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‘The Bar cannot afford to be stifled by party politics’: Saliya Pieris, PC

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In an interview with Randima Attygalle, the newly elected President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris elucidates on his road map supported by the cornerstones of ‘principled position’ and ‘independence’.

Q: As the 26th President of the BASL responsible for steering it, how would you define effective leadership?

A: My view of leadership is about building consensus among members and leading through that. It takes more than listening to the wishes of the majority, but also taking the lead on issues discussing and perhaps pointing the way to the path the Association should take.

My take on the members of the BASL is that a vast majority is reasonable and would take a principled position. I think this was evident during this election. I had the support from a cross-section of people. I need to emphasize that this election was not on political lines. Members of the Bar want an independent leadership and I’m not the one who will push my views because I believe that through quiet convincing you can certainly bring people to one table.

 

Q: You secured a sweeping majority at the recent election. Can you recollect any previous occasions of similar majorities and also of uncontested first time presidencies?

A: There had been large majorities previously when there was a huge gap between the contenders. My predecessor Kalinga Indatissa’s win was a good example in this regard. But if it was among PCs of equal seniority, I can’t recall a similar majority where there were two candidates of equal seniority. As for uncontested presidencies, Geoffrey Alagaratnam PC was elected uncontested in 2015. There was also an instance when a candidate died and as a result there was no contest.

Q: Taking a ‘principled stand’ was underlined in your manifesto which you reiterated in your address after the announcement of the election results. How do you plan to align the mandate of the BASL with this?

A: The BASL by its mandate is bound to uphold the rule of law, to support the independence of the judiciary and to safeguard the fundamental rights. On these cornerstones, the Bar must take an independent position, irrespective of party politics or whatever the government in power. However, the Bar needs to fully cooperate with the government in furthering the administration of justice. But at the same time, where the government of the day is wrong, if there is a threat to the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and fundamental rights, the Bar must take up a principled position.

 

Q: How important do you think it is for the BASL to be more vocal on issues of national interest, to lend voice to social justice, marginalized groups etc.

A: It is imperative that the voice of the Bar is heard as an important institution. But having said that, I repeat that the Bar cannot become politicized, because if it is seen as partisan, it can affect the credibility of the institute. It is only when independent institutes exercise a high degree of independence that there is respect for the views of that particular institution.

Q: What measures do you propose to enable more opportunities to those in the Junior Bar in terms of professional exposure, mentoring etc.?

A: One of the programmes I have already proposed is a mentoring system because today many juniors start practicing on their own without the guidance of a senior lawyer. In the case of my own practice, although I’ve worked with senior lawyers I have never had a permanent senior. I believe that there should be senior lawyers to guide the juniors in the profession.

In the long run, we should also deliberate how the Bar can support new areas of practice. Today there are 800 to 1,000 lawyers passing out annually and many end up in court. But there can be areas such as taxation where many new openings are possible for juniors. We are also looking at how the Bar could facilitate scholarships and exchange programmes to support them. We have also proposed to strengthen the continuity of legal education at district levels in collaboration with the local Bars.

During my election campaign I had very close interaction with hundreds of junior lawyers and my experience with them is that they have a lot of potential, a lot of skills and they are people who like to work hard. I’m also pleased to say that many of them are principled and we should optimize these strengths and help them reach their true potential.

Q: We have good laws in our statutes but despite that legal literacy among the masses remains poor. What is the role the BASL can play here in enhancing legal literacy especially among the marginalized groups such as those with disabilities etc.?

A: I have taken stock of this situation in my programme of action as well, and we are trying to lobby for basic law to be incorporated into the school syllabus. We need to revive the good practices such as the National Law Week which was initiated during the tenure of Nihal Jayamanne PC. Legal luminaries such as Judge C.G. Weeramantry had long advocated legal literacy among people and we need to look at how the BASL can sustain the efforts to expand its reach, perhaps through institutions such as the Legal Aid Commission.

