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‘Corruption has many faces, bribery only one of them – AG

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The courts had quite justly come to be regarded as the sentinel over the powers of the legislature and the executive in Sri Lanka in order to safeguard the rights of the citizen under the law and the Constitution, Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC has said on March 23 at the ceremonial sitting of the Court of Appeal

“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; I have said this earlier that 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 moulded according to law”, the AG declared, adding: “It is said that public institutions should command public confidence – so is the Judiciary of a country.”

The ceremonial sitting was held to welcome, His Lordship Justice Arjuna Obeysekere as the President of the Court of Appeal, Her Ladyship Justice Menaka Wijesundera, their Lordships Justice Nihal Samarakoon, Justice Prasantha de Silva, Justice Mohamed Laffar, Justice Pradeep Kirtisinghe, Justice Sampath Abayakoon and Justice Sampath Wijeratne as Judges of the Court of Appeal.

The AG said: “The backlog of cases in this Court is alarming. It has to be addressed urgently and quickly, methodically and efficiently and to deliver speedy justice and prevent Laws delays without compromising the quality of justice thereby, winning the confidence of the people.

This issue has to be addressed by Lordship’s Court holistically. The Bench and the Bar have to get together to solve this problem. The increase in the number of Judges to the Superior Courts by the 20th Amendment to the Constitution and thereby the appointment of Your Lordships and Ladyship is no doubt seen as a very positive step in this regard.

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.

Public confidence in the judiciary cannot be built unless Judges display a high level of integrity, impartiality and independence in their judgments, pronouncements and orders and through their conduct.

The Honourable Diego Garcia-Sayán who acts as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers who was a judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and was elected Vice-President of the Court from 2008 to 2009 and President of the Court for two consecutive terms and who previously served as Peru’s Minister of Justice and Minister of Foreign Affairs, recently shared his views on judicial corruption and judicial independence with UNODC as part of the Organization’s on-going work on promoting judicial integrity.

He opined “that by seeking impunity, corruption has a devastating effect on the judicial system as a whole. One of the goals of human rights is to fight corruption and its implications on the administration of justice, as is to act against corruption through an independent and strong administration of justice”. For this, the United Nations Convention against Corruption is a fundamental instrument for the protection of human rights.

“Corruption has many faces, bribery being only one of them, another being political corruption, much more unattainable and imprecise. Its broad range of action enables it not only to influence the Judicial system but all sectors of State Administration as well”.

Corruption undermines the core of the administration of justice, generating a substantial obstacle to the right to an impartial trial, and severely undermining the population’s trust in the judiciary.

Article 11 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption – a fundamental international treaty – emphasizes the decisive role of the judicial branch in the fight against corruption, and establishes that in order to carry out this role effectively, the judicial branch itself must be free of corruption, and that its members must act with integrity. Substantive guidelines on matters of internal organization, which are fundamental to prevent and confront corruption, have been included in the Convention.

In 2016, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime launched a global programme to promote a culture of lawfulness. It includes the creation of a Global Judicial Integrity Network to share best practices and lessons learned on the fundamental challenges and new questions relating to judicial integrity and the prevention of corruption.

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 confidence of the people.

An independent judiciary is the corner of stone of the prevalence of the rule of law in a democratic society.

Judicial independence requires not just independence in the constitutional sense, that is, the separation of powers between the three branches of government (executive, legislature and judiciary), but also the personal independence of judges so that they are free to decide cases based on the application of the rule of law. 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.

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 cannot use the judicial platform to satisfy 3rd party and personal interest and have agendas and should at all times avoid possible conflicts of interest.

United States Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said on his elevation in 2006;

“Good Judges don’t have agendas. They don’t look for partisan outcomes and always do what the law requires and demands. A Judge cannot have any agendas and a Judge cannot have a preferred outcome in a particular case”.

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

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



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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