Written by Zulfick Farzan
24 May, 2021 | 6:16 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st); COVID-19 had brought a grinding halt to the administration of justice in Sri Lanka at a time when delays in the system are already a perennial problem, said retiring Sri Lankan Attorney General Dappula De Livera.
Speaking exclusively to News 1st’s Zulfick Farzan in a one-on-one interview, De Livera PC said the delays caused by COVID-19 are a curse to the justice system and stressed it will have serious repercussions and consequences in the administration of justice in the country.
The Attorney General who is to retire on Monday (24) said Sri Lanka Police, the Attorney General’s Department, and the Judiciary are mandated to bring about Justice and all three bodies must work together and move together to ensure justice is served to the people of the country.
The Attorney General stressed one of the main reasons for delays is there is a delay in detecting and investigating crimes by Sri Lanka Police in addition to the delay in crimes being reported to authorities.
“Victims of crimes are also reluctant to come forward to testify as a certain percentage of them have a lack of confidence in the system. They believe they will be subject to secondary victimization by the system that should protect them,” said the Attorney General noting that this attitude is mainly due to the delays and because the system is not user-friendly.
The Attorney General went on to note the delay in detecting crimes by law enforcement due to various reasons ( corruption, incapacity, lack of motivations, lack of manpower, etc,.) have given cause for delayed justice.
“Today’s police is having serious capacity issues where you do not have quality investigators. Police have problems with efficient and productive investigations mainly due to the lack of experienced and trained officers,” he said while pointing out that at the Magistrate’s Court it is often the case that junior police officers are leading the prosecution in certain cases.
Another reason for delayed justice is delayed arrest also due to various reasons where at most times suspects remain at large for a long period which adversely impact the investigations, he said.
There is an accumulated delay and this seriously impacts Rule of Law in Sri Lanka and the Rule of Law itself has suffered from the delay in the system in terms of meeting out justice to the people.
‘We need to change it and I have taken measures to bring that change during my tenure as the Attorney General through public engagement,” De Livera said noting that the main reason he established the position of a Coordinating Officer was to disseminate information to the public because the public has a right to information on matters of public interest.
“I am confident the legal literacy of the people improved to a certain extent through this public engagement because the people are now well aware of the law that they used to,” he said.
The Attorney General’s Department and Sri Lanka Police must cooperate with the Judiciary in order to clear the backlog and ensure justice is not delayed to the people of Sri Lanka, he stressed.
“The performance of duties of institutions of government should win public confidence. This is through efficiency, honesty, integrity, and independence. Those are the hallmarks of good governance and good public services,” he pointed our highlighting the fact that the people are the ultimate judges.
“You build public confidence, by being accountable, transparent, and responsible to the public call,” stressed the Attorney General.
At the same time, there are serious manpower issues at the Attorney General’s Department as well and that too must be addressed in time, he said.
“Notwithstanding all that, I wanted to clear the backlog of cases as soon as I became Attorney General and for this, I obtained the assistance of the Department’s Civil Division to clear the backlog of 17,000 ‘Child Abuse’ cases (sexual offenses against children),” he said adding the backlog was cleared in 02 years while 27,000 Criminal Cases were also concluded.
“We directed 15,000 indictments to the High Court in Sri Lanka and this is a huge load on the courts where they will have to clear the backlog. And due to the volume of these cases, I assigned two State Counsels to each High Court to lead with the prosecution,” said Dappula De Livera.
Commenting on the present COVID pandemic, the Attorney General said the coronavirus had hampered police investigations, capacity at the Attorney General’s Department, and the operations at the courts, while witnesses and counsel too are reluctant to appear in person due to their fear of contracting the virus.
“This is a serious issue to the entire justice system,” he warned.
Delays in High Profile Cases:
“When we refer to the High Profile cases in Sri Lanka the investigations are complex in nature and are delayed due to the slow pace of these investigations,” he said adding after he was appointed Attorney General he took on the challenge of expediting these high profile cases which are in the interest of the public.