Q: In terms of our legal education, the choice of subjects still remains very conventional despite the digital age that we live in. Diversification in legal education is also a want of the hour. As a lecturer of law, what measures do you propose to bridge these gaps?

A: Law should essentially be multidisciplinary and study of law too should be more integrated; it cannot be confined to so-called ‘legal subjects’ alone. Law students must have a knowledge of other disciplines as well. We know that accountants study business law and aspects of commercial law. This kind of an interdisciplinary approach should be replicated in our legal education as well. In certain universities in the UK, for instance in the University of Warwick, there is a subject called ‘Shakespeare and the Law’ where they study certain plays of Shakespeare related to law. In the Department of Law at Peradeniya, Sociology is now being taught which is a progressive move. Sometimes ago there was a proposal to introduce a module on Law and Literature at the Colombo Law Faculty.

We need to have collaborative discussions with our universities and Sri Lanka Law College as to how the syllabuses can be made more productive. Very often even law graduates end up in the legal profession. So while making Law College more practical, suited to modern ways of learning, at the same times there should be measures in place to make academic training at Law Faculties analytical. So when these law graduates join the Bar, their academic training can be productively translated into the practical setting. In this context, the BASL can make representation on how to enhance the quality of legal education in the country.

Q: Although we have seen a notable shift in female representation within the judiciary, it is not so in the Private Bar. How can women lawyers be empowered to be more visible in the Private Bar and play a more proactive role?

A: We have many female instructing attorneys and outside Colombo there are many female lawyers who appear in courts on equal terms with men. But when it comes to Colombo, especially the chambers, there is a disparity which we have recognized. We have suggested that the Bar should have a committee of females lawyers through which their concerns and grievances can be brought to the table and deliberated to remedy them.

One of the key bottlenecks which discourages female lawyers of the Private Bar is the working schedule. There needs to be more flexibility in working hours and ambitious as it may be, a day care center in Hulftsdorp for their young children is desirable. There is also a strong need to have more leadership positions in the BASL- more women involved in the workings of the BASL at different levels. Female representation in executive committees of the Junior Bar is equally important. It is imperative that female lawyers should be empowered to reach their true potential.

Q) Coming from a journalistic family – your father Harold Pieris being once editor of the Observer and you too having had a stint with the now defunct Sun – what are your thoughts about the present media culture?

A: Lack of balance to see that the other side of the story too is something which I believe is lacking in today’s media culture. There seems to be ‘self-censorship’ among many journalists. In print media there is civil defamation available for the aggrieved party but when it comes to social media content, there is nothing that a victim can do. Some of the hate content is not only partisan but also paid for by certain people, which makes it very unpleasant. This however is the case the world over. While freedom of expression needs to be upheld it is imperative not to exploit the tool.

Q: As the first chairman of the Office of the Missing Persons and also as one time member of the Human Rights Commission, what are your observations about Sri Lanka’s reconciliation process and what needs to be done to achieve real reconciliation?

A: My personal take on this issue is that it is really important to narrow the gap between the communities. The perception of reconciliation is varied in different parts of the country. So unless you really convince people and a majority of people are part of the process, reconciliation is not going to be a reality. If we really want to reconcile we need to bring a majority on board in the process because without that, if a majority sees reconciliation as a bad word, or as something which is very alien, then we are not going to succeed.

Any process of reconciliation should be domestically driven and the institutions which are there for the promotion of reconciliation should also be domestically driven. For that purpose, domestic mechanisms established should be dynamic and allowed to be independent. If people are suspicious about a process, it will not be successful.

Q) We are braving hard times. As the newly appointed BASL Chief, what would be your mandate to contribute to the national effort of fighting the pandemic and making a difference?

A: I think where the Bar is concerned, the contribution will be through the justice system. During the lockdown some of the apex courts were not functional because we were not geared, but today we have seen the Supreme Court making rules relating to that and the Justice Ministry has also been making efforts on digitization. So the Bar should proactively cooperate with the government and courts in making this exercise of fighting the effects of the pandemic a success.

