SS back in the news | Daily News


SS back in the news

If anything, former Chief Justice Sarath Nanda de Silva is a news maker. From the days he was the country's topmost judicial officer, and, even before, Silva made waves, especially where some of his judgements were concerned. He also courted controversy as regards his conduct while holding high judicial office. No other member of the country's highest court in Sri Lanka's post Independence history had been the subject of so much journalistic comment as the otherwise debonair and flamboyant former Chief Justice.

The Ex-CJ is in the news again. According to the main story of a Weekend English publication yesterday, Sarath Silva had acted against the constitution when he presented himself as legal counsel to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa when the CID questioned the latter at his Official residence in connection with the abduction of journalist Keith Noyahr. Not only that, Silva had taken an active part in the whole affair and even went to the extent of intimidating the investigators, conduct reminiscent of the times he donned the mantle of Chief Justice when counsel pleading their cases were hectored into submission.

It is this self same Sarath Nanda Silva, it was, who begged forbearance from the nation for letting off Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the Helping Hambantota matter. On that occasion Silva, in his unabashed mea culpa, openly pleaded for the countrymen to forgive him for paving the way for a man who should have been behind bars to contest a Presidential Election, instead. It appears that Sarath Silva has gone to the other extreme. Today he was legally representing the very individual he once said should have been thrown behind bars for fleecing Tsunami funds.

Handpicked by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga to head the Supreme Court, by-passing many senior judges, Silva went onto reign with the proverbial iron-fist and brooked no opposition from any quarter.

His was perhaps the most eventful, if not controversial tenure, as Chief Justice in this country that saw a onetime powerful Cabinet Minister thrown behind bars for Contempt of Court and the premature termination of the tenure of a President who was responsible for his appointment. For good measure he also gave judgement against CBK and made her pay compensation to the state in a case where the former President was found guilty of alienating state land for a golf course, for the benefit of a crony.

Controversy did not cease to dog Sarath Silva when he ruled in favour of his chum Mahinda Rajapaksa in the infamous Helping Hambantota case, clearing the path for him to contest the Presidential Election, a ruling which he (Silva) was to bitterly regret later, or so he told the people.

Out of office, Sarath Silva continued to make waves, first by aligning himself with General Sarath Fonseka in the latter's Presidential bid, being an active member of the movement to overthrow the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime which he described as corrupt to the core. It is in this attempt to oust Rajapaksa that Silva made the now famous mea culpa. That this protestation to the public was mere hogwash was proved before long when Sarath Silva did a complete U turn to mount the Bring Back Mahinda platform, addressing rallies in the company of the likes of Wimal Weerawansa, Rohitha Abeygunawardena and Mahindananda Aluthgamage, all over the country.

A lull ensued, where Sarath Silva was concerned, following the defeat of Rajapaksa at the General Election, that is until he was seen at a function to declare open MR's new political office at Battaramulla where he again plunged headlong into controversy. Speaking at the function, this onetime country's Chief Justice taking pot shots at the Prime Minister, flailing the government and FCID and grieving at the ‘plight’ of Yoshitha Rajapaksa (who was then in remand) went onto attack a private TV station for allegedly setting up business with the aid of LTTE money koti salli. This, obviously, was a means of deflecting from how Yoshitha raised Rs.240 million to establish the CSN TV channel.

As the country's one time Chief Juistice, Sarath Silva should have known better than to hurl such an accusation without producing even an iota of evidence. This was unworthy of any retired judicial officer, let alone an Ex-CJ.

According to the constitution, as we now learn, retired judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal are barred from practicing law and appearing for clients. Another proviso should be made in the constitution to prohibit Supreme Court Judges from engaging in politics. The authorities should think of ways to preserve the dignity and honour of the judiciary at all times. Permitting retired judges to mount political platforms and let loose billingsgate stuff was unthinkable in the past.

There was much criticism when Mahinda Rajapaksa re-employed Supreme Court judges as Presidential Advisors and posted as Ambassadors. It was rightly or wrongly thought that such expectations could influence the judgements they deliver. Much worse was to follow, when, for the first time in this country, a retired Chief Justice was seen on the political stage in the company of the riff raff. Isn't this an act of contempt (of court)? 

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