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AG stresses judiciary should be free from other branches of Govt. and private and partisan interests

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Declaring that courts must necessarily occupy a high position of power, privilege and independence in the life of a nation, Attorney General Dappula De Livera, PC, yesterday (20) emphasised that judges in the exercise of judicial functions should be immune from external control and influence and intimidation.

The AG said so at the ceremonial sitting of the Supreme Court to welcome Justice Dileep Nawaz, Ladyship Justice Kumudini Wickramasinghe and Justice Shiran Gooneratne.

The following is the text of the AG’s speech: I am constrained by time but I shall not waste a minute. My Lords and My Lady you commenced your legal careers and were moulded in the Attorney General’s Department and after long and faithful service to the Institution of the Attorney General finally adorned the Bench and embarked on a career in the Judiciary which has now already spanned several years.

There is no doubt that Your Ladyship and Lordships are well equipped and experienced to undertake the responsibilities and discharge the functions of this onerous and exalted office. I have also no doubt that today, must be a very satisfying and memorable day for your Lordships and Ladyship. A sense of achievement and accomplishment no doubt.

It would also be a time and a day to look back and reflect on the past and take stock of that long journey and reaffirm your commitment to overcome challengers and uphold the Rule of law meting out good quality justice to the yearning men, women and children of this country.

In Sri Lanka the courts have quite justly come to be regarded as the sentinel over the powers of the legislature and the executive in order to safeguard the rights of the citizen under the law and the constitution.

The credibility of a judicial system in a country is dependent on the Judges who man it. Judges must be persons of impeccable integrity and unimpeachable independence. A Judge must discharge his judicial functions with high integrity, impartially and intellectual honesty. Speaking of intellectual honesty; the law would be like a ball of clay in the hands of an erudite Judge. Therefore, Judges should be ruthlessly honest, independent, and impartial and possess a judicial conscience to ensure that the ball of clay is molded according to law.

For over 2000 years of the island’s long history, the Courts of Law have occupied a unique place in the system of government. Public acceptance of the judiciary and public confidence in the judiciary is necessary for the rule of law to prevail in the country. Public confidence in the judiciary is dependent on the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

The sovereignty is in the people and is alienable and that sovereignty of the people is exercised by the judiciary in the public trust. The independence and the integrity of the judiciary ought to be preserved for justice and the rule of law to prevail in a society. A judiciary should not only be independent but appear to be independent in order to gain the confident of the people.

An independent judiciary is the corner stone the prevalence of the Rule of Law in a democratic society.

The essence of rule of law has been said to be that the Administration is bound by the law and that in it cannot interfere with the rights of the individual except in accordance with the law.

The International Congress of Jurists meeting in New Delhi in January 1959 concluded “that an independent judiciary is an indispensable requisite for a free society and for the Rule of Law to prevail in a society.

The independence and impartially of the judiciary is essential for a democratic system of government to function under the Rule of Law.

The maintenance of the independence of Judges and of the quality of the administration of justice would largely depend on the Judges themselves and the state of public opinion of the country, which demands their independence and impartially.

Within the limits of their power and jurisdiction the courts are required to perform a dynamic role as the fearless upholders of the principle of equal justice under the Rule of Law.

“Not all the guns of the Garrison leveled at their lordships would intimidate the Court” said Chief Justice Carrington in 1804 to General Wemyss who was brought up on a charge of contempt of court and had appeared with his staff wearing sidearms and bayonets.

In 1937 Chief Justice Abhrams questioned the deportation order of Mark Anthony Bracegirdle and said “the crown takes its stand upon what it submits are the unquestionable absolute powers of the governor and it is our duty to say that those powers are limited”. The governor’s order was made without Authority. The arrest and detention was illegal and Mr. Bracegirdle must be released”.

The Courts must necessarily occupy a high position of power, privilege and independence in the life of a nation.

The Judges in the exercise of judicial functions should be immune from outside control and influence and intimidation.

That independence is also necessary from the other branches of government and from private and partisan interest.

Judges should be above suspicion and should not leave even a glimpse for that suspicion to occur.

When Pompeia the wife of Julius Caesar secretly sneaked a man dressed as a woman into a Roman religious ceremony, her husband divorced her.

It was a girly prank. But the discovery of the man celebrating the mysteries of Bona Dea in the male free temple scandalised Ancient Romans and led to rumours that Pompeia is having an affair. Pompeia hadn’t committed adultery but it didn’t wash with Ceasar who kicked her to touch and insisted that his wife must be above suspicion.

Judges like Ceasar’s wife must also be above suspicion and the fundamental principle is that there should not be even a hint of bias or prejudice in the judicial process as is as vital today as it was 118 years ago when Lord Bowen famously compared judges to Ceasar’s wife.

The people will be judging you when you are judging them therefore that accountability and transparency ought to be seen and perceived from the judgments, pronouncements and orders that are delivered by the Courts.