Those in the justice sector including the lawyers and judges should also be on the list of those being vaccinated as they interact with the members of the public. If their safety is not ensured, it directly affects the justice system because we saw the closure of certain courts in the past few weeks and a number of lawyers had to be quarantined. Then there are effects of the pandemic which need to be taken stock of, the loss of income, the number of cases diminishing, the delays of the justice system- all these should be addressed by the Bar as a stakeholder. The Bar will be one stakeholder in this process and we need to fully cooperate with the Ministry of Justice and the judiciary to tackle these issues.



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Features

To recognise and reward Women Entrepreneur

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by Zanita Careem

WCIC “Prathibhabis-heka” national awards will be given to outstanding women entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka and the SAARC said Anoji de Silva, the chairperson of Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce WCIC at a press conference held at the Jetwing hotel Ward PlaceThis year the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by DFCS Aloka.This National Award which is recognised globally will help women to market their products to international buyers

“As a country we have faced many difficulties over the last few years. Now this is the time to reflect and ensure that local women can contribute and progress to be on par with international entrepreneurs She also noted that this award ceremony is a great opportunity for all since it’s an absolutely empowering platform. “You hear success stories of women from different walks of life and it’s very empowering and inspiring. I’m sure that the younger generation of women who will watch the ceremony wii be inspired to be sucessful entrepreneurs in the future S

“Our women entrepreneurs have the potential to help our economy to grow. They have made vast strides to build companies on a set of values and they have created diverse working environments.

The WCIC Prathibhabisheka Women Entrepreneur Awards will be held in January 22. To the question how financial records of small businesses headed by women could deter their ability to apply the chairperson said.

“We have a startup category which is under five years where they can submit documents for consideration. She responded “These women can apply but must submit proper records to back their applications or else they will be rejected wholeheartedly.The Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022

“Prathibha” depicts excellence in Sanskrit and WCIC will showcase the excellence of outstanding women entrepreneurs through WCIC Prathibhabisheka –

“The relaunched property is structured to assess the businesses in a holistic manner. We invite outstanding women entrepreneurs, especially the ones who have braved the challenges in the past years to share their story of resilience and achievements to compete for the coveted – WCIC Prathibhabisheka The Awards will honour women entrepreneurs for their tenacity to scale and grow, and for their contribution and impact on the economy. Whilst the competition is primarily for Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, we have also included an opportunity for women in the SAARC region to compete in a special category” stated Anoji De Silva, the Chairperson of the WCIC.

The members of WCIC Ramani Ponnambalam and Tusitha Kumarakul-asingam, said”. We will be accepting applications under the categories – Start-up, Micro, Small, Medium and Large. Each category will have a specified revenue for the year under review – 2021/22. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be presented for each category. With the view to identify and promote regional women entrepreneurs, we will encourage applications from all the provinces in the country and select the “Best of the Region” from each province.

The women will also be considered for the coveted special awards – Young Woman Entrepreneur, Outstanding Start- up, Most Positively Abled Woman Entrepreneur, The Most Outstanding Export Oriented Entrepreneur, The Best of the SAARC Region. The ceremony will culminate with the selection of the “Women Entrepreneur of the year -2022”.

“The entry kit can be downloaded from www.wcicsl.lk and completed and submitted to the WCIC along with all the material required to substantiate the applicant’s story. Entries close on the 31st of October.” stated Tusitha Kumarak-ulasingam.

WCIC Prathibabisheka – Woman Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by– DFCC Aloka, as the Platinum Sponsor, with Gold Sponsors – Mclarens Group, LOLL Holdings Plc, Hayleys Leisure Pic, and AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd (Exclusive Insurance Partner), Silver – Finez Capital Ventures Print and Social Media Partners will be the Wijeya Group and Electronic Media Partner–ABC Network with Triad as our Creative Partner and Ernst & Young as Knowledge Partner.

Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) is the premier organization supporting entrepreneurs and professional business-women. The membership is open to women who believe they can contribute to society as well as benefit from the many facilities the organization creates. WCIC Prathibhasheka is relaunched this year as a flagship property, to recognize and reward outstanding women enterpreneurs who make a contribution to the SL economy.

For further information Contact- Janitha Stephens – 0766848080

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Features

Marmalade sandwich in Queen’s handbag!

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In this period of national mourning, it may seem frivolous to comment on the late Queen’s handbag. After seven decades of selfless service to the nation, fashion is but a footnote to Her Majesty’s glorious reign.And yet her style is something that helped to create the powerful majestic image of Queen Elizabeth II, and which made her instantly recognisable worldwide. A key part of that image, and a constant presence in her working life, was her black Launer handbag.

Launer London was Her Majesty’s handbag maker for more than 50 years and has held the Royal Warrant since 1968. Launer bags are formal and structured, and proved to be the ideal regal accessory for public engagements. Its first royal patronage came from HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the 1950s. Where others might have bought the latest ‘It’ bag, Queen Elizabeth exercised characteristic restraint with her handbags throughout her life, focusing on quality over quantity in her loyalty to Launer.

Her Majesty was known for her love of colour in her working wardrobe, wearing rainbow brights in order to be better seen by the public, but her accessories were always muted. Black mostly, sometimes beige or white in summer, gold or silver in the evening: neutrals that matched with every colour, allowing her to dress with ease. The timeless style of her trusty Traviata top-handle bag suited the Queen’s no-nonsense nature and symbolised her steadfast reign. The late Baroness Thatcher shared the Queen’s love of a strong top handle from classic British labels such as Launer and Asprey. These bags helped promote a look of someone in control. Like Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher’s handbags were such a part of her identity that they have earned their own special place in history and have been described as the former PM’s ‘secret weapon’. One such bag has been exhibited at the V&A alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s red despatch box. Both are artefacts of cultural and historic importance.

It has been said that there was another purpose to the Queen’s handbag on public engagements, namely that she used it as a secret signalling device. According to royal historian Hugo Vickers, Her Majesty would switch the bag from her left arm to her right to signal for an aide to come to her rescue if she tired of the conversation in which she was engaged. If she placed the bag on the table, this was a sign that she wanted to leave. Ever-practical, HM needed a bag that focused on functionality over fashion, choosing styles with slightly longer top handles that comfortably looped over the monarch’s arm, freeing her hands to accept bouquets and greet the public. Even in her final photograph, meeting her 15th prime minister in her sitting room at Balmoral Castle, just two days before her death last week, the Queen’s handbag can be seen on her left arm. Perhaps at this stage it was part armour, part comfort blanket.Even at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II did not lose her ability to surprise. She delighted the public by taking tea with Paddington Bear at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations and finally revealed what she keeps in her handbag: a marmalade sandwich, ‘for later’.

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Cinnamon Grand, Colombo welcomes You to the SEQUEL

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The next best thing in Colombo!

What would you get if you took the decadence of yesterday and paired it with the flavours of right now? Something bold and jazzy or rich and snazzy. Something we’d like to call the next best thing. All this and more at Cinnamon City Hotels to the SEQUEL at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo said a press release.

The release said the SEQUEL is where the old meets new, where charm meets sophistication and having a good time gets a new meaning. Colombo’s latest speakeasy cocktail bar is ready to welcome the discerning guest that is looking for that perfectly curated night.

“The SEQUEL will be a novel addition to Colombo’s nightlife catered to enthralling guests with our performances and showmanship,” said Kamal Munasinghe, Area Vice-President, Cinnamon City Hotels.

What do we mean when we say performance? It means that every little detail is tailored to those who appreciate elegance, and a bespoke experience like no other. Think walking into a vintage space accompanied by the sounds of Sinatra and Fitzgerald inviting you to do it your way or for once in your life. Think of the soul-searching and eclectic mix of Winehouse classics that you can drown your sorrows in.

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