International Development Partners dialogue by Justice Ministry
Ali Sabry PC – Minister of Justice
- The Ministry has received proposals of 10 crucial reforms, which the Justice Minister says would be implemented over the next few weeks
- As opposed to developed countries the ratio of judges per population is disturbingly low in Sri Lanka
As the country’s population continues to rise and with the significant increase in crime rates, many scholars and social activists demand comprehensive reforms to the justice system. In order to set out a detailed plan for the reforms to the justice system, the Ministry hosted the International Development Partners Dialogue on April 3 along with several international organizations and missions including UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, KOICA, The Asia Foundation, IOM, JICA, ADB, ICRC, UNODC, USAID, The World Bank. IOM, European Union, Switzerland and Australia.
"Only 378 judges are in the country to handle the ongoing court cases and in the developed countries, there are 200 Judges per million population and in middle income countries there are 65-70 Judges per million population"
The objective of the event was to set out in detail the proposed reform programme of the Ministry of Justice, with the assistance of several local and international organizations, assisting areas which require technical assistance, capacity building and institutional development. The forum also served as an opportunity for the said organizations to partner with the Ministry and the Government of Sri Lanka, to attain the objectives of the justice sector reform drives.
The Chief Guest at the event was Prof. G.L. Peiris, the Minister of Education who delivered the keynote address. The Attorney General Dappula de Livera and the State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners Rehabilitation Lohan Ratwatte, Secretary to the Ministry of Justice M.M.P.K Mayadunne, and the heads of several State Institutions were also in attendance.
Ali Sabry PC – Minister of Justice
Delivering the opening remarks at the event Minister of Justice Ali Sabry highlighted the decrease in the number of judges serving within the system and highlighted that there were only 15 judges per one million population in Sri Lanka.
“I thought that we have just a number in fifteen per one million people. It is fairly and totally inadequate. Therefore we must come up to at least double the number of judges over the next few years,” he said.
He said that immediate steps to improve the judiciary by another 93 judges must be taken. Last week the Ministry had presented a road map for the development of the judicial system for the next 15 months.
“We have been working as a team. We are trying to find ways and means to improve the present process. The moment we pull over that (where we stand at present) we want holistic resolutions. Not to just adopt timely resolutions. We need to look at the overall sector specifically each and every institution and the process. We have identified that there are ways to improve our sector,” he added.
The Minister said that he had received two reports last week suggesting 10 crucial reforms which would be implemented within the next few months and the main target was to improve the technical system of the whole judicial system.
"Minister Sabry said there are nearly 5000 cases at District Courts which spanning along for 20 years without any conclusion. The current legal system takes a long period to complete a case and initially to complete a trial at High Court it takes 10 years"
“There are twenty one institutions under the Ministry of Justice and all of them need to be improved in process re-engineering, the uplifting of standard of institutions, individual training as well as capacity building,” he said.
The Minister also spoke on the need for reform and the objectives sought to be achieved by the event and working together with the Development Partners.
“When I discussed this with different stakeholders on the perspectives, one thing I saw was there was a lack of coordination between all these institutions and the efforts which have been made. As a result of it, things have been duplicated or not properly evaluated or that is at the end of the day, there is no proper accountability to prove,” he said.
Earlier, addressing the seminar on importance of protecting victims and witnesses the Minister also highlighted that only 378 judges are in the country to handle the ongoing court cases.
The Minister also said that in the developed countries there were 200 Judges per million population and in middle income countries it was 65-70 Judges per million population. “This is a serious matter in our current legal system and during my tenure I’m hoping to double the number of Judges in the judicial system,” he said.
He said that in the current legal system it takes a long period to complete a case and initially to complete a trial at High Court it takes 10 years. “I’m not going to address the technical facts pertaining to the Act on protection of victims of crime and witness but I must say there was less investment in the judicial system,” he said.
Minister Sabry said that there were nearly 5000 cases at District Courts which spanned along 20 years without any conclusion. “We have not infiltrated technology and outdated laws are causes of these issues at the current legal system,” he said.
The Minister further added that the Justice Ministry was in its final phase of the completion of tenders regarding the digitization of the judicial system in the country.
Reality of current administration in justice system
As Sri Lankans, we have to accept that the current state of the administration of the justice system have to be improved. The country is being run by inadequate staff within the justice system and results have been delivered after long-haul case proceedings. The trials which are continuing by the courts are taking years to complete and it is an extensive procedure.