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LG polls: Cardinal asks Prez to abide by SC order



Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith addresses the media (pic by Nimal Dayaratne)

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday (13) declared that President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is also the Finance Minister, had to carry out the interim order issued by the Supreme Court on March 03 pertaining to a fundamental rights petition filed by SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara.

Addressing the media at the Bishop’s House, Borella, the Cardinal strongly criticised President Wickremesinghe’s conduct and statements by SLPP parliamentarian Premanath Dolawatte and State Finance Minister Shehan Semasinghe.

The Cardinal said Parliament had the authority to decide on suitable laws and rules for the country, but the interpretation of the application of these laws in concrete situations was the province of the judiciary. That power had not been conferred on the Parliament, the Church leader said.

The following is the text of a statement issued by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith Archbishop of Colombo:

” It was reported in the media that two Members of Parliament have spoken concerning the judgment given by the Supreme Court enforcing on the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance as well as the Attorney General the allocation of funds, that had been approved by the Parliament for conducting the local government elections, which were scheduled to be held on the 9th March 2023, calling this decision a violation of their parliamentary privileges by the Courts. This matter is to be viewed with great concern and I wish to comment on it as follows.

This request by the two parliamentarians is not in keeping with the dignity and the freedom of the Supreme Court in deciding on this matter and so any interference on the basis of parliamentary privileges is totally unacceptable and I wish to condemn this attitude quite firmly.

On a previous occasion in a judgment given by the Supreme Court in the case reported in (1999) 1 SRI LR 157 on a contention between Dayananda Dissanayake, Commissioner of Elections and others against Karunatilleke and others, the judgment given very clearly affirmed that according to the provision No. 14 (1) of the National Constitution, the Courts accepted that the citizens of this country have a right to exercise their freedom to express themselves and to speak out also through the medium of elections basing itself also on the principle that people have the right to elect their own representatives during a course of a scheduled election.

According to the Constitution of Sri Lanka it is clear that the Supreme Court is the highest and last decision making body in matters concerning the interpretation and application of law to concrete situations. In this matter the Supreme Court holds the authority as the last source of appeal in all matters, as it has been assigned such authority by the very Constitution of the nation.

The Parliament as the law making body has the authority to decide on suitable laws and rules for the country. Yet, the interpretation on the application of these laws in concrete situations belongs to the judiciary. That power has not been conferred on the Parliament.

The Executive is bound to ensure that the laws that are passed by the Parliament are carefully implemented and that the wellbeing of the people is always ensured. The Executive does not have the authority to violate International Human Rights stipulations and the basic Human Rights Chapter inserted into the National Constitution. The President who is appointed as the Executive authority, always taking his oaths, assures that he or she will preserve carefully the provisions of the Constitution. He or she also accepts that they will work for the dignity and the progress of the people. As such the Executive does not have the authority to interpret the law according to their wishes, or to try to enforce them according to the way they visualize. In a similar fashion even though the Parliament prepares the legal bills and the rules and regulations concerning the country, it has no authority to decide on the implementation of the law according to their whims and fancies.

At this point I wish to remind everybody that in October 2018 the then President removed at his own discretion the Government, of the time where the then Prime Minister was the present President of Sri Lanka, without any legal basis. And so, the same Ranil Wickremesinghe went before the Supreme Court appealing against that decision and by order given on 13th December 2018, after a hearing of Case SC FR 351/218, the Court ruled the decision of the then President illegal and he had to eat humble pie and reappoint the same government of Wickramasinghe.

What is surprising is that the same Ranil Wickramasinghe who sought refuge in the Supreme Court that time is now allowing parliamentarians to belittle and criticize the decision of the Supreme Court in this case. We see a deep contradiction in his behaviour.

Hence since no one has the authority to interfere in the decision of the Supreme Court, it is clear that the judgement given on 3rd March 2023 by the Supreme Court binds on the President, the Government and the Parliament in equal measure. And so they need to follow that decision faithfully. Else they would be belittling the authority of the Supreme Court and undermining the very basis of democracy in our country.

I appeal that action be taken against such Ministers and MPs to ensure that the freedom of the judiciary is maintained at all costs without interference from petty politics and concerns.”