Judge Ralph Mac Allister on the occasion of taking oaths as a Judge, State of Ohio, in December 1976, prayed for the Court as follows; He prayed that the Court always function with honour and integrity. That its pronouncements always be just. That its proceedings be conducted impartially. And finally that all its actions preserved the Peace and Dignity, the Rights and Prerogatives and the freedom and morality of all the people. That is my prayer too for this country.



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Easter Sunday: “Accept guilt with contrite hearts,” says Kurunegala Bishop

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by Norman Palihawadane

If those responsible for the Easter Sunday terror attacks do not accept their guilt with contrite hearts, then nature will follow suit, says President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka and the Bishop of Kurunegala Catholic Diocese, Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony Perera.

While delivering his homily at the Holy Mass offered on behalf of the children who received Sacrament of Confirmation at the Church dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes at Yakadapatha, Bishop Perera said that justice has not yet been meted out to the Easter Sunday victims.

“Nature will surely stand against those responsible. Nature will ruthlessly follow them at every step they take and their conscience will not keep them at rest. This is what I believe,” he said.

He said that Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith had stated that those responsible for the terror attacks on Easter Sunday must come forward and accept their guilt. “If those who masterminded this crime fail to do so, I strongly believe that Nature will follow suit,” Bishop Perera said.

“Perusing the pages of history we know well that kings and state rulers had been elevated to positions of power by many means. Also we know for certain that none of them ruled for eternity. None will rule forever.”

He said that if the present day rulers while hiding the truth of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, do nothing to mete justice to the victims and their families, they will suffer immensely.

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TNA accepts president’s overture, MP suggests party ready to talk federal

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ECONOMYNEXT —Tamil National Alliance (TNA) will engage constructively in sincere attempts at resolving the ethnic issue, legislator M A Sumanthiran said responding to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s overtures to the opposition, while also suggesting that the TNA was open to a federal solution.

“We will engage constructively in every sincere attempt as we have always done but will not allow any farcical process,” Sumanthiran tweeted Thursday November 24 afternoon.In a speech made in parliament the previous day, the Jaffna district MP said there can be no reconciliation by sweeping the truth under the carpet.

“It is only by the ascertainment of the truth that there can be true reconciliation,” he said.

“Your actions must be louder than words. All we have are words, words and words. As I speak, more lands are being acquired,” he added, highlighting an example that prompted a response from President Wickremesinghe that he would look into the matter.

Wickremesinghe on Wednesday re-extended an open invitation to opposition parties to a discussion on a permanent solution to Sri Lanka’s decades-long ethnic problem. Talks would begin after December 11, he said, with a view to agreeing on a solution by February 04 2023 when the island nation celebrates 75 years of independence from the British.

“We welcome the president’s initiative. He said everyone must agree on the solution. We want all the people of this country to be content and be satisfied and feel secure that this is their country,” said Sumanthiran.The MP said there is broad consensus already on the issue and that only a few things need to be ironed out.

“That can be done in a day’s sitting. You don’t require three months,” he said.

President Wickremesinghe agreed in his speech that there is nothing new left to talk about.If the president is looking at the South African example, said Sumanthiran, it must be noted that that country underwent a political transformation “before they could look at accountability issues”.

“That fundamental change must happen and must precede other measures,” he said.

Among the issues that Sri Lanka is confronted with with regard to reconciliation between communities is the matter of alleged human rights abuses, particularly during the final phase of the 26-year armed conflict. Missing persons, militarisation and alleged land grabs have also figured prominently in various international fora where Sri Lanka’s human rights record has come up for discussion.

“Of course you need to do many confidence-building exercises because there is a serious lack of trust because of the long history and what happened,” said Sumanthiran.

The MP said it is crucial that the core, root issues are settled first before considering issues of justice and accountability, which he said would provide the people a different outlook on resolving those issues.He also paid what has lately been a rare compliment to President Wickremesinghe from the TNA.

“We recognise that perhaps you are the only person in this House today — although you’re not a member of this house — who’s had the longest experience in this matter. You were part of the government negotiation team that negotiated with the TULF from the middle to the end of 1986, which ended with the Indo-Lanka accord, and the 13th amendment which we did not accept as a meaningful scheme of devolution,” he said.

The 13th amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution emerged out of the controversial Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 as a purported solution to the worsening ethnic conflict. Provincial councils came in the wake of this amendment, but land and police powers have yet to be devolved to the provinces as originally envisioned. Both Sinhalese and Tamil nationalists have opposed the 13th amendment, the former claiming it devolved too much, the latter complaining it didn’t devolve enough.

Wickremesinghe knows “everything that is to know about the resolution of this”, said Sumanthiran. He also acknowledged the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) appointed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“Though we did not participate in the APRC, that’s a good report. Many members in the front row today in the government were members of the cabinet in August 2000 when President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga brought a constitution bill to parliament. The UNP at that time led by President Wickremesinghe opposed it only because of a transitional provision with regard to executive presidency, not because of the devolution arrangements in that,” he said.

