SLPP MP and retired Rear Admiral and Sarath Weerasekera, replying to a Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) statement published in The Island on 12 July, yesterday rejected the allegation that his speech in Parliament on 07 July was a brazen attack on the judiciary.
Weerasekera’s response: “I think your press release was to show your solidarity with the lawyers in Mulativu without probing the relevant incident at Kurundi Buddhist Temple Complex.
“Every citizen in the country is fully aware that the judiciary should be allowed to operate independently, free of external pressures, etc., which the Bar Association doesn’t have to emphasise.
“I would like to remind the BA that once the TNA legislator M.A. Sumanthiran, in parliament, accused the Supreme Court of swinging like a pendulum. During the debate on 22 A, he said if the Supreme Court can’t read and understand their own determination ask them “to go home”! Why didn’t BA issue a statement condemning that? Was it not a brazen attack on the judiciary? Is the BA afraid of Sumanthiran?
“I would like to remind the Bar Association of the report submitted by the special rapporteur Monica Pinto on “Sri Lankan judiciary” to the UNHRC. A few of the allegations she has leveled against our judiciary were as under.
“a. Judges are reportedly often offered government or other political offices after retirement. This practice raises concern regarding possible conflict of interest and casts doubts on the independence and impartiality of the judges who may be hoping to obtain such positions.
“b. Overall judicial independence seems to have been gradually eroded over the years.
“c. Bar Association during certain periods strongly divided along political lines. The politicisation of the association is a source of great concern.
“d. Judges frequently push defendants to plead guilty. When defendants plead guilty judges can expedite their cases and improve their statistics.
“e. In general the Admin of justice should be more transparent, decentralised and democratic.
“We haven’t seen the BASL, which is supposed to safeguard the independence and dignity of our judiciary making any statement Against such a derogatory report.
“However I must mention that I volunteered and attended the UNHRC session on 18 June 2017 and declared that Monica’ s report was a derogatory of our judiciary with a proud history of 200 hundred years.
“Also, I asked her how she had come to the conclusion that the Sri Lankan judges were incompetent, incapable, poorly selected, corrupt, cowardly and partial within just eight days of her visit to the country.
“I said it was a preconceived and predetermined observation of Pinto and invited all to look at the achievements of the judges who worked in foreign countries.
“This was how I safeguarded the dignity of our judiciary at international level when the BASL was keeping quiet.
“I, as a parliamentarian, am fully aware how to conduct myself in parliament. I request the BASL to visit the North and observe how the Buddhist ruins are being plundered and destroyed by ruffians and how the Chaithyas are raised to the ground.
“The archaeological officers are threatened with death and cases filed with the help of Mulativu lawyers to delay renovations and then destroy what has been already done.
“We all respect our judiciary. But the lawyers also have a moral obligation to think twice before appearing for goons who destroy our heritage.”