SLPP dissidents call for action against Finance Secy. for sabotaging LG polls
‘Constitution cannot be circumvented by a circular regardless who issued it’
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Top Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya spokesperson Prof. G.L. Peiris said that Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana would have to pay a very heavy price for sabotaging Local Government polls 2023 at the behest of President Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Addressing the media at Nawala, the former External Affairs Minister emphasised that the Finance Secretary couldn’t have under any circumstances blocked the release of required funds on the basis of a circular issued by President Wickremesinghe, in his capacity as the Finance Minister.
The Finance Secretary should abide by the Constitution, the former Law Professor said, adding that a circular couldn’t surpass Constitutional provisions pertaining to holding of elections or the conduct of a referendum.
Declaring that the Finance Secretary or any other public officer, including those employed at undertakings vested in the government as well as companies registered or deemed to be registered under the Companies Act, No. 7 of 2007, in which the Government or any public corporation or local authority holds fifty per centum or more of the shares of that company had to follow Article 104 GG of the Constitution and those found to be guilty of an offence were liable to a fine not exceeding Rs 100,000 or maximum three years imprisonment or both the fine and imprisonment.
Samagi Jana Balavegaya mayoral candidate for the Colombo Municipal Council Mujibur Rahuman has moved the Supreme Court seeking its intervention to conduct Local Government polls. Among 35 respondents were Finance Secretary Mahinda Siriwardana, Public Administration Secretary Neil Bandara Hapuhinna and the Attorney General.
Prof. Peiris vowed to go flat out against the Finance Secretary. The National List lawmaker said that the Finance Secretary couldn’t have declined to release the funds required by the Election Commission (EC) under any circumstances as the relevant allocation received the parliamentary approval. Prof. Peiris said that as much Rs 10 bn had been allocated for the EC through the 2023 budget. Therefore, there couldn’t have been any issue with regard to the releasing of funds, Prof. Peiris said. The academic questioned EC Chairman Nimal Punchihewa’s decision to seek Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s intervention in this regard.
“Once the parliament approved funds for a particular purpose, there is no point in seeking the Speaker’s intervention. The Finance Secretary and his political masters absolutely have no right to interfere with a decision taken by parliament,” Prof. Peiris said, adding that the EC needed just 0.68 of the total budget allocation for 2023. Actually, the total amount sought by the EC was equivalent to state sector expenditure for one and a half days, the former minister said.
Commenting on police attacks on Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB) protest rally in Colombo last Sunday (26), Prof.Peiris said that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government should be ashamed of itself for suppression of public dissent.
The former minister pointed out that in spite of indiscriminate water cannons and tear gas attack those who gathered in Colombo held their public rally.
Referring to President Wickremesinghe’s recent speech in parliament where the UNP leader declared that the allocation of funds for election would be subjected to availability of funds, Prof. Peiris asked how one person could decide on the public right to exercise their franchise. President Wickremes-inghe couldn’t deprive the electorate of what was guaranteed by the Constitution, the former Minister said, warning the government of further protests regardless of violent government reaction. For how long could they depend on the police and the military to clampdown on public protests? Prof. Peiris asked.
Prof. Peiris said that professionals representing both public and private sector up in arms over what one –time Deputy Finance Peiris called extremely imbalanced new tax regime.
Declaring their support for countrywide trade union action planned for March 01 to pressure the government to reverse new tax proposals, Prof. Peiris said warned the government would have to face the grave consequences of large scale protest campaign.
Prof. Peiris said that on one hand the President repeatedly claimed the government lacked the wherewithal to meet even the basic commitments and on the other hand the powers that be sought to cripple parliamentary watchdog committees tasked with ensuring transparency in public finance.
Prof. Peiris said that the recent appointment of an Opposition lawmaker of its choice as Chairperson of the Public Finance Commission revealed how desperately the government tried to undermine the vital watchdog committee. The rebel SLPP MP questioned as to how the ruling party picked Mayantha Dissanayake when the Opposition, in terms of the Standing Orders, named Dr.Harsha de Silva as Chairperson of the Public Finance Commission.
Amidst media furore over the new appointment, SJB MP Mayantha Dissanayake resigned on Monday.
Outgoing BASL chief asks lawyers to continue struggle to safeguard rule of law, democracy, judicial independence
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.”
SC summons IGP for disregarding court order
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.
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.”
Showers in Western and Sabaragamuwa provinces and in Galle, Matara, Kandy and Nuwara-Eliya districts
Outgoing BASL chief asks lawyers to continue struggle to safeguard rule of law, democracy, judicial independence
SC summons IGP for disregarding court order
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