The UNP government notoriously burnt the draft bill in parliament when the Kumaratunga government presented it. Analysts have revisited that event as a possible misstep in Sri Lanka’s path to a lasting peace, though others disagree.Sumanthiran said consensus is already there and all that is required is for decisions to be made.

“That is what has been entrusted to the president now,” he said.

The president’s call for a permanent resolution by the 75th Independence Day celebrations is a good ideal to work towards, but there isn’t much time, the MP warned.

“So we are willing to work with you constructively to achieve the objective you have enunciated. We’re willing to achieve the reasonable and legitimate aspirations of our people and indeed all the people that live in this country,” he said.In his speech, Sumanthiran was emphatic that his party does not wish to do anything behind the back of the majority.

“Everyone must feel secure. That is our desire as well. That the majority of this country must accept it.”

The MP then said that more than 40 percent of the world’s population live in federal countries. (There are 25 countries with a federal form of government).

“Those are the strongest countries in the world,” the MP claimed.

“You have others who are quasi federal, who sometimes call themselves unitary, like Great Britain, where the extent of devolution is far more than even in a federal form of government.

“We don’t ask for something that is not found anywhere in the world. We’re asking for something that is reasonable and is practised all around the globe. That will ensure that all our people will live with dignity and self respect in this country. We want the majority people to accept and understand that. You are, after all, a preponderant majority. No one can shift that. It was Prime Minister S W R D Bandaranaike who in 1926  introduced the idea of federalism to this country, not the Tamil leaders,” he said.Sumanthiran recalled that it was in fact the Kandyan chiefs who had asked for a federal form of government on two separate occasions in the early 20th century.

“So it can’t be bad for the Sinhala people, it was the Sinhala people who asked for it,” he said, noting that over time wrong messages have been communicated to the country.

“There are suspicions those must be allayed. We must resolve this in a just way, so that we can all can then stand up as the president envisages by Feb 04 2023 as the children of one mother,” Sumanthiran said.

Federalism has been a highly controversial and politically inflammable idea in Sri Lanka over the years, with many nationalist or even some moderate parties in the south vehemently opposing the very suggestion of it. It is unclear whether this stance has softened over the 13 years since the end of the war, but to date no Sinhalese-dominated party has come out in support for it.

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Gevindu Kumaratunga who now sits in the opposition responding to Wickremesinghe’s invitation on Wednesday cautioned that they can only support a proposal that will honour Sri Lanka’s unitary character.

“If you’re asking for a consensus within a unitary Sri Lanka, we’ll agree. Outside of that, I don’t think a majority of people will agree. There is a ground reality here. Our soldiers laid down their lives to protect the unitary state,” said Kumaratunga.

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Women MPs to wear orange on Dec 1 to protest gender based violence

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Women MPs will attend parliament on Dec. 1 in line with slogan ‘Let’s unite to end gender based violence’ of the UN-led global campaign – 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus (WPC) Chairperson, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle said that a wristband with the message “Let’s Unite to end Gender Based Violence” will also be worn as a solidarity measure with the global campaign against GBV.

She said: “The global theme of the campaign 2022 is ‘UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.’ It emphasizes that without unity, GBV cannot be fought. It calls on governments, development partners, youth, media and all other stakeholders to come together to fight against GBV.

“Therefore, the 16 days of activism against GBV is an important advocacy period for our goal to advocate for and ensure equal grounds for women in Sri Lanka,” Fernandopulle said.

She said that a recent survey on Women’s Well-being by the Department of Census and Statistics had reported that during their lifetime, 20 percent of the ever-partnered women have faced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner and that 25 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner or a non-partner after 15 years of age.

Eighteen percent expressed that they were subjected to economic abuse by a partner in their lifetime while 21 percent of the women who experienced violence by a partner had never expressed it to anyone before the interviews.

WPC’s Deputy Chairperson, Matale District MP Rohini Kaviratne said that GBV was nothing new to women in Sri Lanka. “We as women have had to face it always. As women parliamentarians we always face verbal abuse based on our gender,” she said.

Kaviratne said that during elections, and whenever someone needs to disgrace the female candidates, the most common weapon used is their gender roles. “The stereotypical thinking stigmatizes our roles in the public sphere and stepping out of the house to be a leader in politics as a female parliamentarian. We should fight this. We should fight any form of GBV.”

JVP-led NPP MP Dr Harini Amarasuriya said that the WPC was in the process of supporting the drafting of a Women’s Bill to be presented to parliament.  “However, we are conscious that laws alone do not effect change. There is a lot of work that needs to be done both institutionally and politically to ensure that the Bill when passed will make a meaningful difference in the lives of Lankan women.”

Tourism State Minister Diana Gamage said: We urge all Lankans to have zero tolerance for any kind of violence or sexual harassment committed against any human being. We should act, not be silent and passive observers.”

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