Lawyers’ Collective condemns President’s and Ministers statements in Parliament

Colombo, June 22 (Daily Mirror)- The Lawyers’ Collective, a prominent legal advocacy group in Sri Lanka, today strongly condemned the statements made in Parliament by the President, the Justice Minister, the Education Minister, and Parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekare under the cover of parliamentary privilege.

In a statement, the Lawyers' Collective maintained that that any allegation against the judiciary must be made in the form of a formal complaint before the appropriate forum and not by way of a statement in the Parliament under the cover of Parliamentary privilege.

The Collective stated that on June 18, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking in Parliament, criticized the recent Supreme Court determination on the Gender Equality Bill referring to the court as having engaged in ‘judicial cannibalism’. 

It further stated that on July 19, Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapakse said in Parliament that the Supreme Court orders effectively suspend parts of the Constitution and drew a comparison between the orders of the Supreme Court and Adolf Hitler suspending civil rights prior to the outbreak of World War II. 

The Lawyers' Collective maintained that these statements are aimed at instilling fear and confusion in the minds of citizens.

While referring to the serious allegations made by the Justice Minister naming specific judges and lawyers, the Lawyers' Collective reiterated that any such allegation of corruption involving judicial officers must be taken extremely seriously. However, these public statements are a misuse of parliamentary privilege.

"It is disappointing and extremely concerning that the Minister, a senior member of the legal profession, a President’s Counsel, levels allegations against the
District Court judge who issued a stay order against the Minister regarding an issue  on the office bearers of the SLFP", the statement further added.

The Lawyers' Collective emphasised that the allegations should be confined to formal complaints before the proper forum and every  allegation must be dealt with due process and with a view to strengthening institutions.

The Lawyers' Collective further stated that the Minister of Education, Susil  Premjayantha and Parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekare also made comments on the cases for which they have certain interests. 

"Such high executive office making insidious sweeping  remarks about the judiciary using parliamentary privilege is a clear abuse of their  power. It sends strong signals to judicial officials that certain judicial decisions will  not be tolerated by this executive. It implies complicity with the executive may receive  career advancement and support", the Collective stated.

The Lawyers’ Collective views this attack on the judiciary, which in the context of mounting litigation before courts, is the last recourse and refuge against abuse of State 
The Collective believes such  statements, immediately prior to an election, to be politically expedient and aimed to cause uncertainty and loss of confidence in the People in the judiciary and democratic processes. The Collective requests the public to stand up in protection of the independence of the Judiciary at this time and always.

On behalf of the Lawyers’ Collective a group of President’s Counsels Upul Jayasuriya, M.M. Zuhair, Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne, Anura Meddegoda, Saliya Pieris,  S.T. Jayanaga, Upul Kumarapperuma, Prof. Savitri Goonesekere, Prof. Deepika Udagama, Prof. Camena Gunaratne Attorneys-at-law, Rev. Fr. Noel Dias, Jagath Kularatne, Lakshan Dias, Srinath Perera, K.W. Janaranjana, Ermiza Tegal, Darshana Kuruppu and Sandamal Rajapakse signed the letter.

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