The Sunday Leader

Country Faces Threat Of Anarchy – Wijedasa


  • If Executive and Judiciary Fail To Maintain Balance…

The President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), parliamentarian Wijedasa Rajapakse says the entire country would suffer and the law and order situation would be affected if the executive and judiciary fail to maintain their balance. He noted that there would be a dictatorship or an anarchic situation if a balance is not maintained among the executive, judiciary and the legislature. “The executive must give a guarantee that the executive would not interfere in the judiciary and allow it to act independently,” Rajapakse said.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: As the head of the BASL, how do you see the attack on the JSC Secretary Manjula Thilekaratne?
A: It was a very unfortunate incident. We don’t know who exactly the culprits are. The BASL executive committee met on the same day of the attack and passed a resolution calling on the President, Attorney General and the IGP for an impartial and independent investigation into the attack enabling the law enforcement authorities to prosecute the culprits and to apprehend immediately the culprits involved in the attack. We have also called for a special Bar Council meeting to discuss and decide on the course of action to be adopted. The Bar Council is to meet on the 13th.

Q: There are claims that the judiciary is under threat. How is the judiciary under threat?
A: What we know is the statement issued by the JSC Secretary where it has been alleged that there is interference and influence on the judiciary. However, there have not been any specific accusations being made as to the persons or the officials who are involved in interfering in the judiciary. We are now trying to ascertain the reason for making such an accusation. Nevertheless, we condemn any kind of influence or intimidation on the judiciary, as it is a threat to the independence of the judiciary. We will take all possible actions on behalf of the Bar.

Q: How important do you think it is to maintain a balance among the executive, judiciary and the legislature?
A: If a balance is not maintained among these three pillars of the government and there are no checks on them, the next situation would be a dictatorship or anarchy. There are sufficient measures in the Constitution about these three pillars. There’s a separation of power of these three pillars that is recognized in the Constitution. However, there are now some overlapping issues in the executive and the legislature. The legislature has now become a remote control of the executive. The situation with regard to judicial independence has been somewhat satisfactory until the unfortunate incidents like that in Mannar, the allegations levelled by the JSC Secretary and the subsequent attack on the JSC Secretary. The independence of the judiciary is now exposed to a danger.

Q: The BASL recently passed a resolution on the threat to the Chief Justice and the JSC. What measures have been taken in this regard?
A: We condemned the alleged threat and decided to discuss the matter with relevant stakeholders and take further action. The attack on the JSC Secretary happened in the meantime and is now being discussed and the executive committee. However, all these issues would have to be discussed at the special meeting of the Bar Council, which represents the bodies of all bar councils in the country.

Q: Can the judiciary protect its independence in the current backdrop?
A: Independence of the judiciary could be protected if the judicial officers stand firm.

Q: But are they standing firm?
A: That is a questionable issue. Whether it is right or wrong,  when the former Chief Justice
issued an order on the Treasury Secretary the Chief Justice and judges appointed subsequently later changed it due to the pressure from the Executive.
They succumbed to the pressure from the executive at that time and the issue of influence comes about when these dictates are not followed.

Q: How long would you say the threat to the judiciary has continued? What do you think has caused it?
A: It has gone on for a long time. When former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva gave certain orders related to the hedging deal and the fuel prices, the executive ignored them. Also, the people discussed the introduction of the 18th Amendment as to how the Supreme Court approved it when the constitutionality of the legislation was taken up for consideration. These are issues discussed by the people in the legal profession. I cannot say as to what has actually caused a threat to the judiciary. However, it was recently reported that the Chief Justice’s husband was being penalized following the incident in Mannar. I think these issues have led to the mistrust and misunderstandings. There seems to be a misunderstanding between the executive and the judiciary that is causing a confrontation between the two. The allegation made by the JSC Secretary of alleged interference and influence by the executive on the judiciary is a confrontation.

Q: Is the entire judicial fraternity united in this struggle to safeguard judicial independence?
A: I cannot give an answer since it depends on the relevant judicial officials. I only represent the Bar. Whatever the political agendas and ideologies, members of the judiciary have stood together during issues. Since I assumed office as the head of the BASL, all decisions in the BASL and the Bar Council have been unanimous, which indicates unity when facing issues.

Q: What could be done to safeguard the independence of the judiciary?
A: The judiciary and executive must work with an understanding. They must understand the gravity of the situation. The entire country stands to suffer if the executive and judiciary fail to maintain their balance and there is no law and order. The executive must give a guarantee that the executive would not interfere in the judiciary and allow it to act independently.

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