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Outgoing BASL chief asks lawyers to continue struggle to safeguard rule of law, democracy, judicial independence



Saliya Peiris

Outgoing President of the BAR Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) Saliya Peiris, PC has urged his colleagues to continue their struggle to counter threats to the rule of law and judicial independence.

“The BASL was able to play a pivotal role in the nation’s struggle to safeguard the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. In doing so, we were together able to make our profession relevant to the lives of the people and help enhance its credibility and public acceptance,” Saliya Peiris, PC said in a statement to mark the completion of his tenure as BASL President.

Peiris has said that in these two years, the BASL took up strong positions on many issues and where necessary sought recourse to the courts to protect the rights of the people.

“In the coming months, the Bar will need to continue to stand for the principles which are at the core of our profession and to protect the rights described in the Constitution as the intangible heritage of the people,” he said.

Excerpts of the statement:

“As I conclude my term as President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), I write to thank you for the support given to me during my tenure and for placing confidence in me. It has been my privilege to have led the Bar during this momentous period in our history.

“With your support and drawing from your strength, the BASL was able to play a pivotal role in this nation’s struggle for the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. In doing so we were together able to make our profession relevant to the lives of the people and help enhance its credibility and public acceptance.

“In these two years the BASL took up strong positions on many issues and where necessary sought recourse to the courts to secure the rights of the people. The BASL was the first amongst the professional bodies to publicly express its view on the looming economic crisis and the need to address the same.”

“Amidst these difficult times, the BASL continued to support the membership in their professional development and welfare. Through seminars, symposiums, workshops, webinars as well as through its social and welfare work during the pandemic and thereafter, the BASL was able to reach out to thousands of members, including the junior members of the Bar. The BASL also reached out to the branches in the outstations in an unprecedented manner. The BASL formed the Members Benevolent Society, and it is our expectation that the Society will grow to benefit the members in the years to come.

“As I write, we see new threats emerging to the rule of law and a concerted effort being made to undermine the independence of the judiciary. In the coming months the Bar will need to continue to fiercely stand for the principles which are at the core of our profession and to protect the rights described in the Constitution as the tangible heritage of the people.

“I take this opportunity to thank His Lordship the Chief Justice, all the members of the judiciary, the Hon. Attorney General, the Solicitor General and the members of the official Bar for the support and co-operation extended towards me as the President of the BASL.

“A special worn of thanks also to the Chairpersons of the Standing Committees as well as the Co-Chairs and Convenors for their immense contribution towards the BASL.

“I must record my deep appreciation for the unwavering strength demonstrated by the Bar Council the Executive Committee and the office bearers of the BASL, namely the Deputy President Mr. Anura Meddegoda PC, the Secretary of the BASL Mr. lsuru Balapatabendi, the Treasurer Mr. Rajindh Perera and the Assistant Secretary Mr. Mehran Careem as well as the former Secretary Mr. Rajeev Amarasuriya and the former Assistant Secretary Mr. Pasindu Silva for their unstinted support and co-operation given to me.

“I am indebted to the senior members of the profession to whom I turned to, for their wise counsel and words of encouragement.

“I have striven at all times to act according to the cherished values of our profession and to act in its best interests, mindful of the trust and confidence you placed in me on 24 February 2021. As I leave office, I trust that I have performed the duties of this office in accordance with your expectations. I have at all times drawn strength and been inspired by your goodwill towards me.

“I extend my best wishes to the incoming President Mr. Kaushalya Navaratne and the new office bearers and members of the Executive Committee.

“It is my sincere hope that the BASL will remain a strong and vibrant institution, inspiring confidence among the people of the nation, dedicated towards upholding the rule of law, democracy, the independence of the judiciary and the rights of the people and the community whilst safeguarding and promoting the welfare and interests of the members of the Bar.”

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SC summons IGP for disregarding court order



C. D. Wickramaratne

by AJA Abeynayake

The Supreme Court (SC), on Friday, summoned IGP C. D. Wickramaratne to appear in court on 03 April for disregarding a court order.The SC issued the summons when a fundamental rights petition was called before a bench comprising Justices S. Thurairajah, A. H. M.D. Nawaz and Achala Vengappuli.

