Attacks on Judges and PM’s stand | Daily News

Attacks on Judges and PM’s stand

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has quite rightly taken strong exception to the mudslinging directed at Supreme Court judges and the accusations leveled at the Constitutional Council. Speaking at an event in Galle on Sunday, Premier Wickremesinghe went so far as to state that those who criticize and ridicule Supreme Court Judges should be punished. He went on to say that elements who attempted to paralyze the judiciary by evicting the country's first lady Chief Justice were today trying to do so by insulting the members of the Supreme Court. He pointed out that any one is at liberty to express their opinion on judgements delivered by the Supreme Court and in the case of MPs who feel aggrieved, they could bring an impeachment motion in Parliament. But it is unfair to ridicule judges by talking of their religion, ethnic group, caste or creed. “Some say Buddhist judicial officers are not given priority when appointments are being made. I looked into this issue and found that a majority of them were Buddhists while there were two Catholics”, he observed.

The Premier, no doubt, was responding to the recent comments made in Parliament by Wimal Weerawansa who typically dragged in the ethnicity and religious persuasions of appointees to the Supreme Court. The MP in doing so has willfully ignored the fact that the Constitutional Council which is the appointing authority is composed of representatives of the President, the Prime Minister and all political parties and that the Government does not have the majority. But then again one cannot expect anything more from the likes of Wimal Weerawansa who view all matters from the prism of race and religion. He has also found a ready ally in Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who has trained his guns on the Constitutional Council which he accuses of bias in the appointment of Supreme Court judges. He has written to the Speaker requesting a debate in Parliament to create awareness among the public on the ‘biased and shortsighted nature’ of appointing higher officials to the Government Service as well as Supreme Court Judges. Not stopping at that, he has also written to the President requesting for a criteria to be followed by the CC in making such appointments.

Rajapakshe, true to form, had remained silent on the matter of criteria all the time he was a Minister in the UNF Government for four long years and has only now woken to the ‘biased and shortsighted nature’ of the CC. It is this selfsame Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who at the Cabinet meeting agreed with the rest for handing the Hambantota Port on lease to the Chinese, but after running foul with the UNP, came out roaring that the Government had bartered away the future generation of this country.

Besides, Rajapakshe was one of those who burnt the mid-night oil in drafting the 19th Amendment which made provision for the setting up of Independent Commissions. Why pray did he fail to spot the drawbacks and lacunae he now sees in the CC? Why did he not lay down the ‘criteria’ then and is only now writing to the President for their inclusion? Besides, being a lawyer and a President's Counsel to boot, it is unbecoming of Rajapakshe to cast aspersions on the selection process of the Supreme Court Judges. Rajapakshe who was in the forefront in drafting 19A has also suddenly started to see the demerits and flaws of this amendment in his interviews with the media.

This is akin to the volte face of former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva asking the public to exculpate him for letting Mahinda Rajapaksa off the hook in the Helping Hambantota matter.

Be that as it may, the 19th Amendment is one of the foremost positives that came out of the Yahapalanaya Government amidst the many negatives attendant on any coalition Government. Out of this, the complete freeing of the judiciary from the influence of the Executive could be considered as a huge achievement. Like the Premier mentioned, at Galle, many countries have decided to adopt such legislation. It is the common view today that had such a piece of legislation not been in existence the country would have plunged into unprecedented political turmoil following the October 26 events. The Supreme Court demonstrated its fierce independence and uncompromising attitude when it ruled in an unanimous decision that the dissolution of Parliament was unconstitutional. Prior to that, it also ruled that the President's tenure of office is confined to five years when the latter sought a determination on the matter.

It is clear that the likes of Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe are not comfortable with this state of affairs and thus is seeking a change in the status quo. Ditto for the Joint Opposition which is only accustomed to having the judiciary bend to the dictates of their leaders.

Like the Premier asserted, the Independence of the judiciary should be protected at all costs. No room should be left for the public to lose confidence in this last bastion for justice. It should stand as a firm bulwark against excesses of the Executive and the Legislature. 


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