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.
Govt. MP Wijeyadasa strikes discordant note on Port City Bill
… alleges bid to turn Port City into Chinese territory
Over 12 petitioners move SC against proposed law
By Shamindra Ferdinando
SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe PC, yesterday (15) alleged that the proposed Bill, titled ‘Colombo Port City Economic Commission,’ would transform the reclaimed land, adjacent to the Galle Face Green into a Chinese territory.
Addressing the media at the Abhayarama temple, under the auspices of Ven Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera, the former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Rajapakshe, warned of dire consequences if the government went ahead with what he termed the despicable project.
Sixteen parties had filed action against the Bill. Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda thera was among the petitioners.
The ruling party had placed the Bill on the Order Paper on April 8, just 15 calendar days after the publication of the Bill in the Gazette. In terms of the Constitution a citizen intending to challenge the constitutionality of a Bill had to do so within one week from the Bill being placed in the Order Paper of Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse said.
Among those who moved the SC were the General-Secretary of the UNP and the Chairman of the UNP. The Attorney-General has been named a respondent in the petition. The BASL, too, moved SC against the Attorney General. Three civil society activists, Oshala Herath, Dr. Ajantha Perera and Jeran Jegatheesan also filed action.
Lawmaker Rajapakse explained how the proposed Bill, if enacted, could allow independent status to USD 1.4 bn Colombo Port City. Former Justice Minister alleged that the Colombo Port City project was far worse than the selling of the strategic Hambantota port to the Chinese by the previous administration.
The Colombo District MP said the Parliament wouldn’t have financial control over the Colombo Port City Project whereas its independent status would legally empower those managing the project to finalise agreements with external parties
Referring to the previous administration, the former UNPer alleged that China had bribed members of Parliament. MP Rajapakse questioned the rationale behind China providing computers to all members of Parliament and officials as well as jaunts to China.
Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka shouldn’t give in to Chinese strategies aimed at bringing Sri Lanka under its control. The former minister explained the threat posed by the growing Chinese presence including the Colombo Port City, a terminal in the Colombo harbour and at the Hambantota port.
Sooka pushing UK for punitive action against Army Commander
An outfit, led by Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UNSG Panel of Experts’ (PoE), has urged the UK to take punitive measures against the Commander of the Army, General Shavendra Silva, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
The Army headquarters told The Island that the matter had been brought to the notice of the relevant authorities. It said that it was all part of the ongoing well-funded campaign against the Sri Lankan military.
Issuing a statement from Johannesburg, the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) said it had compiled a 50-page dossier which it has submitted to the Sanctions Department of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on General Shavendra Silva. The Submission argues why Silva, who is Sri Lanka’s current Army Commander, should be designated under the United Kingdom’s Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions Regime established on 6 July 2020.
“We have an extensive archive of evidence on the final phase of the civil war in Sri Lanka, meticulously collected by international prosecutors and lawyers. The testimony of victims and witnesses – many now in the UK – was vital in informing this Submission, and making the linkages to Shavendra Silva and those under his command,” said the organisation’s executive director, Yasmin Sooka.
The ITJP Submission details Shavendra Silva’s role in the perpetration of alleged gross human rights violations including of the right to life when he was 58 Division Commander during the final phase of the civil war in 2009 in the north of Sri Lanka. It draws on searing eyewitness testimony from Tamils who survived the government shelling and bombing of hospitals and food queues in the so called No Fire Zones, many of whom now reside in the UK as refugees. The Submission also looks at Silva’s alleged involvement in torture and sexual violence, including rape, which is a priority area of the UK Government’s foreign policy.
“The US State Department designated Shavendra Silva in 2020 for his alleged role in the violations at the end of the war but the remit of the UK sanctions regime works is broader and includes his role in the shelling of hospitals and other protected civilian sites during the military offensive. This is important in terms of recognising the full extent of the violations, as well as supporting the US action,” commented Ms. Sooka. “UK designation would be another significant step forward in terms of accountability and would be in line with the recent UN Human Rights Council Resolution passed in Geneva for which Britain was the penholder,” she added.
Political will in applying the UK’s new sanctions regime to Sri Lanka was apparent in a recent parliamentary debate which saw 11 British parliamentarians ask why the UK government had not applied sanctions against Sri Lankan military figures, including Shavendra Silva, who was named six times in this context.”
Ten lives snuffed out in road accidents during festive period
Road accidents had snuffed out 10 lives during the Sinhala and Tamil New year, police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said yesterday, adding that 121 accidents had been reported on April 14 alone.
Twelve of the accidents took place on the Southern Expressway.
DIG Rohana also said that 758 drunk drivers had been arrested on April 14. He added that such drivers would not be released on police bail.
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