Several factions oppose meeting between Chief Justice and UN Special Rapporteur

Several factions oppose meeting between Chief Justice and UN Special Rapporteur

Written by Staff Writer

25 Jul, 2019 | 9:24 pm

Colombo (News 1st): Concerns were raised in parliament today (July 25), regarding a meeting between a United Nations Special Rapporteur and Chief Justice, Jayantha Jayasuriya. UN Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Clément Nyaletsossi Voule is currently touring Sri Lanka.

A debate took place in parliament today about an attempt made by a UN Special Rapporteur to meet judges in the country. The opposition raised these concerns while tabling a letter sent by the foreign ministry, that includes information in this regard.

The meeting with the high court judges was halted due to the intervention of the speaker, following concerns raised by the opposition. However, the special rapporteur had met with the chief justice.

Speaking at a media briefing today media coordinator of the SLPP Lawyers’ Association Attorney-at-Law Piyum Perera noted that what they understand of this letter, sent to the Secretary to the Ministry of Justice by the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is a pledge to satisfy all their requests. He noted that this letter mainly speaks of three court cases,

  1. Death of Roshen Chanaka at the free trade zone in 2012
  2. Protest at Welikada prison in 2012
  3. The Rathupaswala incident in 2013 & any other matter of similar nature relevant to your ministry.

He added that according to the secretary to the ministry of foreign affairs, the special rapporteur has requested for all available information in this regard, from the Ministry of Justice. Attorney-at-law Perera noted that the legislature is requesting for a discussion with the Minister of Justice and the UN rapporteur is attempting to directly influence the sovereignty, constitution, and judiciary of Sri Lanka.

Speaking in parliament today Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana noted;

“There has been absolutely no interference with any case or any judiciary officer. Special mandate holder makes a request from the foreign ministry for various appointments. We are like the post box. We are then compelled to inform the relevant stakeholders such as the chief justice. The cases brought up at the preparatory meeting with the attorney general and the police was brought to the attention of the foreign ministry and all those stakeholders who are present. The special mandate holder is here with regard to the freedom of assembly and these cases may be relevant. That is why those cases were mentioned. But there was no mention of these cases and we never wrote to the Chief Justice saying that special rapporteur wants an interview to talk about these cases. Honourable Deputy Speaker these claims are completely false and their attempt is to mislead the general public.”

UPFA MP Dayasiri Jayasekara questioned; “Minister, you said there was no connection with these respective cases. It is clearly stated in the letter, death of Roshen Chanaka, and protest at the Welikada prison. Why are they interfering in these matters?” 

Minister Thilak Marapana: Is the letter addressed to the honorable chief justice?

MP Dayasiri Jayasekara: No. The letter has been addressed to the secretary to the ministry of foreign affairs. We know what is happening, the secretary of justice will summon the registrar and discuss all these matters.

Speaking in the parliament Non-Cabinet Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe noted that if a letter was addressed to the chief justice, he can always decline the request. He added even he can address a letter to him and request to meet him to discuss these matters, however, the chief justice has the right to decline his request and refuse to meet him.

He noted that what is surprising is that, even in the past, MPs such as Dinesh Gunewardena had requested to meet the chief justice privately.

MP Nimal Lanza noted that accepting that this was wrong, the speaker gave an order to cancel this immediately, citing that interference in the judiciary cannot be tolerated. However, he said today, the minister says that the representative’s requests were facilitated. He noted that according to his knowledge it is wrong. He questioned; “What is your view regarding this letter that was sent by the additional secretary?” 

Minister Thilak Marapana added that the speaker made such a statement, as he was not given the proper picture of what actually happened. He noted that it is only now that he presented all the information properly.

Meanwhile, UPFA MP Arunadika Fernando noted that Thilak Marapana, who at one point, served as the attorney general, was also planning on becoming the chief justice of this country. He wondered whether he has any anger with the position, or with those who have been appointed to the position.

The MP noted that the opposition leader raised concerns regarding this matter in Parliament, however, this process is completely wrong. He added that the current advisor to the speaker, Prasad Kairyawasam was the first to provide information to the United Nations regarding these cases and the president removes the acting secretary to the foreign ministry, from his position.

He said if the chief justices of this country downgrade themselves because of the UN, or if judges are requested to act in such a manner, he thinks they must be ashamed of themselves. He went onto note that Thilak Marapana must be ashamed of himself as Sri Lanka is now the garbage dump of every country.

MP Fernando noted that all foreign forces are suppressing our country and the leaders of this country, particularly leaders of the UNP, must be ashamed of themselves. He questioned them as to why they brought this country to such a situation.

The Minister of Justice spoke about the United Nations special rapporteur meeting the Chief Justice. She noted that when working with international organizations and individuals, it is done through the Ministry of External Affairs. She added that they have ample opportunity to meet those who come.

Minister Athukorale questioned as to why there are interferences in the High Court as its decision is taken from here. She added that anyone can come here and ask for information and if they ask the right person they will provide the necessary information. She went onto note that they are bound to give information, however, they are not bound to do whatever they say.

Meanwhile, Attorney-at-Law Premanath C. Dolawatte questioned the Minister of Justice Thalatha Athukorale if she can meet the American Chief Justice whenever she wants. He noted that judiciary is an independent institution and Ministers cant meet them whenever they want.

He said what they see from the Minister of Justice is that she is trying to justify the mistake after it has been committed and he noted that they know that Thalatha Athukorale is holding this ministerial position in parliament, following reputed politician Athukorale. He requested the Minister to apologize and ensure to the country that it will not recur if a mistake was made. He added that their conduct disreputes the judicial system as well.

Leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya Udaya Gammanpila noted that if the chief justice, parliament or the president doesn’t have right to question about a case handled by a judge, then how come the Rapporteur from the United Nations has the right to do something that the parliament or the president could not do.

He noted that this is a great example of how this government has betrayed the independence of the judiciary to the external forces.

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