The Attorney General over the past 02 years has moved the Chief Justice to appoint 14 Trials-at-Bar to try the High Profile Cases in Sri Lanka.
These cases are:
01. The Rathupaswala Shooting in 2013
02. The Welikada Prison Massacre in 2012
03. Abduction and Enforced Disappearance of 11 Youth by Navy personnel
04. Abduction and Enforced Disappearance of Journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda
05. The Elephant Trafficking case of known trafficker ALI ROSHAN
06. The Avant-Garde High Seas Arms Trafficking Case
07. Central Bank Treasury Bond Scam of 27th February 2015
08. Central Bank Treasury Bond Scam of 29th March 2016
09. Central Bank Treasury Bond Scam of 31st March 2016
10. Causing damage to statues in Mawanella
11. The Wanathawilluwa Explosives Dump
12. Criminal Negligence Case against Former IGP Pujith Jayasundara
12. Criminal Negligence Case against Former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando
13. Illegal Financial activity by ETI
In addition, the Attorney General had also called for Trials-at-Bar with regard to 04 cases connected to the 2019 April 21st Attacks also known as the Easter Sunday Attacks.
This is the only occasion where an Attorney General has moved for a trial at bar against such number of high-profile cases in Sri Lankan history.
In addition, the Attorney General during his tenure moved in several cases with regard to the falsification of evidence against MP Patali Champika Ranawaka, Former MP J Sri Ranga, MP Rajitha Senaratne, Former Negombo Prisons Chief Anurudhdha Sampayo, Garnier Bannister Francis – the Swiss Embassy Employee as well as multiple other cases.
“There are some cases that remain unsolved including the assassination of Lasantha Wickremetunge, the murder of Wasim Thajudeen, and the assault on Keith Noyahr. These must be investigated,” he stressed.
“In the Wasim Thajudeen case, the two people accused of falsifying evidence are dead. The case on falsification of evidence will conclude, however, the main case will and must continue to ensure justice is served,” said the Attorney General.
Influence on the conduct of the Attorney General:
Attorney General Dappula De Livera stressed that he had never been influenced or subject to influence by anyone or faction and that he had the freedom of deciding on the decision-making process and the independence to operation.
“My work as the Attorney General is transparent and responsible to the public and independent,” he said adding “I am proud to say I have done by best and acted solely on the evidence and the applicable law.”
“I accomplished my missions. I am happy that I have accomplished the goals that I set when I was appointed. The backlog in the Attorney General’s Department was cleared and I have addressed cases which led to public outcry, ” he said, however, he also noted that investigators have drawn a black in some cases and he was not able to move those cases due to the lack of evidence during his tenure.
Appointment to the High Commission in Canada:
“I did not accept the appointment of High Commissioner to Canada as it is my understanding and my view that if I remain in Sri Lanka I could serve the country,” said De Livera adding that the offer itself means the service as the Attorney General has been valued and appreciated.
“It shows that the executive has the confidence in me to take up such a responsible assignment. I made it clear to the President the reason why I cannot accept the appointment as my plans are to remain in Sri Lanka, because my desire is to serve the people in Sri Lanka,” he reiterated.
Plans after retirement:
“I must thank all my officers who supported me in this huge endeavor including the coordinating officer for engaging with the public to keep the public informed as well as restoring public confidence and acceptance in the office of the Attorney General. It is overwhelming. It is not like it was before,” he added.
“I am walking into the unknown and only time will say what is there in store for me,” he concluded.
On Friday the 21st May a farewell was accorded to the outgoing Attorney General Dappula de Livera PC , organized by the SDSG Administration in the Chambers of Attorney General.
Acting Solicitor General Sanjay Rajarathnam (Approved to be named the next Attorney General) & other Senior Officers were present & Acting SG thanked the Attorney General for all the work done & stated that Attorney General had set the bar high,
Acting SG , also added a Large number of files were concluded during AG’s tenure and it will be easy to carry on.
For overall appreciation, memento’s were presented by Acting SG & Senior ASG Indika Demuni De Silva.
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