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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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Massive revenue loss: Eyebrows raised over delay in responding to House query

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SLPP members say sugar deal black mark on govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Many an eyebrow has been raised over the delay on the part of the Finance Ministry to respond to a Finance Committee (FC) request for a comprehensive report on an alleged fraud in the controversial sugar tax revision.

Chairman of the Finance Commission Anura Priyadarshana Yapa on January 5 issued instructions to the Finance Ministry in this regard when the FC considered several special gazette notifications pertaining to the Ministry of Finance issued since October 2020.

According to the Communication Department of Parliament, MP Yapa on Feb 25 told the FC that the report called by him hadn’t been received yet. Yapa said so when State Minister Vidura Wickramanayaka and SLPP MP Nalin Fernando alleged the revision of taxes pertaining to the import of sugar hadn’t benefitted the consumers at all and only caused loss of revenue to the State. Severe criticism of the revision of sugar taxes was nothing but a black mark on the government.

Asked whether the report had been received since the issue at hand was taken up on Feb 25, the former Minister said that the FC answered in the negative.

Yapa told the last FC meeting that the Department of Import Control should be able to submit analytical comments with data on the relevant gazette amendments. Having approved the regulations issued on that day in respect of the issuance of licenses for the import of brown sugar, the FC recommended that a full explanation be given on March 09 with the participation of all relevant Ministries and Institutions.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on March 9.

Yapa is on record as having told the FC on January 5 though the tax on imported sugar was revised downwards to 25 cents from Rs. 50.00 per kilogram through the Gazette Notification No. 2197/12 issued by the Ministry of Finance on 13th October 2020, the move did not benefit the consumers at all.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake lambasted the government over what he called a massive sugar scam that caused losses amounting to Rs 10 bn. In addition to the JVP, the SJB and UNP flayed the government over the corrupt deal. Dissanayake questioned the rationale in increasing the tax on sugar from Rs 33 to Rs 50 on May 23, 2020 and then bringing it down steeply to 25 cents on Oct 13, 2020. Dissanayake said that at that time the tax was brought down to 25 cents, there had been 90,000 metric tonnes of imported sugar in the country. Having reduced the sugar tax to 25 cents, the government directed that a kilo of sugar be sold at Rs 85, MP Dissanayake said.

The JVPer alleged that subsequently, when the government wanted to increase the sugar tax by Rs 40, Commerce Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that once imposed tax couldn’t be altered for a month, hence the decision to continue with 25 cents tax till Nov 13, 2020.

MP Dissanayake on Dec 12, 2020 named all those involved in the sugar scam.

Lawmaker Dissanayake said that the country suffered massive losses due to corrupt sugar deals. Those who suspended imports claiming the country faced severe foreign exchange crisis allowed massive corruption at the expense of the national economy.

Dissanayake said that last year alone at least 73,000 metric tonnes were imported at 25 cents tax.

He pointed out that the Treasury was responsible for facilitating sweet deals at the expense of the national economy. The revenue which should have been received by the government ended up with racketeers, Dissanayake lambasted the government for allowing its cronies to flourish.

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JVP expresses solidarity with Black Sunday campaign

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The JVP-led NPP yesterday expressed solidarity with the Black Sunday campaign seeking justice for the Easter Sunday carnage victims.

A statement issued by the party said that the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Easter Sunday carnage had released its report but the general consensus was that the inquiry had failed to bring justice. The PCoI report had only made the matter complex by creating some more puzzles instead of identifying the masterminds of the terror strikes.

The JVP has said Sri Lankans will never forget the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 2019 where nearly 300 perished and more than 500 others were wounded and became disabled for the rest of their lives. It is no secret that it was the failure on the part of the previous government to prevent the attacks that led to the destruction of lives and properties. The appointment of the commissions to investigate the incident was the only response of the former and incumbent governments. It is now clear that the commission has failed to identify the masterminds, owing to political reasons. Demanding justice is a human right. The Catholic Church has called on people to mark the coming Sunday as a day of agitation, demanding justice. We, of the NPP, extend our fullest support for the campaign and urge the law enforcing agencies to take action without further delay to bring about the masterminds and offenders of the crime, the statement has said.

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Iranaitivu islanders protest against burying of coronavirus victims there

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Residents of Iranaitivu Island yesterday forcibly filled up the burial sites prepared for those who had died from COVID-19 and held a demonstration against burying coronavirus victims on the island.

The protesters claimed that the media had reported those who died from COVID-19 would be buried on the island and that some group had already prepared a burial site. However, the residents of the island had not been consulted, they said.

They claimed that even during the war they had fought for the right to live on the island and they were opposed to the decision taken by the government to bury COVID-19 victims on the island.

 The protesters claimed that it was a cunning plan by the government to drive in a wedge between Christians and Muslims in the area. The government should have earmarked a deserted island for that purpose, they said. The protest was led by Christian religious leaders and local politicians. 

Iranaitivu is situated 10 km from Mannar and can only be accessed by boat. Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwelle said that it was not a political decision and that health experts had taken it after careful consideration. He added that a vehicle especially made for this would be used to transport bodies to the island. This vehicle would include a freezer and the driver would be isolated from the bodies. Two family members would also be allowed to attend the funeral.

 

 

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