of Chief Justice was done improperly and in a way that destroyed judicial independence and caused unprecedented damage to the rule of law.
A senior President’s Counsel told The Colombo Telegraph that it remains to be seen whether Jayasuriya will remain true to his promised commitment to an independent Bar that will fight for judicial independence and the rule of law or fall prey to the many attractions or methods the regime has been known to use in the past to quieten or keep down opposition to its agendas.
There was also a third candidate at this year’s election, R. Thangaraja who is a habitual candidate at all BASL elections, without being a real contender for the post. The election was called after the incumbent president Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC who is also a member of parliament from the opposition United National Party decided suddenly to step down after his first year in office, without continuing for a second year, as has been the general tradition. His decision came, shortly after his house was shot at. The culprits have not yet been apprehended, though President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited his house, expressed concern and ordered an investigation.