The IGP has been ordered by the Supreme Court to prepare a set of guidelines to prevent the deaths of suspects in police custody taken out for various investigations.The SC judges pointed out that the IG had not abided by the order and expressed displeasure.

Justice Thurairajah said that despite the fact that the Supreme Court itself had given many judgments regarding the police, there had been no progress in the police department.The Justice said the police had a separate legal department and money should be allocated and training imparted to the police personnel through that section.

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Opposition slams govt. for move to undermine judiciary



The Opposition has strongly condemned what it calls a move by the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to undermine the Supreme Court (SC).The Opposition has, in a joint statement issued over the weekend, urged the government to refrain from being hostile towards the apex court.

Among the signatories to the statement are Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa, Dullas Alahapperuma, Prof. G. L. Peiris, Wimal Weerawansa, Gevindu Cumaratunga, Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, M.A. Sumanthiran and Udaya Gammanpila.

“The country is facing an unprecedented crisis in respect of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary,” the Opposition has said.

“Basic principles and values we had all taken for granted, are now being directly and strenuously challenged.

“Now, for the first time, a criterion fraught with the gravest consequences for the very survival of representative democracy, is sought to be laid down that election can be held only if and when the Head of State is subjectively satisfied that the economic condition of the country warrants the allocation of resources for the conduct of an election at a particular time.

“The alarming corollary is a vicious onslaught on the Supreme Court in the exercise of its inalienable jurisdiction to uphold and implement the provisions of the highest law, the Constitution of the Republic.

“The country has been treated to the ignominious spectacle of the apex court being derided and reviled in parliament.

“The interim order by the court, directing the Minister of Finance and the Secretary to the Ministry of Finance to refrain from preventing the release, to the Election Commission, of financial resources allocated by parliament in the annual budget for the conduct of the Local Government election, has been contemptuously disregarded.

“In a flagrant violation of a binding decision by the Supreme Court, the Government Printer and other relevant authorities are being deprived of funds required for the performance of essential functions in this regard.

“Urgent appeals by the Election Commission, addressed to the Finance Secretary, continue to be simply ignored.

“Refusal by the Executive to give effect to imperative directions by the Supreme Court represents, of itself, a deliberate erosion of the foundations of our constitutional system, based as it is on the clearly demarcated separation of powers among the organs of government.

“It expresses, in our view, undisguised contempt for cherished constitutional values which form the bedrock of freedom and stability in our country.

“Tragically, not even this seems to satisfy the appetite of an unelected administration to arrogate to itself authoritarian powers incompatible with the rudiments of a functioning democracy.

“The government has brazenly invaded the province of the judiciary by means of a wholly distended, and entirely illegitimate, recourse to the concept of parliamentary privilege to assail the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

“We are aghast at the purported initiative by the Privileges Committee of Parliament directing the Supreme Court to forward to parliament the interim order which has already been impugned with egregious disregard for sound principle and policy.

“There were strident calls in parliament for the discontinuation of proceedings property in progress before the Supreme Court : these were complimented by demands for the cessation of all judicial action in respect of pending proceedings , until parliamentary processes with regard to privileges are exhausted : to cap it all, cynically infringing express provision contained in the Standing Orders of Parliament, there was explicit criticism of a judgment of the Supreme Court and indeed, of propriety of the behavior of a judge , in the absence of substantive motion before the House.

“In keeping with established precedents across the civilized world, these actions constitute, cumulatively, contempt of the Supreme Court in uniquely aggravating circumstances.

“We find very disquieting the arrogant and dismissive attitude which the government, embarked on its dangerous frolic, has adopted to the emphatic appeals by religious leaders, including the Venerable Theras of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and his Eminence the Archbishop of Colombo.

“The sense of frivolity and flippancy underpinning the government’s approach to issues which define our political system and our way of life, presents to this nation and the world a spectacle of which we can hardly be proud.

“Representing all parties and groups in the Opposition in the parliament, we wish to express our profound respect for the judiciary –an indispensable pillar and, indeed, the final bulwark for the enjoyment of individual and collective liberties enshrined in the Constitution –and our firm resolve to resist, by all means at our disposal within a democratic framework, every attempt to undermine the prestige and stature of our country’s judiciary.”

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