Controversy over move to extend AG’s term: JJB, SLPP rebels oppose extension



… warn of sharp deterioration of integrity of that Office

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The JVP-led NPP lawyers’ group yesterday (09) said the Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam’s term shouldn’t be extended under any circumstances.Upul Kariyawasam, PC, on behalf of the JJB lawyers’ group, said that they were totally against President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s move to grant Rajaratnam an extension in service. Kariyawasam warned that in case an extension was granted with the intention of elevating the incumbent AG to the post of Chief Justice in Dec this year it would create an extremely bad precedent.

Kariyawasam said so when The Island sought his response to the controversial move. “If that happened, the whole process could be considered politically motivated and would also create serious suspicions of the independence of the judiciary.

The lawyer declared that every effort should be made to thwart this project.Sanjay Rajaratnam received the appointment on May 26, 2021, during Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s presidency. He succeeded Dappula de Livera, PC.

Speaking on behalf of the dissident group of SLPPers now with the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), Prof. Peiris, MP, warned that an extension granted to the AG would cause severe damage to the integrity of that position.

Asked to explain, Prof. Peiris stressed that the AG had vital functions to perform in relation to the criminal justice process. “The AG decides whether prosecution for serious offences is warranted by the available evidence. He has the power to discontinue proceedings in criminal cases, at any time, before judgment is delivered.

This is the extraordinary power known as the nolle prosequi. These powers, with a very far reaching impact for the administration of justice, have necessarily to be exercised impartially and objectively, and strictly excluding irrelevant considerations. There must not be a shadow of doubt in the public mind regarding the integrity of decision-making by the AG in respect of these crucial matters.”

Declaring that if President Wickremesinghe succeeded in his project, it would cause a catastrophic situation, the former External Affairs Minister said, adding that if the AG is on extension, thanks to the goodwill of the powers that be, public acceptance of his Office is inevitably compromised. “This is why the age of compulsory retirement, fixed at 60 years, has been consistently applied without any exception or deviation. Ever since Independence in 1948, there has not been an instance of the tenure of office of an AG being extended beyond the age stipulated for compulsory retirement. There are compelling policy reasons underpinning this established practice.”

Referring to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference refuting government inspired reports that the Catholic Church wanted the AG granted an extension due to his involvement in a dialogue regarding the Easter Sunday Presidential Commission report, Prof. Peiris said that the ridiculous bid to take cover behind the Catholic Church for this partisan act has ended in dismal failure.

The former Minister said: “The context in which this unprecedented extension is sought to be made, is important. The ensuing six months, during which this extension is to be purportedly made, coincides with the run up to a Presidential election.  Moreover, the incumbent Chief Justice is due to retire before the end of the year. Manipulation of the system is fraught with the gravest consequences.”